Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

Anyone who had a harp … guitar

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing American guitarist John Doan. John is one of the world’s leading exponents of the harp guitar. He’s been studying and playing it since the mid-1980s. We first met in the late 1990s when he was touring in the UK. The main focus of our talk was the signature harp guitar which John is involved with that will be available (for about $1500) in 2013. This is the first such affordable instrument – previously you would have to have one hand-made. Simply put, the harp guitar is a six-string guitar with an additional set of sub-bass strings and ‘super-trebles’ which extend the range of the guitar in both directions. If you search youtube for ‘john doan harp guitar’ you’ll be able to watch him play. It’s an impressive sound. It’s always great to talk to John because his thinking about the guitar is always subservient to his musical commitment (not always the case with guitarists). The short version of the interview will be available on guitarcoach, the download for the iPad. I hope to publish a longer version elsewhere.

I had a couple of concert experiences last weekend. I saw John Williams and John Etheridge play in the Sheldonian Theatre. A day or so later I saw the Led Zeppelin Celebration Day film on the big screen. Whatever one thinks of the band’s performance, this has to be one of the best ever shot rock concerts. If you like Zeppelin you have to see this.

I’ve recently been reading Pink Moon, a book of miscellaneous writings about Nick Drake which is enjoyable. If you don’t know Nick Drake’s music go and order Five Leaves Left or Bryter Later from somewhere. I’ve also read Leslie Ann-Jones’ new biography of Marc Bolan which, despite having some new information (especially through some new interviews) is poorly written and unsophisticated. It is also amazingly uninterested and uninformed about the actualities of Bolan’s music. I can’t see the point of writing biographies talking about musicians if you’re not going to talk about the music. There are more lines in the book about the 1966 World Cup Final or the JFK assassination or personal stuff than Beard of Stars! The book doesn’t even tell you what songs are on each release.

On the personal front, I think I have a green light now for the next songwriting book, although it seems it won’t appear until 2014. I’ve also written a number of acoustic guitar instrumentals which will go toward an album of such.

I’ve acquired a few more symphonies and enjoyed them very much. In addition to still investigating different recordings of Nielsen, I’ve been delighted to hear the Finnish composer Merikanto 3, along with George Lloyd 8, Riisager 1, Atterberg 6 in another recording, and Tubin 2 – one of those symphonies which is brash and noisy with a sublime pay-off at the end which makes it all worth it. There’s also a very pleasing disc of minor Vaughan Williams on Dutton Epoch called Early and Late Works.


3 responses

  1. Shane

    Hello. What will the new songwriting book be about? Lead guitar
    for songwriting?

    November 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    • Hello Shane, thanks for your comment. Yes, the new songwriting book deals with how to put a solo in a song, and why you might want to do this. It will be useful not only to songwriters but also guitarists who want to understand a range of simple but effective techniques for solos.

      November 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

  2. Shane

    Thanks Rikky, One thing I would like it to cover will be how to put a Jazz Bebop,
    Gypsy Jazz, Country style etc solo into other contexts (like how John 5 will put
    country licks in a metal solo). I think we tend to keep each style separate into
    its little box (blues scale in a blues song with blues chord changes etc.)
    It is a simple way to be creative that hasn’t really been explored much. Most
    of the people I know think that each kind of solo can only be played within
    a style and I for one would like to put a Django type solo over a 12 bar.
    Some people would have a heart attack,but I think but your songwriting books
    should have demonstrated by now that we need to expand beyond what we
    feel safe with. I for one think that Forever Changes is the best album ever
    with many influences. There is a youtube video of Arthur Lee being phone
    interviewed on American Bandstand (1966) and someone asks him what
    is the secret to success in the music business. He said that “anyone can
    learn a Beatles song if they stick with it long enough, but being unique is
    what really counts.” Good adivce and I hope your lead book shows people
    how to do that. If I see one more DVD or book/CD that shows blues soloing
    with a cookies cutter minor pentatonic approach by itself I’ll scream!

    Thanks again, Shane

    November 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm

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