Building a Guitar Revolution Part 2: Apathy and Emails

In these ‘Guitar Revolution’ blogs I promised to give a little insight into the process of setting this up, a kind of journal…an honest reflection. Here is the second instalment:

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working away, usually in front of a computer, trying to make good stuff happen. Turns out when trying to create a conceptual piece of music that brings together one and all, you will have to email, email and then email some more. Its been hard, but its been good. I only wish I didn’t always have to be on a ruddy computer all the time….I mean, Im meant to be a musician!?!?!

So… whats happened recently? What has the happy blend of hard work from a host of helpful people and my many mildly miserable hours of emailing actually achieved? …well, quite a bit actually. Here’s a list:

1.We have sponsorship from Martin Guitars, which as I briefly mentioned in the last instalment is an insanely cool thing. Aside from their support its great to be associated with a company that has a progressive, green and people focused ideas at the heart of what they do. Thank you Martin Guitars!

2. Sean DeBurca has finished the design, which you can see at the bottom of the page, and Im sure you’ll agree its insanely cool. Physical posters are on their way!!! 🙂 🙂 Thanks for all your input during the design process folks.

3.Dates for leg one of the tour are up and ready! View them here and reserve your tickets now…

3.Several workshops in schools/colleges have been confirmed. Great news for spreading the word. We could do with more to really reach the wider community, can ya help?

4.Various exciting artists confirmed for guest slots. Names to be announced very soon. They’re all world class and are gonna make the shows so very special!!! – they will also be playing a part in helping to get players together for Guitar Revolution. I was overwhelmed by offers after putting a frankly awkward video out of me rambling on and asking for acts. I think the frequency of responses may have been partly due to me mentioning it was paid? – Im not sure. Anyway, its great to have so many people in touch. We do still have a slot or two to fill, so if you’re local to a date get in touch.

5.Guitar tutors are getting on board. This is a crucial one…. its a no brainer really, so if you are a guitar teacher, get involved. Ive only managed to contact a handful out of the thousands of you, so please save me some email time and get in touch. You can teach the parts and get in touch to let us know you’re doing it. It’s cool to hear from so many already to say ‘you’re doing it’ and ‘no thanks’ is fine too… although shocking to have some responses like ‘oh, they don’t practice anyway, so my students wont be interested’…I mean, seriously??? I despair sometimes I really do!

6.The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra line up for these shows is coming together too, we head into the rehearsal studio from the end of this month. Exciting new sounds itching to be heard.

So thats the main developments over the past couple of weeks, which aint too bad when I look back.

The general process has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster though…the responses have been quite extreme in polarity, its usually ‘yes wow! yes yes please!’ or a an extremely apathetic and negative response. Now Im not going to get into the trap of believing anyone who says ‘no’ to getting involved is ‘apathetic’, but in all honesty it seems especially when it came to approaching guitar teachers there really was a shocking amount of apathy amongst those who didn’t want to be involved…an often genuinely ‘discouraging’ response, rather than a simple ‘thanks but no thanks’. Which is a little crazy, but hey! thankfully there is a huge bank of inspirational teachers already involved, and many more to come Im sure. So get in touch guitar teachers! …apart from the apathetic ones….unless this brief blog has inspired some kind of life changing explosion of energy and inspiration, in which case I would love to hear from you too. Actually, thinking about it, you wouldn’t get in touch anyway if you were apathetic would you? 🙂

Aside from the knock backs its still overwhelmingly positive….massive thanks to every single one of you is already involved, and thanks in advance to those who will be.


Building a Guitar Revolution Part1: Start at the Beginning

This is part 1 of a series of blogs, of journals, recording the journey of ‘Guitar Revolution’. If you don’t know what ‘Guitar Revolution’ is; here’s a quick summary….

Guitar Revolution is a piece of music made up of four parts, for an infinite number of guitars. The parts range in difficulty from very simple to complex. Players are invited to learn the piece for free and join a mass guitar orchestra of strangers and perform the piece. The Project was launched at The London Acoustic Show on the 10th of September. You can find out more here.

So, that’s it. That’s the revolution, in a nutshell….

There’s a fair bit to share with you at this point since its come a long way from conception to realisation and as we prepare to take it to communities across the UK; I can’t help but think, ‘blimey so much work has already gone in!’…so here’s the story so far, the conception of the idea, and how we got here.

The conception of the idea:
Strange as it might seem (even stranger as I don’t really like the game); I think Music is a bit like football. It brings people together. When those people get together, especially in their ‘teams’ as spectators or players; they lose themselves in a way that is borderline scary, although actually quite wonderful. In fact, when the ambience is right, people from all different teams can get together and share their love of football, and equally lose themselves in the moment. Of course football also suffers from all kinds of bad stuff…elitism, racism and then there’s those people who somehow know exactly how it should have been played.

Now, call me crazy but the similarities with musical culture and kicking an inflatable ball around a pitch are shockingly close…and before you get all upset by the comparison please remember a very large number of the population see how some play the game as an art, and Im not going to disagree…

Anyway….the point of this analogy? well, I wanted to explain to you why I would spend so much time trying to bring groups of people together to play the guitar. That football feeling of being together as a ‘team’, the players, the supporters, everyone, its amazingly powerful. It’s something I wanted to capture in a piece of music….

Now there is one very distinct difference from Arsenal FC and ‘Guitar Revolution’…and no, its not just the money…its that the players in Guitar Revolution are anyone and everyone who can kick a ball (erm…I mean play a guitar…).

Now for Arsenal inviting anyone who could kick a ball to perform at wembley would be a disaster. But, for music I believe its a bonus. Music works in layers, ranging from simplistic to complex. I believe EVERYONE who has the gift of hearing, also has the gift of being musical. I see no reason why an absolute beginner can’t play an incredibly simplistic line with the same emotional beauty that someone from the royal college can.

Im not delusional, I appreciate a mix of amateur players is likely to sound less polished than a mix of well rehearsed professionals….but music isn’t just about being polished is it? Its about; people, atmosphere, vibe, feeling, passion, magic. A terrifying amount of our musical culture is hideously elitist and exclusive. ’Guitar Revolution’ and yes…’The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ itself is very much focused on derailing those ideas.

The Story So far:
The actual piece ‘Guitar Revolution’ took a ruddy long time to compose…It’s gone through many different changes over probably a period of about a year. Why? well, trying to compose something that is simplistic enough for anyone to play, but contain parts that are complex enough to keep virtuoso’s interested…and not loosing sight of composing an emotive piece of music is actually quite a challenge. A challenge greatly helped by the lovely members of ‘the creative guitar orchestra’. These chaps and chapets were my guinea pigs. And boy did they work hard! (thanks folks 🙂 )

So once the piece was completed, I set about doing something with it. I knew from the beginning I wanted to have it played by strangers….(see opening analogy! 😉 ) The option of taking it out on tour seemed slightly ridiculous at this stage since I hadn’t really seen that done previously and I had that distinctly unnerving feeling it may well be career suicide. After bouncing the idea with a few sponsors, promoters etc I got the feeling it was too big to achieve. In all honesty the idea was subconsciously shelved for a good few months, until….. Steve Harvey (former editor of Acoustic Mag) a fine gentleman dropped me a line to offer me a slot at The London Acoustic Show. I mentioned ‘Guitar Revolution’ and being the brilliant fella he is, he said ‘okay…lets do it!’ Which to me was a bit of a shock if Im honest…but ‘hey’ I thought…this is the chance to see if it fly’s or flops, and at this point it was the only chance I’d had.

So…once the idea settled in I set about trying to make it happen. Filming the video with the help of my groove orchestra brother Christian ‘Arthr’ Ballistrari in a way that demonstrated the different parts – which really wasn’t that easy. I then set about desperately trying to spread the word. Asking people to join at any opportunity.

If you’ve ever had a party as an adult, you would have come close to the feeling of insane insecurity that I experienced, except this party was going to be a little more public and be in a magazine and stuff! Will anyone actually come?? When you are an artist especially in the naughties, everything you do is very public even if no one knows your name, and seemingly the only thing you are allowed to express is ‘success’…and the thought of calling a project ‘Guitar Revolution’ that is performed by me and a handful of my mates wasn’t going to look to good.

Anyway…to cut a long story short, a whole host of people turned up, me, my mates, and well…loads of strangers! We couldn’t fit everyone into the rehearsal room…which was inconvenient, but very cool indeed.

We performed it and it was seriously inspiring…. I gotta admit I was so stressed out that I didn’t fully appreciate it until afterwards. The logistics of performing with your band and then bringing nearly seventy guitarists onto a stage for one song is pretty testing, especially if you’ve spent the last few months in near psychological melt down at the thought of no one coming to your party…. But, nether the less…it was very very cool.

Where are we at now:

Well…Its been an exciting few months. After asking people (via social media) if they wanted to get involved and help take it out on the road, its gone from a one off to a tour that will be enriching and exciting for everyone involved.

Sadly, making this stuff happen takes time and money so my second priority after getting the support from the public has been to try and secure some funding. With the help of a wonderful person an arts funding application is in, and Im also pleased to say Martin Guitars will be powering the event, which is insanely good. Not simply because of their support but because this guitar company embody a lot of what this project is about. Although you might associate Martin Guitars as being a ‘big’ company, they are actually a family business in both the literal sense and in the theoretical sense. Trust me I’ve spent time with a lot the guys and girls who work for martin and it really is like a family. They are committed to working sustainably, they have people at the heart. I haven’t announced this yet, but I though you as a reader who has plowed through over a thousand of my words should be rewarded with something of an exclusive!

So there you have it, its happening! – the first leg of the tour is booked and dates will be released along with a very very cool design very soon. And whilst we are on the subject of design, here’s four rough sketches created by designer and guitarist Sean De Burca, let me know which direction you think should be developed?….


So, in the next blog or journal post I’ll be getting stuck into the mechanics of how this thing is gonna work, just as soon as I know.…

What if you were Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Teacher?


Im a guitarist and a composer. I’ve also spent a large amount of my time teaching; teaching as a music classroom teacher and as a peri (one to one) guitar teacher; and I wanted to raise a few questions for my fellow educators and musicians…

Many of our most loved guitarists, Jimi included, don’t or didn’t play ‘correctly’, sorry, but its true!… Jimi’s thumb over the neck, or Wes Montgomery’s picking hand thumb obsession would make a lot of us guitar teachers loose sleep.

Many guitar teachers, and syllabuses teach what is claimed to be a ‘right’ way of playing our instrument or even on how to approach music itself (and no I don’t just mean in the classical world!). The right wrist position, the right approach to theory, the right way to hold your guitar etc etc..

And, why not? teachers are here to teach after all?…right!? – we don’t want students ‘doing it wrong’ do we!?!

My question is; If Jimi had experienced (no pun intended!) this type of lesson and had gone along with the rules, would we have had a Hendrix? and more to the point …Imagine for a moment (presuming you’re a guitar teacher) if you had of taught mr Hendrix, would you have corrected his hand position? Or forced him to turn his guitar around? Would you have told Wes Montgomery to stop just using his thumb? Or told Van Halen to stop tapping around and to play properly!!!? Have you been responsible for stopping jimi the 2nd from rocking our world?!?!

So, as you might be guessing I reckon many guitar teachers out there are in danger of stopping the next Jimi, or in fact any instrument teacher, from quashing creativity…

I think what made Jimi ‘Jimi’ or what made Wes ‘Wes’ was their creativity, creativity in bucket loads. The fascinating thing about creativity is we can all do it, but the conclusions we reach are always entirely individual. So I reckon this creativity thing might be pretty important right?…perhaps we should teach that?

It confuses me how even though its often the creativity and originality that makes us love an artist in such a fanatical way, its that very thing which is often left behind in music education. Much of our music Ed culture is instead seemingly obsessed with justifying a right and a wrong or a good and a bad. In fact its so weird in some establishments that pieces of paper (certificates and all that!) are used as badges of ‘Im this good and I did it right’ and without it some of you ‘aren’t that good and did it wrong’. The certification process has needed a ‘ruler’ a ‘right way’ to aspire too, and a ‘wrong way’ to avoid. Ultimately, you mustn’t do it wrong, because if you do…. well…anything could happen, terrible terrible things!! Check out the Arts award for a great example of measuring without quashing originality.

My journey to being creative took a good while. For many years I was striving to sound like others, (I guess thats where we all start ,right?). I was obsessed by theory and scale shapes, I was terrified I would ‘do it wrong!’. I needed to validate the endless hours I spent playing with tangible knowledge, the understanding of music theory. I became a creative void, churning hendrix lick after hendrix lick (slightly ironic!), glued to scale shapes and stylistic patterns. Eventually frustrated by my lack of originality I began de-tuning my guitar, deliberately disorientating myself, forcing my musical ear to work hard, and detaching myself from a lot of the ‘rote learned’ knowledge I had spent years obsessing over.

Of course it was ruddy scary, I was sure as hell ‘doing it wrong’ a lot, so wrong in fact that I had never done it before, I had no idea what I was doing….and ladies and gentlemen from the unknown comes new and exciting things.

The result was this kinda thing…tunes like.Edinburgh. I now use a different tuning in almost every piece of music in order to be absolutely creative, and its not quite so scary now, but its still new every time. Percussive techniques etc came as a logical progression, ultimately I was in creative flow and doing things for a musical and emotive purpose, rather than trying to do it ‘right’.

Since then I’ve concerned myself with applying this new freedom to my teaching. Below are four ideas that I think can help deliver creativity as a guitar (or any instrument ) teacher. Four points that when kept in the back of the mind consistently have helped me to avoid killing off another Hendrix…of course, they are not ‘rights’, or ‘wrongs’…just another creative idea…

1.You do not always know better.

There is no right way or wrong way. I know a way and I think its darn good, but your student may develop a better way, even if that student is six years old, give them room to develop their own approach. The problem solving that their seemingly illogical technique demands will help creative thinking and result in original ideas…hell, you might even learn something!

2.Give them bricks and mortar, let them make a house their own way.

yeah, its lazy aint it!? but seriously, we don’t want to create clones… if for example teaching a twelve bar blues, why not teach the foundations, then offer a whole host of different glimmers of inspiration, perhaps a full version from an artist, then perhaps a lesson on melodic strumming, then maybe look at some scales. Let the student put the building blocks together. Okay, its the long way around but the results are far more valuable.

3.Teach vs facilitate

No need to always push that knowledge. Relax mate, your student will progress, but let them breathe, be there to support encourage and guide. Not to dictate to.

4. Encourage students to work together/group work.

Seems simple, but I really find that getting students of any age to work together is hugely successful in nurturing creativity and originality. Work on turning a poem in a piece of music? or creating a soundscape? anything, but let them work together and just facilitate. (This is a project Ive been working on regarding group lessons, check it out..and if you want it in your school get in touch.)

okay so I wana hear your approaches too… email me

A final word: I love some of the amazing leaps forward in music education that we have seen in recent years, and I am constantly inspired by the work of my peers; this blog is about the parts of our music ed culture that are not so inspiring. I also do not oppose learning theory, or learning the works of other artists, or in fact playing with a logical or economical wrist position… I just think we need teach it in creative way.