Capo Evolution – The Finished Product

Capo Evolution has landed. You can read about the process in two different blogs Part 1 and Part 2

Capo Evolution – Part 2

We invited guitarists from all over the world to join our online guitar orchestra… this is what happened.

Capo Evolution’ is a piece I composed, commissioned by the G7th, The Capo Company, for an infinite number of guitars. All styles and abilities of guitarist were welcome; players were invited to learn one of four parts, film it on a smartphone and upload the video to be a part of our online guitar orchestra.

It’s been an amazing process, with players joining from across the world. Thank you to everyone who took part, thought about taking part, and supported in a way they could and of course thank you to G7th for their vision and support.

In this blog, I want to talk about WHY. Why I believe getting together to make music, regardless of ability or background is so important, and why the results are often so stunning?

If you’re not familiar with some of my other more community-minded orchestral projects, have a cheeky look here to see.  https://chriswoodsgroove.co.uk/guitarrevolution/

UNIVERSAL SUPERPOWERS and UNICORNS

Music is an exclusive thing. I know it’s not what you expected to read at the start of this blog, but it’s something I have observed. Music in so many parts of the western world exists as something excruciatingly exclusive. And no, I’m not talking about the class system, the one percent or free musical education in schools…

Fame and success is a divisive thing that dominates music, people’s perceptions of something being good or bad, measured by success, usually alongside fame or Ferraris.

This measurement of music continues in the supposedly more ‘serious’ realms too, away from Facebook Likes and fast cars. Schooling, grades, your musical ‘pedigree’, ‘are you classically trained?’, ‘Oh did you go to the royal college?’… etc.

Then we even have the very simple perception of music as an innate thing; perfect pitch, the ability to be a ‘singer’ or ‘not a singer’, the ‘I’m tone-deaf’ crowd.

Of course, it is all utter, tripe, poppycock, hogwash and baloney (hopefully some slang for everyone there).

These divisions, this exclusivity, exists because it makes us musicians feel better about ourselves and makes the non-musicians feel better about not being musicians. It’s a mutually beneficial agreement that helps everyone to make sense of music. Because music is…. magic, and sometimes it’s hard to understand or articulate.

This is where I appreciate I might lose you as a reader. Sorry, but yup I said ‘music is magic’, and I’m very serious. I think music is a thing that connects people on a level that we can NOT explain or in fact measure. I know that will wind up some of the sofa physicists, but hey, its fun to ruffle some feathers…

(I’m not a total nutter, I understand sound is measured in a million different ways, as indeed are brain patterns in reaction to it. But, the process of musical communication (i.e. playing together) or even the way we individuals react to listening is something of a mystery – seriously, it is.)

So., as far as I’m concerned, if it’s a mystery, it is, therefore, magic…. along with Santa Claus, unicorns, Brexit and money trees.

More than just magic, it appears to be a UNIVERSAL SUPERPOWER. Because unlike Santa Claus, unicorns or Brexit, or growing a tree that excretes money, it’s something we can all actually do; a supernatural power and not just an illusion… we can all ‘do a music’, you just might not like it.

Even Katy Price ‘did a music’ once.

So… now we have established that, let’s look at why I like to do these projects involving any old dick and harry joining in…

ROOM TO FOCUS

Hopefully, you took my suggestion that music is a universal superpower fairly seriously. I’m sure there is a way to word it slightly less sensationally, but where’s the fun in that! This ‘fact’ is the sole reason I love to work with music that is accessible to all players.

I totally accept musicians operate on different ability levels of course, particularly in the realm of accuracy. But if for a moment you think about music as a magical, amazing thing, which is about emotion, humanity and not precision…

(which it is, isn’t it?)

… you can then understand that if a piece of music is built with some reasonably simple physical limitations (by which I mean using ‘minimalist ideas’), all musicians are on an even footing. The pros and the erm… not so pros. The music becomes an exercise in the ability to ‘focus’ and to really ‘get into it’… also called ‘flow’ if you fancy some further reading – Instead of an exercise in, well, exercise.

“Capo Evolution” was another project based on this principle. Using relatively simplistic parts, it gave room for players to express themselves without having to sit in a state of panic about what comes next. The result is, I think, something that sounds great musically and offers something extra; the sound of people coming together to play music without ego or exclusivity… and that, ladies and gentlemen, is real magic.

Happy Christmas x

Chris

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, but 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 while 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, that very week I had started 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 also 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. On top of that, composing with the capo in the spotlight is difficult, and the community element of just getting people to do it! Here are some experiences I’ve gained from taking on these challenges that you might be interested in reading. 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 feel 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 around and I’d love to pass on…

My conclusion on this stuff, one which I’ve taken my time over, is that people… like me… have lots of sh** going on. It’s obvious, but you’ll find most conversations after gigs with low attendance are not so empathetic, and I’ll be there agreeing too. The reality is that, actually, people are busy, happy, sad, tired, doing exciting things, doing 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, I’ve come to learn to be insanely grateful and hugely understanding when they don’t… although the reality is underneath I’m battling with the ‘oh you’re just staying in to watch Netflix’ kind of vibe, I do believe that even getting 20mins of one persons’ time is a real privilege.

This project has been easier; fewer brick walls and as for apathy, well, I guess by making it online it’s been more accessible. After all… it’s easier on many levels. But, there are still countless people who have ‘nearly’ done it. I can genuinely say this time around, I understand that. If you’ve taken part in any Guitar Revolution projects previous or indeed this one, I am genuinely overwhelmed by gratitude for you taking the time and effort to do this. If you ‘nearly did’ or ’never intended to’ because ‘you didn’t have the time’ or 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 the piano, we often tend to place too much 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… it’s 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. That’s just one pairing that shows two players from geographically disparate 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 a 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, it has been a huge driving force…. being able to film your part on a mobile phone is integral to the success of the project. It’s also potentially a weakness since mobile phone mics are, well, not a studio-quality mic… and they also tend to add bucket loads of compression. Hmmm….. 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. 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