New Teacher: Welcome Isabel Torres!

We’ve recently welcomed Portuguese Guitarist Isabel Torres on board at Bruce Music.

Isabel relocated to London a few years ago to study for a Music Degree, and has joined our team of London Guitar Teachers in early 2015.  She is a virtuoso Guitarist and performer and an experienced teacher, having started teaching at a very young age in her native Portugal.  She has particularly impressive experience with SEN (Special Educational Needs) students, and groups of young children.

She has performed live on Portuguese Television when aged just 16, and since moving to the UK has become a regular performer on the touring and festival circuits.

She’s comfortable playing just about any style of music, but is a specialist in Rock, Blues and Jazz

Here she is last month, performing some super-cool Jazz guitar!

To book a lesson with Isabel, or any other of our teachers, Get in touch!

-Alex

Guitar Lessons London

Piano Lessons London

Music & London Part 2

Here’s part 2 of our Music & London blog series, celebrating where Music and London meet in a selection of the best videos on the internet.  Here are today’s two offerings:

1) London in 1927

This incredible colour footage of 1920s London shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Frisse-Greene, who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William – a noted cinematographer – was experimenting with.

The film is set to two unbelievably beautiful pieces of music, made all the move moving by the accompanying cinematic, historic footage.

They are:

1 – “Parasol” by Jonquil

2 – Comptine d’un autre ete – yann tiersen

2)  Busker Jack Broadbent

Great footage of hip-flask-slide-guitar busker Jack Broadbent doing his thing on the streets of London.  His intense, deeply bluesy performances make his busking style one of the coolest, most Guitar-centric around.

Please share your own Music & London videos with us!

Guitar Lessons London

Piano Lessons London

Music & London Part 1

London is arguably the centre of Music in the UK.  The biggest gigs, the iconic, historic locations, Denmark street, buskers and Bruce Music!

This is Part 1 in a series of blogs linking you to the most amazing videos depicting where Music and London meet.

1)  London Glows In Slo-mo Music video.

This is “Friday Night” by The Grizzly Folk.  The video was filmed and edited entirely using an iPhone 6, using slow motion and hyperlapse.

2)  St. Pancras station wowed by 8 year old Piano prodigy.

Pianos decorated with the phrase “Play me, I’m yours” appeared at various London stations and landmarks over the last few years.  This recent clip shows an 8 year old boy blasting out Chopin’s “Fantasie Impromptu” at St. Pancras station.

Please share your Music & London clips with us, and look out for Part 2 coming soon!

Bruce Music – Guitar Lessons In London

Bruce Music – Piano Lessons In London

Lead Guitar Phrasing – Part 3 – Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits

Welcome to Part 3 in our series on Lead Guitar Phrasing.  The subject of today’s study is the Mark Knopfler‘s playing on Brothers In Arms.  First, here’s the track:

So here are 5 key points we can take from this, to apply to our own Phrasing when soloing:

1) Leaving Space.  
We’ve discussed leaving spaces between phrases before, and referenced Miles Davis’ quote “It’s the notes you don’t play”.  However, on this track, and many others, Mark Knopfler takes this concept from a necessary technique to an art form.  During these spaces in the verses is arguably when his Guitar carries most weight and power, as when listening to the song, you can feel yourself urging and pre-empting the Guitar’s re-entry.  This combined with the Guitar being “high in the mix” (ie. noticeably louder than the other instruments), and a collection of concise, sparse and perfectly executed fills, makes for a brilliantly evocative Guitar part.

2) Minimalism 
This is a selection of short and medium length fills, there are no long fills at all.  This is an effective, controlled approach.  Rather like how you might stop listening to someone who’s been going on and on for 10 minutes, but take serious note when a silent type finally speaks up.  On a couple of occasions, there is no fill at all, and once the first verse, there’s a fill of just one note.  Even in the solos, there is absolutely no playing to excess whatsoever.  If you told any guitarist to solo over the Brothers In Arms Backing Track, you can be sure they wouldn’t play so little, or be anywhere near as effective, unless they’d already learned this lesson

3) Volume Swells 
Knopfler’s volume pedal is a big part of his sound.  Essentially a volume pedal is a foot pedal which sweeps from silent to full volume, and you can create similar effects using the volume knob on your guitar.  Using this he creates violin-like swells, notes that creep and fade in and out.  Essentially he’s hereby deepening the use and potential of dynamics in his playing.  Try it out with whatever you have at your disposal!

4) Pushing 
Pushing is coming in just before the beat, usually a quaver (or 8th note) before.  Knopfler does this a lot, coming in early with something emphatic, that sounds momentarily out of place, then soars as the music falls into place around his guitar part.  This adds expression, dynamics and the illusion of pace, and is exemplified by the solo-opening bend at 4:13

5) Fingerstyle 
The central, best-known aspect of Mark Knopfler’s technique is the fact that he nearly always plays with his fingers, rather than a plectrum.  Whilst this arguably has more influence over his rhythm playing, it does affect his lead playing in one major way.  The scope and range of expression provided by the fingers is much wider than with a pick.  This range extends at one end of the spectrum to a hard, plucked twang, and at the other to the lightest, feather-touch flick of the strings.  In general, there’s a soft, rounded quality to his tone that comes from his fingerstyle soloing.  Try it out!

Coming soon, the 4th and final (for now) part in this series.

Happy Knopfler-ing!

– Alex

Piano Lessons London

Guitar Lessons London

Lead Guitar Phrasing Study – Part 2 – All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix

Welcome to part 2 in Bruce Music‘s series on Lead Guitar Phrasing.  View Part 1 here.

Today’s  Jimi Hendrix’s innovative, brilliant cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”

So what can we learn from Jimi’s lead guitar phrasing on this recording, and how can we apply it to our own playing to incorporate better phrasing when playing, composing or improvising our solos?

- “On Edge” 
Like a large amount of Jimi’s playing, the phrasing and timing is “on edge”.  Right as your ear starts to detect his rhythm becoming loose, he nails an intricate phrase, ending squarely on beat 1 of the next bar, and right as you feel a phrase has gone off track, he twists it into an unusual resolution, making you realise he knew where he was going all along.  This is one of the central, magical principles of Jimi’s soloing, and what gives it such a soaring, but mellow freedom.  When you see live footage, he often gives the impression of just mindlessly stabbing and thrashing at the strings without a second thought, but what’s coming out is some of the most innovative and creative lead playing we’ve ever seen.  So what we can take from this is that the combination of security in your technique and fretboard knowledge, with a relaxed, free style, will take you a long way.  Essentially, it’s knowing your stuff whilst appearing too cool for school!

- 1.5 Tone Bends 
In the intro and the solos, Jimi’s using some 1.5 tone (ie. one and a half tones, or 3 fret) bends.  These are very expressive, as it’s even more of a climb and a stretch for the note being bent, and also very distinctive, as we’re so used to hearing 1 tone bends (2 frets).

- Variation 
If you add up the time spent soloing during this track, it’s probably about 90 seconds.  In that time, we’ve got rock and blues licks, a chordal soloing section, a wah-wah section, a slide guitar section, tons of bends and slides, slow fills, fast flurries and an ocatver effect coming on and off at different points.  What you should take from this is the variation that is afforded to you by a knowledge of different styles and techniques, getting to grips with FX pedals, and intertwining rhythm guitar aspects with your lead playing.

- Sustain/”More Time On The Ball”  
Here’s a great article on top sports stars seeming to have more time on the ball.  Jimi Hendrix is the musical equivalent.  His notes are held until the very last possible moment, aided by a practised, full-bodied, vibrato and sustain.  Yet he doesn’t seem or sound rushed.  Sustain your notes as long as possible, and try thinking one phrase ahead.

- Loose Call & Response 
We’ve previously looked at Call & Response and what exactly it is.  If you don’t know what it is, here’s lots of info.

Jimi’s at times using a very loose Call & Response technique, probably down to a natural musicality and love of The Blues.  Occasionally he is answering his own phrases very directly and symmetrically, such as the second phrase in the intro solo being almost a mirror image of the first.  But very often he’s using this very loose variant, almost as if the response is answering a mutation of the call, rather than the direct call itself.  This is how he manages to make his soloing have a very clear and unified style, without being repetitive.  give it a go!

Next Time – How Mark Knopfler plays almost no notes at all!

– Alex

London Guitar Lessons

London Piano Lessons

Lead Guitar Phrasing Study – Part 1 – Bird of Paradise by Snowy White

Welcome to part 1 in our new blog series looking at Lead Guitar Phrasing.  We’ll be studying some of the most beautiful moments in soloing history, from the classic, unforgettables, to the unheard of, obscure gems.

We’re breaking one of our own rules here, as for once, we’re not preaching that “it’s all about the song” – This time it’s all about what we can take from a solo to improve our own playing and phrasing, regardless of our opinion on the song as a whole.

No.1 – “Bird Of Paradise” by Snowy White.

We’re focusing here on solo. 1 at 1:57

This is something of a paradigm of phrasing and soloing for aspiring guitarists.  Below is a list of why that might be, and thus what we can take from it to apply to, and improve, our own playing.

- Dramatic entry and exit.  
The solo crashes in with a wailing bend with strong vibrato, and exits with an expressive phrase landing on the key centre of D.  These are powerful musical bookends.

- Building Throughout
The comedian Louis CK says that when writing and developing a new stand up show, he’ll take his finale, and make it the opening of his routine, so he’s forced to make the show grow from what was previously its peak, and raise the level of the whole act.  We can do a similar thing with our Guitar solos, whether composed or improvised.  Start strongly, and force yourself to build.

- Leaving Space
It might sound silly to say “You don’t have to play constantly” – But, you really don’t!  In fact, it’s much better if you don’t.  The analogy here is language, the use of full stops, commas, and the necessary drawing of breath.  Guitar wise, it’s impossible to create something memorable, singable or catchy without leaving spaces between phrases, ie. “PHRASING” your solo!  “It’s the notes you don’t play” has been attributed to Miles Davis and is often referenced in relation to Eric Clapton, and is seen in action here in this solo.  This solo is “singable” – it has all the melody of a great vocal line, but with all the additional expression that Guitar Techniques can provide.  Leave Gaps!

- Classic, with unusual twists
On first listen, this solo sounds like a particularly good bit of fairly common Pentatonic/Minor/Blues playing.  There’s one major difference, one big factor which makes the solo stand out, a little more difficult to transcribe, and extra-specially beautiful.  The point is, every phrase in this solo is so close to being a standard, well-played Rock/Blues lick, but with a twist.  With just the smallest amount of string-skipping, or root-note avoiding, or landing on an unusual note, the solo is transformed into one that really stands out.  So test yourself!  – Improvise over a backing track and ban yourself from ending a phrase on the root note, play all your usual licks but with one note different, ban all full tone bends, etc etc.  There’s only one way to get out of a rut!  (And get into a slightly more melodic rut!  Still, at least you have 2 ruts to choose

Coming up later in this blog series:  Hendrix – Over or Under Rated?  Mark Knopfler – Could anybody play any less?  And many more!

Thanks for reading and good luck!

-Alex

Bruce Music – Guitar Lessons In London

Bruce Music – Piano Lessons in London