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

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. 

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 4 ‘Ready To Go’

In my previous blog I delved into some of the key ideas behind the composition. Creating a piece of music for a pop-up orchestra of all instruments and all abilities.

A modular piece of music that can be moulded and shaped in an infinite number of ways.

This blog is the last instalment before our final performance….and includes the scores.

The piece is ready to go, we have been into various school’s working away and workshoping the music and ideas, so in this penultimate instalment I wanted to give you an insight into some of the last minute ideas and of course to take a look at the music and how I have delivered that…

The composition was finalised in mid february, after finally finding a melody Im happy with…(helped massively by my high-tech guitar adjustment)

And getting the oportunity to try some of the more basic parts out on instruments I litterally cant play….

A post shared by Chris Woods (@chriswoodsgroove) on

The piece currently consists of around 8 loops for each section of the piece and they varied in degree’s of complexity. As you would have realised from reading the previous blogs…the idea was never to challenge the physical element of playing much, but more to offer stimulation for the mind, so to help players be able to focus and get in to flow. The plan was to offer students the chance to be part of a truly contemporary and relevant orchestra – working on playing and connecting to the detail in the sounds and textures rather than overwhelming and unconnected mechanical and physical mastery. I wanted this piece to help students master actual music/sound and the emotional communication of that, rather than mastering their fine motor skills, which so much of our musical education seems to aim to do…so each loop has been written with this in mind, a musical meditation of sorts.

You can view the music for each part here. You’ll notice each loop has a philosophy at the bottom, and crucially is notated in a variety of different ways to make it as accessible as possible. Have a look here….

PART A – ALL LOOPS
PART B – ALL LOOPS
PART C – ALL LOOPS

So have a look, let me know what you think. We’ve already been workshopping the piece in a variety of schools…

My next blog post will be after the performance. Wish us luck…

A huge thanks to Rachel and Michael all the soundstormers for quite literally keeping it on track, Dave Mastrocola and his wonderous team for making the bourne session so brilliant, Karl Hayman for being so supportive and making me feel so welcome at Leaf, Chris Block for getting together so many players and his orchestral tips, Helen Prentice for being fantastic, Chloe Inskip for making feel so welcome. Ben Taylor and Christian Ballistrari for being so helpful in the workshops and Andy for being great even though hthe snow stopped us, John K Miles for his time, advice and seriously helpful insight, Audio-technika for the support (more to follow!) and of course every single young person who took part so far…. wow! 🙂

Guitar Revolution: Politics Is Not The Only Way

Politics is not the only vehicle of change…

Just after the brexit vote announcement I launched Guitar Revolution…a project thats aim was simply to form pop-up guitar orchestras around the country to play one of my compositions.

Now, the timing was coincidental really; I’ve always been fascinated by the role of community in music, those of you who know me personally will know that actually the majority of my adult life has been focused around those two things – I also like donuts, walks in the park and John Grisham novels ;). So Brexit wasn’t the driving force, this project did not have any allegiance to leave or remain (and don’t worry this is not a blog about Brexit). But nevertheless, guitar revolution was riding on a wave of Brexitness. 

Since then, as Guitar Revolution jetted (in a white diesel van) around the country forming pop-up guitar orchestras, all manner of political bizarreness has occurred. Of course most recently we are witnessing a whole new level of political insanity….

Now as I said this blog isn’t about Brexit and nor really is it about my political standing, although you can probably take a guess at what I voted for. This blog is instead about how important it is to remember the ‘real’ stuff. How your role in community is even more important than that one vote you have… Crazy, I know! 

This Guitar Revolution project showed me that your real actions really are so much louder than words or Facebook posts.  We engaged with thousand of people across the country and built a collective orchestra of hundreds. These actions are so much louder than Facebook rants and drunken arguments in the pub that result in a hangover of lost friends and upset egos. Continued below….

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plym promo image

Here are three points from that experience, that I believe are worth a read:

Number one, ‘Actions – this is not going to be easy’…

 Ive got plenty of experience of trying to bring people together in a musical context and it never gets any easier, I’m not sure it gets harder, but definitely not easier. The human race are a funny bunch.The general public are majoritively quite resistant to getting together for anything less  in size than a political rally, football match or an adele concert. Something that is mainstream and massively controlled, the idea of venturing out for a socio-musical experiment to play a minimalist piece of music, organised and composed by a scruffy guitarist from the west country is apparently not on the average brits list of priorities. Its seemingly niche, which is a shame because I was hoping the revolution would be relatively mainstream. Disappointing, I know!?!?!…..but hey, it just meant we had to work harder.

Number two ‘ Louder! – there is a reason we are scared of getting together’…

It takes a lot of energy and ultimately bravery to come and join a group of strangers to play music. It takes a lot of energy and bravery to join a group of strangers to do anything. Aside from the usual ego risks that playing music comes with it, it comes as a disruption to a busy schedule, it comes with all manner of social anxieties or pre-conceptions. Ultimately the idea of getting together with strangers to play music is powerful in a positive way but comes with powerful challenges too. As life increases in complexity and difficulty the idea of breaking out of that gets harder…Just like the idea of breaking from your normal comfort zone and views. I gotta be honest, if I was invited to join a pop-up guitar orchestra, I may well be the first to bottle it.

Number three…. ‘Words – The results of actions like this are far more positive than angry Facebook posts’…

There’s a simplicity to all of this, something I touched upon in my first blog. The simplicity of gathering people together to play. In this case it was gathering people together to do something different. Now in these crazy political times, of constant bombardment of ‘facts’ and strong view points the abstract simplicity of playing guitar together might seem like a token act of togetherness, but Im quite convinced that it is actually far more than that. (I would like to point out, I fully support your Facebook rants too)

Im not claiming that after each performance of guitar revolution, people spent hours discussing with others, rationally debating their political views. Im pretty sure no-one mentioned politics once or, in fact, the future of humanity. But! It did this…. and this is something I think we all need to focus on more than ever. 

….It got people out of their comfort zone, it got people out of Rupert Murdochs comfort zone and made people feel welcome and part of something positive, peaceful and original….something that was about being together not attacking others. Something vibrant and inquisitive…its a foundation of confidence to question the world around you.

For everyone on this messed up little island, being open minded, peaceful, and social is key to helping us progress. Whatever your political views, being social, community minded and open is the key to getting along, moving forward and generally not descending into being a country of absolute morons. Getting behind something musical is massively uniting. There are no ‘facts’ or view points, there is only the music. Because really, everyone wants the same thing. Don’t they?…

So, go and create something…  bring people together. Show the world that together is better. Do something! Organise a gig, get some people together to do something creative and pointless…something that is for nothing more than breaking the monotony of modern life and reminding us that we are human and we are here to laugh, dance, sing and share our smiles. 

Building A Guitar Revolution Part 4: We did it!

So, The Guitar Revolution tour has come to an end. After an over subsribed launch at the London Olympia in september 2016, we took the concept on the road in early 2017. Visiting 7 Cities across the UK, bringing together hundreds of players to form our epic pop-up guitar Orchestra’s to play the piece Guitar Revolution.

A huge and heartfelt thank you to Martin Guitars for powering us and making it possible. All the amazing and world class guest acts who played such inspirational sets and put so much effort into reaching out into the wider community. The players who joined us and ultimately made the magic happen and of course all the audience memebers who helped create such amazing atmospheres at the shows… there is so many more, you know who you are, thank you. 🙂

Below you can enjoy a few live video’s of our performances and more…

 

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