Category Archives: News

Nylon and Steel – Exploring the Acoustic Guitar

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I am teaming up with classical guitarist Brad Mahon to present an evening of music and stories for and about the guitar. We’re calling it Nylon and Steel – Exploring the Acoustic Guitar and will be doing two shows in Regina on June 13 and 14.

Performing on two similar, yet distinct, forms of the guitar (nylon string and steel string guitars), Brad and I will blend our contrasting musical backgrounds to explore the diverse range of music associated with this instrument.

Brad Mahon is a formally trained classical guitarist and the current Head of the Conservatory of Performing Arts at the University of Regina. He has been described as “an outstanding classical guitarist” (20th Century Guitar magazine, New York). I can vouch for that and add, “and a heck of a nice guy, to boot” (Bob Evans, Regina). Brad will be drawing material for the evening from a varied classical guitar repertoire.

I am … well, you know who I am … and as you may suspect, I’ll be coming at the evening from a somewhat more informal school of folk, country and blues music.

Bach to Beatles, Klassical to Kentucky, Around the World and a whole lot more. Musical chocolate and peanut butter. Come on out and have a taste.

This will all take place at two shows in Regina at Sawchyn Guitars on June 13 and 14. If you’ve been there before, you will know Sawchyn Guitars provides an intimate venue perfect for this sort of concert. If you didn’t know that, this is the perfect chance to come and find out for yourself!

But intimate also means seating is limited, so get your tickets early to avoid being afflicted with the dreaded Disappointment.

June 13 and 14
Sawchyn Guitars (2132 Dewdney Ave., Regina)
7:30 pm (doors open at 7)
Tickets: $20 – available at Sawchyn Guitars (306-522-6348)

Good King Wenceslas … or is it?

Transcription available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Standard Tuning

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Includes Transcription + MP3

Good King Wenceslas always struck me as a bit odd when I was a kid. I liked the tune. But the lyrics seemed a bit different from other Christmas carols in that they didn’t seem to specifically reference Christmas itself.

“Away in a manger … “ , “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born king”, “O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth. “. Those sort of carols are pretty obvious.

But “Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen …”? We didn’t even know what the Feast of Stephen was. For me, it always brought up an image of him watching people eating.

Interestingly, Good King Wenceslas was originally published in a collection of carols for Easter, not Christmas. It is only over time that it has become so closely associated with Christmas instead. Thank goodness the Feast of Stephen is on December 26, so there is at least a proximity connection.

Tempus adest floridum

Tempus adest floridum

But setting aside the original connection to Easter, for me there is a much greater issue I wrestle with when I have too much time on my hands.

The lyrics for Good King Wenceslas were written in the mid-19th-century. But the tune itself is taken from Tempus adept floridum, a 13th-century Finnish carol.

If I play an instrumental version of the song – ie. without the lyrics – am I really playing Good King Wenceslas? Or am I actually playing Tempus adept floridum?

This sort of existential angst always gives me a headache and provides an excellent excuse to reach for the eggnog and rum.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Blackbird

Video lesson available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Drop D

Includes 30 minute Video Lesson + Reference Video + Transcription

From the album
4 On 6 – The Beatles for Solo Guitar

4 On 6

Also available on iTunes

Blackbird is one of Paul McCartney’s many little masterpieces. Sparse and efficient, like Yesterday, it is one of those “just right” moments The Beatles managed to hit so many times.

Over the past fifty years Blackbird’s guitar accompaniment has become one of a relatively small handful of influential guitar pieces – like Classical Gas, Stairway to Heaven, Windy and Warm and their ilk – that “everyone” seems to either be able to identify or has actually taken a stab at while learning to play guitar.

Interestingly, the inspiration for Blackbird’s guitar part was found in yet another well-known guitar piece, J.S. Bach’s Bouree in E minor. More recently, Sir Paul has explained how he and George used to play a bastardized version of Bouree as a party piece to impress people with how musically worldly they were.

As you can hear, and as Sir Paul acknowledges, they got it wrong – real wrong. But part of The Beatles’ genius was being able to take little seeds like that and turn them into brilliant music of their own. McCartney did just that in this case, using some of the fingering from their twisted version of Bouree as the seed for what became the guitar part for Blackbird.

With my penchant for arranging Beatles tunes this is one song I couldn’t ignore. Usually when arranging The Beatles for solo guitar it is an issue of compressing the full sound of a band down onto six strings. Given Blackbird features just a single guitar and voice, one might assume that made it much easier to arrange for solo guitar. Paradoxically, not so. But that is a story for another time.

Enjoy.

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Acoustic Tonic Music
129 Douglas Ave. E.
Regina, Sk S4N 1H2
Canada

Hark! It’s Harold’s Angels! Oh Joy

Transcription available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Drop D

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Includes Transcription + MP3

I‘m just sitting here today looking at the scene outside my window: a blanket of snow on the trees and ground all wrapped in a crisp temperature of -27C temperature (-39C wind chill). As I look out I think to myself, “Could there be anything more delightfully Christmassy than this?”.

OF COURSE THERE COULD! I’m not an idiot. There are many, many nicer things to conjure up thoughts of Christmas. But these are the cards I’ve been dealt with today, so I’m trying to make lemonade out of the frozen lemons I’ve been handed.

When I was much younger we used go carolling at this time of the year. But even in spite of our youthful invincibility, I’m pretty sure we didn’t do it when it was this cold. That was a different time when a band of 20 or so teenagers showing up at night on the front lawn of a house laughing and falling all over each other didn’t elicit a defensive response of hitting 911 on the speed dial by the residents within the house. People would often open their door, and some actually stand out on the front step, to listen as we worked our way through a brief recital of a few of the seasonal chestnuts; stumbling over the lesser known verses (eternally grateful for the sing along sheets the Leader-Post provided each year) but usually delivering the melodies in a more or less recognizable form.

“Hark! It’s Harold’s Angels! Oh Joy” is a medley of two of the carols we would sing. Of course, they’re more commonly known as Hark The Herald Angels and Joy to the World. The titles are slightly twisted because I like doing slightly tongue-in-cheek arrangements and they’re usually instrumentals because it’s easier than trying to sing with your tongue in your cheek.

For the guitaristically inclined, there is a transcription available that you can tackle whilst procrastinating getting the Christmas shopping done, decorating the tree, or just writing those pesky Christmas cards.