Capo Evolution – Part 1

Capo Evolution…

Some background…

I’d been toying with the idea of writing a piece of music for a guitar orchestra for ages… it wasn’t until Steve Harvey, then editor of acoustic magazine, called me up that I thought Id ever do it.

Steve got in touch whilst I was doing a clinic tour in switzerland for Martin guitars… the timing was incredible, Id just had a week of performing concerts almost exclusively for guitarists. Every time I do a clinic concert, and in swizterland thats usually to between 50 and 100 guitarists…. I have the distinct feeling that the audience would be far more comfortable with a guitar in their hands. Bloody guitarists. 😉 …

With that in mind, I had started that very week composing a piece of music for many guitarists, I just needed the ideal opportunity to air it and erm, finish it…. it just so happened that Steve got in touch that very week with an offer for the Groove Orchestra to perform at the olympia for the London Acoustic Show….the perfect opportunity.

The rest is history… many of you know the story from there. If you don’t click here… I then went on to extend the idea into “Orchestral Evolution” in 2018 – 2019 and then here we are today with ‘Capo Evolution’ working alongside G7th.

So… what do I want to share with you about this project?

Well.. composing a piece of music that is to be recorded through a phone has its challenges, composing with the capo in the spotlight is a challenge… the community element, the challenge of getting people to do it..here’s some experiences or challenges you might be interested in. At the point of writing this, you can still join us… click here to do that.

Brining people together…and that whole apathy thing

If you followed my blogs on guitar revolution back in 2017-18 you would know that this kind of community minded project flits from being inspirationally well received to, well, being received with utter apathy.

I explained in blogs at the time of getting that project together, I would get pretty down about the brick walls I would be hitting, the apathy, the ‘nearly take parts’. That in itself was a huge learning curve, which led me to a conclusion. A conclusion that helped immensely this time round and Id love to pass on…

My conclusion on this stuff, one which Ive taken my time over, is that people… like me… have lots of sh** going on. Its obvious, but you’ll find most conversations after gigs with low attendance are not so empathetic, and Ill be there agreeing too ;). The reality is that actually, people are busy, people are happy, people are sad, people are tired, people are doing exciting things,
pointless things, amazing things, terrible things, battling things, fighting things, loving things… so, when someone breaks out of that to get involved in something I’ve created, Ive come to learn to be insanely grateful, and hugely understanding when they dont… although the reality is underneath Im battling with the ‘ oh your just staying in to watch netflix’ kind of vibe, I do believe that even getting 20mins of one persons times is a true true privilege.

This project has been easier, less brick walls and as for apathy, well, I guess by making it on-line has been easier. After all… its easier on many levels. But, still countless people have ‘nearly’ done it. I can truly say this time aroundI understand that 🙂 and if you’ve taken part in any guitar revolution projects previous or indeed this one, I am genuinely overwhelmed by gratitude for you taken the time and effort to do this, and if you ‘nearly did’ or ’never intended to’ because ‘you didn’t have the time’ or etc etc I understand, I really do, thank you for even thinking about it. Thank you!

In a world of Facebook likes and youtube views and cats playing pianos… we often tend to only value high quantities, and miss the detail, the human connection.

This gratitude has led to really being able to see how amazing doing this online has been… its a community music composition without boundaries. The below video is a pairing that Simon at G7th did to show hows parts 1 and 2 sound togehter… it includes Glenn Roth from the US and Tanaus Luis from Spain. thats just one pairing that shows two players from geographically desperate spaces coming together, there are plenty more which you will see and hear about on release… but you have to admit, the idea of these two guitarists appearing together is really quite beautiful?

Composing for a Mobile Phone…

There’s lots of conversation around mixing for the modern mobile or laptop speakers, but for good reason there is very little around composing for a piece of music that is to be recorded through a mobile phone.

For me to make this project viable its been a huge driving force…. being able to film your part on a mobile is integral to the success of the project, but its also potentially its weakness since mobile phone mids are .. well, not a studio quality mic… and they also tend to add bucket loads of compression. hmmmm….. tough call!

So, my process of composition was to focus on ‘peaks’ and troughs’. To play to the compression, and account for lack of detail. so essentially creating something very percussive, but with the scope to be as melodic as I like.

I tested and tested and tested on my own mobile and finally found a riff, (part 1) which really played to the strengths of the humble mobile mic – and I then began building around it with the same principals in place. and when the clips started to come in, even the most melodic parts were cutting through nicely…

Composing for Capo…

This has been fantastic. When I compose for more than one guitar a huge focus it to create a part which can be as simple as possible. Because, humans have limits… and if the parts is simpler the player however good has a chance of playing it with more expression, better tonal quality, better, well… better. I’d be excited to hear someone disagree, but its certainly what Ive found. So with the capo in hand I have the opportunity to keep things even simpler. I can have parts that span the guitar neck giving huge tonal variation but keep things simple which in my mind makes things… better!

watch Daniel Burne play all four parts to see what I mean…

give it a go.

hope you enjoyed reading my ramblings… I’m always keen to hear from anyone with all thoughts, feelings or ramblings.

cheers
C

New Guitar Revolution Project Goes Live

After Guitar Revolution’s original launch at The London Olympia in 2016, it went on to tour across the UK in 2017, it then inspired the 2018 commission Orchestral Evolution. Today its behind Chris’ latest commission this time working with the innovative capo company G7th Capo’s. 

Buxton fringe Festival Award Winner

The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra solo show won best instrumentalist at this years Buxton fringe Festival. The solo show will be continuing on tour throughout 2019 and into 2020. 

Dorset Guitar Workshops

On this page you can purchase tickets for upcoming workshops.
If you have any questions at all please email contact@chriswoodsgroove.co.uk

All workshops are run from 12 – 4 at Absolute Music in Bournemouth.

Tickets for ‘Fingerstyle Improvers’:

To buy tickets for this event please visit our events page: Fingerstyle Improvers tickets from Skiddle.

Tickets for ‘Music Theory for Guitarists’:

To buy tickets for this event please visit our events page: Music Theory For Guitarists tickets from Skiddle.

New Album Available Now

The debut ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ album is now available to download and stream as well as for CD pre-order. Click the relevant word, to link up.
Spotify – Itunes  – Amazon – Physical CD

‘In Pareidolia’ Part 1 – Album art and what it’s about

In this short blog, Im going to explain a little about the album ahead of its release, give you a look at the artwork and an insight into the tracks…

This album, I guess like most albums, has been a long time coming. Over the past few years I’ve been playing, and I mean that in the most fun sense, with sound.I have been exploring the guitar in every way possible like always, and matching it with some unexpected instruments too.

The guitar has always been the focal point of course… and this album ‘In Pareidolia’ is not an exception. Each track has been an exploration of the guitar in a different way. Whilst you’ll hear a substantial helping of drums and double bass… the majority of what makes up this body of work is the humble guitar.

Sometimes twenty of them, sometimes an electric one, sometimes a really expensive one, sometimes a broken one from a charity shop…

On my journey of the past few years of sonic experimentation I have found myself in a world of tones, textures, shapes and edges… not a world of notes and numbers. Its not always a nice place, its sometimes uncomfortable, unnerving, its always emotional. Importantly the sounds and songs Ive been creating have not sat into a simple or explainable context. Whilst there is a story attached to many, the experience is abstract, personal to the listener. This is what I wanted to portray in an album; an impressive exploration of colour, tone, texture and emotion….but also something that each listener can find something new in – something that is a personal perspective for you.

It’s not fully released just yet but will be in a matter of days….

to hear about it first, join the mailing list…

Scroll down further to view the artwork, track listings and more…


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ARTWORK:

Carrying on with the theme of things being about an original experience, from YOUR perspective, I wanted to try my hand at creating original artwork for each CD… crazy I know. In reality I will be releasing about 10 to 20 hand made CD’s. Whilst the main image below will be for the main CD.

I’ll get more stuck into how this is done later, but for now… here’s a couple of the images that came out and will be appearing on the digital release.

TRACK LISTINGS:

1: Rhythm Museum. (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA)
Those of you who have caught a recent show would have heard this one. Its a piece for a guitar orchestra, with treated guitars (aka paper between the strings). The concept is a rhythmic and cultural museum coming to life at night.

2:Mirror and Wish. (MUSIC FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR AND DRUM KIT)
This blends a classical guitar technique with some seriously odd, yet subtle, electric sounds, strange time signatures and drumming from my friend Matt Pittori. The idea was to create something orchestral sounding with just the two instruments.

3: The Hunted (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA)
Mainly nylon strung guitar here… but a mix of steel strung too. In my head this track built up out of images of some intensely edgy nature. Who knows what you’ll see…maybe puppies and chocolate.

4:Banneret (For Mum) (MUSIC FOR GUITAR AND DOUBLE BASS)
No prizes for what this one is about. I wrote it originaly for solo guitar and then begun to develop a double bass part later. It is is of course written for my mum. Its emotive and strong. Bass frequency friend Ben Taylor on Double bass on the recording.

5:Ukulele Septet (MUSIC FOR 7 UKULELES AND DRUM KIT)
I had been toying with a riff on the Uke for a while, and after jamming it out with drummer hero Matt Pittori it became a bit of an obsession. It’s supposed to be an explosion of energy, just like the Uke itself. When we recorded the drums I kept describing the drum part to Matt as a frustrated out burst….

6:Saol (MUSIC FOR GUITAR AND DOUBLE BASS)
This has been gigged for a year or two. Originaly as a solo guitar piece. Its about as traditional as the album gets. Ultimately a jazz guitar piece that represents the ups and downs of day to day life. Ben on bass again.

7:Hold For Now (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA AND DRUM KIT)
A guitar orchestra with a drop C is always a good idea 🙂 and theres a splashing of slide guitar here. The drums courtesy of Matt are as lazy as we could make them. Its a break from time, one of those starring out the window moments.

8: Some Idle Tuesday (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA AND DRUM KIT)
The title is taken from the Baz Lurman song Sunscreen….
‘Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
Bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
Never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday’

Its fine advice. And I sadly found it to be true… one tuesday, around 4 pm.

9: In Conversation (MUSIC FOR GUITAR ORCHESTRA)
If you’ve been to my recent one man show you would have experienced this track. Its a conversation between two people. Sat indoors on a rainy day. Two guitars take on the conversation and the guitar orchestra emulates the surroundings and reacts dynamically to the conversation.

9:OPTIC (MUSIC FOR GUITAR, DOUBLE BASS, DRUM KIT and TONGUE DRUM)
This piece is the first time on the album I have bought in something other than guitars, drum kit or double bass. We have the subtle skills of David Youngs on tongue drum. The piece has no intentions whatsoever… its just a look at sound, a look at life. The triplets at the end of the piece nearly killed me.

Chris Woods Groove Orchestra – Solo tour dates

A host of new dates including a workshop weekend are now announced, tickets on sale now. Buy them here.

London Guitar Night Re-opening 9th September

The London Guitar Night; curated and hosted by Chris Woods has found a new home at Woodberry Wetlands, a stunning nature reserve managed by The London Wildlife Trust. The event is strictly advanced ticket only, from here

Belfast Guitar festival Award for Chris Woods

Earlier in August Chris Was awarded the Belfast Guitar festival Award, created by ceramic artist Andrew Cooke

‘Chris has left such an impression on the festival with his breathtaking performances that to not have him in it seems unthinkable. Every time we programme a new year his is the first name on the list to be invited. A worthy recipient of the award, Chris’ dedication to the Festival, from its earliest years to the present day, cannot be ignored.’ Belfast Guitar Festival

Orchestral Evolution Part 5 – Recording a Pop-Up Orchestra

In this part of the blog we are lookng at the final performance of Orchestral Evolution (a modular piece of music for a pop-up orchestra, for all instruments and abilities), and how I went about recording it.

This blog would be really helpful for anyone working with music in the community, looking to record a large ensemble, or for someone after an affordable pro mic …. read on for more..

You can watch a short documentrary about Orchesral Evolution here….

Our challenge was to record our performance and of course to be able to live mic the performers so we could boost sections of our ‘pop-up Orchestra’ if we needed.

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We needed a condensor mic, that was pro quality, durable, but also realistically priced. There is a reality involved when mic’s are used in schools; school budgets are tight, so a mic needs to be replaceable at a reasonable cost. Plus we want a setting that is relaxed and not focused on ‘OMG! please dont knock that mic over’.

Enter the Audio-technica AT 20202. This mic is around the £80-£90  mark. Whilst it’s light, its also built like a tank. Importantly it has no added buttons on the mic, so its ‘un-interfear-able’ during live performances, particularly awesome for working with young students who are likely to wana touch the mic…

Now for us, we had a digital mixer and plenty of xlrs etc. But it’s worth mentioning that the AT2020 can come as a USB only version. So no need for audio interfaces and all that milarky if you dont want too.

The AT 2020 has an improved Cardio pattern… which might mean something to you it might not. If it doesn’t; basically … the majority of the sound is picked up from the front, so its kinda the perfect level of directionalness.

So for ‘Orchestral Evolution’ we needed a mic to solve all manner of problems… We had no idea how big our orchestra would be, but we did know we needed mics that could handle all instruments, be pretty directional so we could have a degree of control. Whilst at the same time, not be hyper directional to the extent that we need a mic for every couple of instruments….its a big ask!

I got in touch with my friends at Audio-technica for advice, and the experts pointed me in the direction of this AT 2020 and boy were we happy, for all the reasons I have mentioned already and more.

In the end we used 8 mics. As you can see from the above video clip and the below diagram the mics were fairly evenly placed…in the natural cemi-circle of the orchestra, with 2, then 2 and finally 4 along the back.

I’d recommend the AT2020 to everyone. Keen to hear other thoughts and reports on other mics too, just drop me an email or comment below. I hope this blog has been helpful 🙂