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.…

Stop Hitting Your Guitar – Seriously!?!

Like many people across the globe I remember the day I opened an email to find Andy Mckee’s ‘Drifting’ video. For those of you who haven’t seen it (do you live under a rock?) this tune contains percussive guitar techniques (aka hitting your guitar, or Percussive Acoustic Guitar).

Now, my reaction at the time was something along the lines of ‘why is he doing that?’ ‘Whats the point?’ ‘You need to get yourself a drummer mate?’….(sorry Andy!)

If you hadn’t guessed; my opinion on Andy Mckee’s ‘Drifting’ changed – in fact my outlook on music changed. I am in fact a fan of Mr Mckee – the man is a musical marvel, one of the worlds awesome musicians and an inspiration to me and players across the globe – he is most certainly very very musical! All hail Andy!

Since then I have carved a career which, in reality, owes thanks to percussive techniques. Many of my compositions contain percussive techniques (like this); I wrote a book and DVD on the subject, as well as two apps, a regular article for Acoustic Magazine a video series for all influenced by percussive playing and more. Im sure a large proportion of my bookings, especially at the start of my career, have come from using this approach. And in the end, I have now found myself on the receiving end of the same idiotic attitude, that I once had…

I’ve seen social media posts that express ‘stop hitting your guitar’ from guitarists whom I seriously respect. When I release a video a handful of irritating people will comment ‘stop hitting your guitar mate’. And of course I have also experienced this in the real world. The most prominent example occurred at the Ullapool guitar festival (which if you haven’t been, you must go its amazing!) A couple of years back I was lucky enough to perform, and soon after I delivered a workshop, alongside some great players. We asked the attendee’s what they wanted to learn…and they answered ‘not that percussive stuff!’. hmmm….cheers guys.

So, its pretty clear some people have an aversion to percussive playing, including me at one point. Some just don’t enjoy the sound…and fair enough. But why are so many people genuinely angry at it! why ‘o’ why!!!?

Im pretty confident we can split these lovely folks into two categories…

  1. ‘Argggh! I’m bored of seeing this stuff!’ – those people who have seen far too many percussive guitar videos.
  2. ‘Stop doing that, its not musical, there’s no point!’ – those people who just think its for showing off and really is a bit silly.

Category one: There is plenty of percussive guitar players. I can’t say I’m bored of it, because I don’t listen to it all the time. Like all of us I can choose what I listen too. So…I guess thats the first group covered.

Category two: Now this an interesting one. This is essentially the reaction I had when I first saw Andy Mckee hit his guitar. My opinion changed as I grew up, and I realised three key things – three important points some of the anti-percussion camp should take on board… here we go…

Firstly and most crucially; you don’t need to judge music, or even create an opinion on it. No one really cares what you think, and rightly so, because who on earth are you to judge? Perhaps the music has been written as an emotional soundscape and to the composer a certain technique helped them to communicate this, or perhaps they used those techniques to show off, or simply further their playing. Perhaps they wrote it just to irritate you! It really doesn’t matter, if you don’t like it…move on, its just another experience you silly billy!

Secondly I realised techniques are tools, and tools are good. Just like a pull-off or a slide, ‘hitting your guitar’ is a technique to help you communicate something, just like your vocabulary – its as valid as any other tool. If you are a player and you are refusing to learn this technique or tool you are being very silly indeed. You wouldn’t refuse to learn a new word would you, or refuse a screw driver for your tool box? ‘ooo no I don’t like screw drivers, everyone’s using them nowadays!’

Thirdly, I learnt to (try) not let my own insecurities interfere with my musical opinions. That’s right, insecurities! – They make us into angry judgmental people if we don’t keep them in check.

I think that anyone criticising someone for using a technique has to take a good look at themselves before they voice this. Is this jealousy perhaps? Can you not do it? Are you jealous of the amount of time someone has spent on creating something? I was obviously jealous of ‘Drifting’ …I think I still might be! Clearly there has to be some kind of emotional reason for actively disliking something that is of no detriment to you, the environment, humans or puppies. I was once that person.

Of course there is one final category; those people who are criticising players for ‘bad’ percussive techniques. These guys are the worst!…the real musical lemons….

Lets face it, some people are rubbish at guitar….some people are also rubbish at cooking, or in fact some people are rubbish at being a human. The later of course effects society in a negative way and is certainly worth criticising. But ‘Dave’ (a fictional guitar player!) who posts a video of himself playing a new composition where he battles through three minutes of painfully out of time percussive hits is not bad for society. ‘Dave’ is in fact good for society, he is a wondrous thing! And whats really cool is ‘Dave’ will get better… ’Dave’ has tried really hard to create something, something exciting, something creative and then he has shared his efforts with the wider world. I wish the category of criticiser in question would ask themselves, ‘What did I do today?’



‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’

Chris has launched two singles from ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ which are available to download from iTunes etc and to stream from Spotify and more… The album is nearly there and over the coming months there will be opportunities to see chris perform as ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’. The first chance will be on the 3rd of May at The London Guitar Night, where Chris will be joined by Tabla player Harkiret Singh Bhara. Get your tickets here