July 29, 2013

Boise Music Festival and Nichol Lee

Had a great time at the Boise Music Festival this past Saturday at 1:00, in the heat, with the harp guitar, with some loyal fans. It was a great experience, BUT it was hot. I was called to sub for a performer who was not able to make it that day. You see, I applied to play originally, but they told me that I was not local, and that they wanted local talent. They must not travel west of Boise very often, because we here in the Treasure Valley do indeed consider Boise “local” as it is 65 minutes to downtown from Vale, Oregon. Anyway, at least I have a great gig for next year’s Boise Music Festival. My thanks to Ken Steidle my manager and friend, to Anthony who shuttled my equipment and became a fan, and to all my friends who were there with the rest of the crowd that leant me moral support. I was on stage 2 and in the middle of my set, the mainstage does a soundcheck for Vanilla Ice, of “Ice, Ice Baby,” no matter, I went from a sensitive moody song, to a happy song!

Later that night…

The heat of the day must have gotten to me a bit. I got to Romio’s to set up for my usual 2 hour gig, and was a bit “off.” I played some great classical guitar (in terms that my technique was on!) but my harp guitar was giving me fits. The computer I tie in to was just not responding the same way. I think it overheated in the early part of the day and just was not processing the sounds correctly, but whatever the reason I was fading a bit…until Nichol shows up with her new husband and parents!, well, the parents are not new, we sang 4 or 6 songs and just had a great time. I enjoyed it so much, I forgot that I was tired. The folks there really enjoyed it. A good time was had by all.  I hope I can do some projects with Nichol some day! A talented performer of the band Magnolia out of Nashville, but now resides in Sydney, Australia.

So my week of 6 performances is over. I wish I could play more…

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July 17, 2013

The Harp Guitar Retreat was Great!

Had a great time with John D0an and Deirdre over the 4th of July Weekend. It was so nice to get together and share with new and old friends the approaches and techniques that make for better harp guitar playing. But aside from that are two standout experiences that I will not soon forget.

First, the prototype Elliot/Sullivan guitar from Jay Buckey was a great success. I had the foresight to bring around 800.00 cash to plop down to buy or put a sizable down payment on the prototype. But alas, John is going to keep it. The exciting part about this new line of harp guitars is that they will be at a price point of under 2000.00! When you consider that my Woodley White harp guitar would cost around 10 times that much to have made today, you get the general picture that more musicians are going playing these Jay Buckey guitars in the coming years. The reason I am going to order one is so that I will not have to worry about the White guitar when I am out and about playing. After all, it is a substantial investment! Now I will ask my wife…

Second, my introduction to the literature and style of rhythmic guitar playing by a young man that is about to be ‘the bomb.’ Adrian Bellue is going to be a big name soon and he is a great guy with an old soul and phenomenal technique. We had a great time talking about the harp guitar and our love of music which, as we all know, is inexplicably tied to our lives and boy, does Adrian have a history! For a brief moment, I felt like Salieri from “Amadeus” but after this brief flash of green envy, I “stole” all I could from this gifted 24 year old. Thanks Adrian!

Melissa Young was there, she is a trained opera vocalist and a harp guitar player! Nick Vest was there with his talented wife Tasha. Nick played a 12 tone composition that was very intriguing (for those of us that suffered through music theory and 12 tone composition lessons this is indeed high praise!). To hear it played on a Gibson Harp guitar with chromatic bass tunings was sensational! Angele Blanton who is a mover and shaker in the classical guitar community came to the retreat to see what the harp guitar was about. I think she is going to get one! Finally, my new friend Joshua Tan from Malaysia. The man has classical chops, and like me is going to have a lot fun translating from classical to harp guitar!

To say this was a great retreat is to undervalue the experience itself. John and Deirdre live on top of an old volcano and for some reason that energy transformative! And I, for one, feel transformed. I have produced 8 or 9 ideas for the guitar in the last 10 days, and the muse just won’t shut up. I don’t want her to: I want to let her sing!

Tonight I am going to an open mic and spring some of these new ideas on an unsuspecting audience. My niche as I have said before is the connection to the electronic world. The purist in me will have no Karaoke playback tracks. My game is to produce synth ambient background for compositions on the harp guitar. I trigger them via my bass strings. I have control, I control the dials, the attack, the decay, good stuff.

I was able to coax my brother and sister in law, into helping me produce a video to describe my “invention.” We journeyed 370 miles in one day for footage to add to the video. I will keep you posted when it comes out. We were in caves and on mountaintops. It should be interesting to say the least.


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March 25, 2013

Classical guitar came first and then along came the 20 string Harp Guitar


I have composed about a dozen songs on this instrument, and arranged as many more. To hear some examples of my music, simply click on the orange Soundcloud player located at the upper right corner of the blog. The past year has been filled with adventures in music. My performance schedule has begun to fill!  I was very successful at incorporating midi with a couple of my original songs on the harp guitar. And I want to thank you for the kind feedback. Organizing the soft synths to play nicely with a 20 string harp guitar is not easy: I look forward to a future where wood and chips can exist together happily. I have been eagerly awaiting the time that Jeffrey Elliot will build my dream instrument. I dropped-in on Jeffrey and Cyndy a couple of weeks ago with some questions on my harp guitar. I noted that he had a pre-owned steel string for sale. So as he was tweaking my guitar, I played the steel string he made in 1975; it was magic. I started thinking…I put a deposit down on a slot for a Jeffrey Elliot guitar in 2001, after checking the schedule I am 7 years away from my slot…perhaps I should consider this guitar!  So with some trepidation, I bought my Jeffrey Elliot Steel String Guitar.   I called my mentor and friend John Doan right away and he had time to play it. He loved its sound and thought it to be an exceptional guitar, and called it a “masterpiece.”  BUT, I then played the Doan harp guitar…I started to think about having Mr. Elliot make a harp guitar for me, when the time came. Later that day I had occasion to ask him would he consider making a harp guitar for me. He was not opposed and mentioned some wood sets that would be very nice. The only snag here then is if I can afford it! Oh, to be that truck driver that just won the lottery…the sound of John’s harp guitar, if you have not had occasion to hear it in intimate settings, is truly magical. I love my Woodley White and perhaps in as many years my harp guitar will ring as beautifully!  John was kind enough to jam on an idea I had for acoustic guitar and harp guitar. I lay down the pattern and John improvised, ah a shame it was not recorded, but I am taking the ideas and finishing the duet!  I will be playing classical guitar on my steel string and plan to record through the month of April. I will add the duet. Cheers!

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December 29, 2011

John Doan came to visit

John left on Wednesday. Had a great time in the studio; he helped me with my compositions. John dropped by on his annual “A Victorian Christmas with John Doan” tour. I also played “promoter” and put together a concert here in town. It was very successful and all that attended were more than glad they came, and so was John. It was great to have this dear friend hang around.  Wish he and Deirdre would come by and stay a bit longer. I’ve been busy upgrading the studio and mixing some tunes for friends. I am excited to get to the studio now and apply John’s coaching. The Christmas season has not been kind to me. I contracted bronchitis and was laid up for all of Christmas day. Total bummer. But I am feeling chipper again, and my resolution is to post weekly. The Argus Observer in Ontario did a nice article on my harp guitar and studio, I hope to post it soon. I just am not all that savvy with the learning curve on my site. I hope to have some help this week and will update accordingly! Happy holidays to all!

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May 16, 2011

The Harp Guitar Journey

I changed strings on my harp guitar on Monday. It was quite a process. The inherent design of the Elliot/Sullivan guitar renders a bit of a poser for the treble strings. The spacing is close so you can’t just losen the strings and pull the old out.  I use forceps and an awl to pull the string out of the sound hole.  Sometimes this takes some time as deciding, as you look down the small space between the strings, which of those 0.12 strands are the ones to back out of the peg hole. And there is real danger here, the wrong manipulation of the string in this condition can render the guitarist with a nasty finger poke! Yes, playing the guitar can be dangerous business. I never remove all strings from the guitar. I succumb to the idea that keeping tension on the guitar top is great idea. So for each removal of the a string a new one is put on. Now you would think that putting on a string would be easier. It is. But you have to make sure the peg hole is on the same plain as the string. You slip the string through the hole (that you have cut about 5 inches and leave about a quarter to an eighth of an inch through and past the hole. Then take your tuning crank and do not put it over the bridge quite yet. Be careful not to let the string drag on the guitar and crank away until it gets close to taught, then slip it over the bridge and bring it to pitch.  I like to do this descending so that I can easily bring it to pitch without the time it takes to break out the tuner. Eight strings later (0.12 except for the high e 0.11) It is now time for the guitar portion of this activity.   The ony difficulty here is that you have to be careful not to mare the French Polish.  An  easy solution is to take the paper wrapper from the multitude of treble strings and hold it to the bridge and then slide your string through without much worry about the ball end bumping the delicate top of the guitar.  That done, the six sub basses are now the target.  Much the same as the guitar these strings are rather easy if you are careful not to scratch the top.  A new set of strings and 2 and a half hours later a new set of strings.  Break out the tuner and keep that baby in tune while the strings settle.  A great feeling to hear balanced strings ring true.

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