Capo Evolution – Part 1

Capo Evolution…

Some background…

I had 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 I would ever do it.

Steve got in touch whilst I was doing a clinic tour in Switzerland for Martin guitars… the timing was incredible, I’d just had a week of performing concerts almost exclusively for guitarists. Every time I do a clinic concert, and in Switzerland that’s 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 ermmm; 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’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.

Bringing 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 together… 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 mics 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.


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