26 May 2014


Martin Taylor didn't play much, but what he played was revelatory. We tend to just accept great skills workaday. We hear them all the time; if we don't actually do it, we don't realise the level of skills; we don't conceive of the alternative. I often think of how rich is a modern Western life, with the best orchestras on CD and radio and education to promote excellence. The life of a mediaeval villager would have seen a troubadour visit every so often and this would be a memorable event. Our life is nothing like this. I was taken by Martin's playing of Like something in love. I noted that the melody was clear, the bass was there and chordal accompaniment, that he played with his hands in chordal shapes, occasionally dropping into scales for fills. He was playing solo fingerpicked guitar, and he was portraying the whole of the tune. But it was later when he demonstrated the detail within, after he'd been talking of different sounds available up and down the string, and the use of soft fingerpads then missing with fairly short nails, that I really heard this. He played straight, even, and the tune was there but the life wasn't. Then with the full articulation and the song came alive, giving prominence to melody or bass and living the tune. Not surprising, really, but a great demonstration.

Martin has played with Stephanne Grappelli and Chet Atkins and played on 100 albums and he's Visiting Professor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He mostly chatted for an hour and took a few questions. He played ukelele in 1959 and put it down for guitar. Guitar was a game for him in his childhood. his father was a jazz bassist. The guitar is "complete instrument". He used to daydream at school, but it was thinking through tunes on guitar; he'd then go home and play virtually perfectly first time. Thus, he spoke of thinking first, playing later, "internalise music". he's never had a guitar lesson, but he had an aptitude. The guitar is ultimately just a piece of wood; the music is in the player. Practice scales, whatever; start slow and build up; get "beyond thinking". "Do it slowly and over and over again". "What are the three secrets of playing the guitar? Repetition, repetition, repetition". The difference between music as a hobby and as a life or job. 'The life of a professional musician is actually a very, very hard life". Musicality and instrumental ability must go hand in hand. You must know theory: it's the framework, language, vocabulary. Sight reading? Perhaps not required, but you must be able to read. Find who you are and this is not always a shredder. Tone and flesh and nails. Rhythm can be stated (walking) or suggested (using silence). There are two sides to music: sound and silence. You'll never go wrong if you accompany with just playing chord tones 3 and 7 in the middle register.

Matthew Fagan opened with hand exercised and some examples of Spanish style strumming. And again, talk of the uke: "The revolution will not pass you by".

Martin Taylor (guitar) gave a workshop at Street 3 and Matthew Fagan (guitar) introduced.

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