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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

It's Holiday time!

Carlos interviewed on Radio Nuevo Leon Monterrey, Mexico, 2009

How to take it easy and become a better guitarist at the same time

There is an idea going round that the only way to improve your guitar playing is through the hard slog of practise. This involves sitting on a chair at the correct height, holding the guitar at a good angle, foot perched on foot-stool (or guitar balanced on support), music stand in front with a hefty volume of studies thereupon, guitar at the ready, and off we go. This is all nonsense. It may be the most efficient way to practise but is certainly not the only way to improve your guitar playing.

Consider the season we have in hand, in other words the holiday period. Some of you may be visiting relatives for the first time since last year. You may be sitting through interminable sessions of family talk while watching boring old movies on TV and munching nuts. On Christmas day you may over-indulge in a lunch not because the food is irresistible but because the excitable atmosphere of the occasion goes straight to your head, as does the alcohol. Trying hard to keep that throbbing headache from spilling over into snapping at the many young children gathered and running over your extended legs and climbing over your lap as they chase upwardly mobile balloons, the last thought passing through that tired brain of yours is going to be “proper practise”, the sort of practise you promised yourself a few weeks back in your idealised vision of what to do with your time in these holidays.

I bet you didn’t remember there were so many children linked to the family. And I bet you may be thinking how difficult it will be to do some practise, with them running around and chasing you into any quiet space still available to you. So why not turn all this on its head and make something memorable out of it?

Turn to the children and say:
“Look what I can do.”
Play a few chords. They may love it, or they may groan and say:
“Can’t you play anything else?”
Either way you have their attention. Play them something silly but totally captivating. Can’t think of anything? How about improvising a piece made out of a drum roll (cross the 6th string over the 5th string at the 9th fret and play in the rhythm of a marching drum), add a set of harmonics (fairy music to the children), follow with strums at the nut beyond the first fret (well timed it will raise a laugh), and finish with catchy rhythms tapped with your right hand thumb and fingers on the sides of the guitar.

Once you have offered that improvisation some adult relative in the far corner may ask you to play that piece, oh what is it called, ermm, romance, or something like that. Oh you mean Spanish Romance? OK, here goes. Now you have captured the attention of the entire motley crew who makes up your Christmas festivity. You finish the piece with a smile and everyone claps and cheers, and someone actually says:
“you are very good, you know that?”
And you, secretly pleased as punch, reply modestly:
“no, not really.”

Auntie Rosie over there, about 110 years old, who looks the same year in and year out, and seems to have been around since your parents were children themselves, now breaks out into some soft singing of a Christmas carol. Others join in. You fiddle around quietly on the guitar till you find the right key to accompany with chords, chasing them across the fingerboard till you strike the right ones. Soon you get the hang of it and by the last verse have them nailed (the chords, not your relatives).

You end with a flourish. By popular request you play one more piece. You have saved your rousing party piece to last. They clap and cheer and offer you another drink, and if you have done really well, the last slice of Christmas pudding. You put your guitar away, and take it to the room next door where you slide it under the bed for safe-keeping.

Consider what you have done:
You have improvised a piece of nonsense, which nevertheless has caught the children’s attention.
You have brought musical class to the proceedings by playing a couple of solos, which everyone loves.
You have brought sweet harmony to the event by accompanying songs on the guitar.

To sum up: improvising, performing, accompanying, communicating, and winning the attention of small children – now isn’t that worth a lot more than a couple of hours of “proper practise”?

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday.

22 December 2012, Lisbon

My favourite pictures of 2012

Crossing the Panama Canal 1st January 2012

In January I crossed the Panama Canal by ship, and visited South Africa for the first time in 25 years. Here in the photo I am with my friend Abigail, granddaughter of another friend of mine, Margaret Carey.

With my friend Abigail and Nelson Mandela's prison Island, Cape Town, 24th January

In April I toured in Mexico. One of the concerts was in this beautiful outdoor location in Salamanca.

Rehearsing for concert in Salamanca, Mexico, 9th May

Here I am on BBC Breakfast TV talking about my new album release Magical Mystery Guitar Tour on the day the album reached number one on the UK Classical itunes charts.

On BBC Breakfast TV with presenters Charlie Stayt and Louise Minchin 18th May

In June I played in the Ulverston Music Festival, birthplace of Stan Laurel.

In Ulverston, birthplace of Stan Laurel, 30th June

The London Olympics in August provided me with the chance encounter of a cycle race on the edges of Hyde Park just as I was leaving the dentist!

With Olympic crowd in Hyde Park London 7th August

In September I played for the first time in Lima, Peru at the excellent Festival Internacional de Guitarra Vivace.

Having a good time in concert, Lima, Peru, 10th September

Back in Old Blighty in October I performed the Aranjuez Concerto with the Maidstone Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Brian Wright.

In dressing room just before playing the Aranjuez Concerto, Maidstone, UK, 13th October

At the end of October I was in Arizona where I played in various cities which have arisen (pardon the pun) out of the desert.

In Arizona with the Santa Catalina mountains and saguaro cactus, 24th October

November in England saw me on my Magical Mystery Guitar Tour, starting off with a concert in the church off Penny Lane where Sir Paul McCartney was a choirboy.

In Penny Lane, Liverpool. My first concert of the November tour was at St Barnabas Church just opposite the road sign

In December I flew to Malaysia for my first-ever concerts. I played in Kuala Lumpur and in a jungle guitar camp.

At the jungle guitar camp with Padet Netpakdee and Evelyn Cheong, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia,December

At the jungle guitar camp with Padet Netpakdee and Evelyn Cheong, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia, 9th December

And so draws to a close a memorable year for me: a number one hit; first-time performances in Peru, Malaysia and Arizona; concerts in tropical paradises, reclaimed deserts and in England too.

Carlos at the University Experimental Theatre, Kuala Lumpur, 2nd December. Photo courtesy of Classical Guitar Society of Malaysia

I look forward to 2013 as I hope you do. Thank you for reading this far.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

For a complete index to my blogs click here

Complete Blog Index

Carlos interviewed on Radio Nuevo Leon Monterrey, Mexico, 2009

Here is a complete guide to more than 100 blogs I have posted since 2010. They are listed alphabetically by category. Happy reading! Your suggestions for articles are most welcome. Carlos

Blog index:

Adventures and misadventures: now it gets personal

Inside my head: what goes on as I prepare for a concert

My travels with guitar and the meaning of life 2010-11

My travels with guitar and the meaning of life 2011-12

My travels with guitar and the meaning of life 2012

My travels with guitar and the meaning of life 2012-13

Nails and strings

Out of my mind: facts and fantasy 1

Out of my mind: facts and fantasy 2

Out of my mind: facts and fantasy 3

Planning a programme, about music for guitar

The Beatles: my recording and arrangements

The Virtuous Guitarist: an alternative development plan

Tips and advice: how to practise

Tips and advice: how to practise 2

Tips and advice: memorising

Tips and advice: playing the guitar

Tips and advice: sight-reading

Tips and advice: style and interpretation


Guitar Camp In The Jungle

Carlos at the jungle guitar camp with Padet Netpakdee and Evelyn Cheong - note the wild animals hiding in the foliage

- The joys and fears of a simple plucker as he braves the unknown -

There is a rain forest jungle two hours' drive from Kuala Lumpur which is everything you could ever imagine of a tropical forest. From it rises a hill 1500 metres. On Friday morning I was headed for the top, to fulfill my engagement for something called Guitar Camp at Fraser’s Hill. I was driven by Simon and Evelyn Cheong, the very same people who had presented and hosted me in Kuala Lumpur last weekend.

To climb Fraser's Hill by car you spend the best part of an hour turning sharp bends, first left and then right, and then another left and another right, some three hundred in total. Huge leaves overhang the road while monkeys stroll by. Beyond them, deep in the forest live tigers and wild boar.

When I reached the top my head was spinning. Here finally I had reached my destination, and so too had 82 other adventurous souls of whom 10% were under 13, 50% in their teens, 30% between 20 and 30 and 10% were - how shall I put it - of more mature appearance. In addition there were more than 20 teachers, helpers and administrators.

I have never been in anything called a guitar camp before and have to admit I was a little apprehensive. I half -expected to be teaching in a field and sleeping in a tent with mud, worms and creepy crawlies underfoot. Dark thoughts disturbed my usually calm mind at the mention of prowling tigers. When I saw the monkeys I imagined them sitting on the field's edges chattering away like old women knitting while we valiantly tried to make music with our guitars.

You can imagine my relief when we drove up to a spacious modern hotel, in which I had a room to myself and, oh what joy, an actual bathroom with running water, not a dripping tap half way up the hill to be shared between us all! What’s more we had a suite of large meeting rooms for the concerts and teaching, so no setting up music stands in a jungle clearing with armed guards keeping wild animals at bay. I felt a delicious sense of safety behind concrete walls while at the same time being within touching distance of the savage jungle.

And so begun a memorable weekend organized with admirable precision and time-keeping packed full of events with distinguished performers and teachers. They included Johannes Moller from Sweden, Padet Netpakdee from Thailand,
Huy Thanh Nguyen and Phuong Hoai Tran from Vietnam, and yours truly from Great Britain. The weekend was organized by The Classical Guitar Society of Malaysia, with its President Simon Cheong taking very much a hands-on role in the proceedings. The Committee members exuded an air of total professionalism in all their activities, from stage management to teaching ensemble groups.

Carlos with Simon Cheong, President of the Classical Guitar Society of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur December 2012

Of the guest artists I was already familiar with Johannes’ great talent as guitarist and composer, since he had been my student at the Royal College of Music, but the other artists were all new to me. Padet, Huy and Phuong presented excellent concerts and are advancing the cause of guitar-playing and music in their countries with their teaching and playing, inspiring a new generation to take up the challenge.

As for me I had a jolly good time presenting my Magical Mystery Guitar Tour programme on the Saturday night to an enthusiastic audience mostly made up of very young people. I love playing to such an audience for I feel a special responsibility in introducing them to great music for the first time.

After the show I was introduced to an English couple who had come to the concert out of curiosity.
“Are you on holiday here from England?” I asked politely.
“No, we are cycling around the world. We are in our third year.” I believe this is the most startling reply I have ever received to an innocent question. Something stopped me from warning them about the chattering monkeys and prowling tigers lurking outside. Nor did I enquire where they sleep when local hotels are full, nor what precautions they take not to run out of food or water, or whether they have ever killed a wild boar in personal combat.

At midnight on Saturday it seemed that all 82 students were madly practicing in groups for their ensemble and solo performances in the Sunday students’ concert. Their determination was a sight to behold. Their efforts were well rewarded by a fine concert in which they all excelled.

By Sunday afternoon it was all over. The students boarded their shiny white coach. Artists and organizers climbed into their various vehicles. We started the engines, and woosh, off we roared off into the jungle, downhill this time. Three hundred bends later we encountered civilization as we know it.

No doubt back in the foliage the monkeys and tigers breathed a sigh of relief that we had left them in peace for another year. It’s just a pity I never got to serenade one of those big cats. Actually I never even saw one, but monkeys yes. Did I see one of them wave shyly as we drove past and discretely wipe away a tear? Now, now, don’t fret we will back next year and maybe we can find space for you in the classes too.

9th December 2012, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

From Cambridge to a Chinese wedding feast in Kuala Lumpur

My first day in Malaysia shows me what we all have in common

The echoes of the last chords of the last concert this past Tuesday of my Magical Mystery Guitar Tour are still ringing somewhere around Cambridge and yet I already find myself in Kuala Lumpur today Sunday. I play here tonight. I arrived last night from London and was driven by my hosts Simon and Evelyn Cheong from the airport directly to supper at the Imperial China restaurant in Malaysia’s capital city. A greater contrast is hard to imagine between two cities, and it is impossible not to note the differences. It is more difficult to see the similarities, yet that has interested me equally.

Let me set the scene for you. The restaurant is very large, easily holding three hundred people on one floor level. On the occasion of my arrival this Saturday night one section was heaving with people and another was not. We were sat in the quieter area. To reach it we walked past the crowded tables. Now in Europe the noise of a busy restaurant most resembles a baritone monotone punctured by the staccato screeches of feminine interjections and laughter, while in Kuala Lumpur’s Imperial China restaurant it sounded like a huge flock of birds twittering excitedly as they fly in circles under the setting sun!

I was fed well and plentifully while conversing agreeably with my vivacious hosts and companions and being attended to by respectfully hovering waiters and waitresses. At the far end of the crowded section there was a stage area for karaoke. I gained the impression that this was a collective gathering and I was right for it was the wedding feast which culminated a day of marriage celebrations. At several times a loud cry of ”yum sing” almost shook the windows. Mind you, not your ordinary cry of yum sing, more like a shout-at-the-top-of-your-voice-and-hold-that-note-as-long-as-you-can type of cry, with yum rhyming with rum as in yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum sing. It is the Cantonese equivalent of “cheers” or “bottoms up”.

So there am I a Spanish Englishman watching a Cantonese wedding celebration in Malaysia to American music such as Moon River and the theme music from Casablanca while eating delicious Chinese food. If this is globalization long may it continue.

A Hindu proverb came to mind while getting stuck into a delicious dish of cod fish and rice Chinese style:
“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.”

The peak of the mountain in this case is marriage and the happiness of a couple wishing to spend their lives together. How they do so will depend on the path they choose for there are many to choose from. As for the excited babble of that happy crowd: the revellers may sound like baritone bulls in Spain or a flock of birds in Kuala Lumpur, but the human emotions they express as they walk the path are the same.

And so what has all this to do with guitar playing? Nothing and everything, it’s up to you. The mountain itself represents the beauty of music and the guitar in particular. You choose the path you take to express the music, and the path to acquire a good guitar technique. Take no notice of the person telling everyone that his or her path is wrong and that there is only way. There is not only one way, there are many ways.

There are different ways of playing music, and there are different techniques of playing the guitar. They can all cause listeners and players alike to climb that mountain path like an excited crowd of baritone bulls or reach the summit by flying overhead like a flock of birds. And who is to tell us which way is best? We all form part of the rich tapestry of human diversity, and what’s more we have, or should have, a completely free will as to which path to choose.

2nd December 2012, Kuala Lumpur

Actually, Good Sight-reading Is Within Our Reach

Carlos teaching in Jersey,UK in 2008

- But because we don't believe this young guitarists grow up not knowing it -

In between my Magical Mystery Guitar Tour stops up and down England I have spent some pleasant hours in the company of guitar-playing children and teenagers.

Some are very quick and show a natural pre-disposition. Others are determined and hard-working. No doubt a significant few will become good players if they wish to continue. They are all bright and enthusiastic. They speak articulately and are doing well at school in a range of subjects. Naturally they can all read and write, but alas not music, for that they can only play hesitantly when reading from a musical score.

Why should it be that young guitarists should lag so far behind other instrumentalists of their age when it comes to reading music, although they may be skillful otherwise both in music and other subjects? Is it because teachers have low expectations since they themselves are slow readers? If so, it may explain why poor music reading skills become perpetuated from one generation of players to the next.

Now consider the impact of guitar tutors and methods on the young players' development of reading skills. Notation in introduced gradually: notes on the first string in the first and second positions, and the same for the second and third strings, and so on. This is all a good idea. It shows where the notes are on the fret board. This way the student can find the notes in the pieces published in the book. But where are the tutors and methods with loads of sight-reading exercises systematically aimed at developing the specific skill of fluent reading? Exercises could include a thorough exploration of different keys, recognising chord patterns and sequences, positional playing above the seventh fret, discovering and devising alternative fingering patterns, and above all, playing through many pieces with the target firmly in mind to develop sight-reading skills to a high standard.

My observation of the youngsters I met is that they are capable of becoming good readers. The guitar does present particular problems when it comes to sight reading, but they can be dealt with. What we need to do is believe that guitarists can do so, and that they can enjoy reading and playing through music just as fluently as we enjoy reading books and newspapers.

There are, of course, some guitar players who are very good readers. They show that it is possible. They are envied, quite understandably, by a majority, although their skill is within everyone's reach. When we convince ourselves of the importance of good sight-reading and that it is eminently possible for many more to become adept, then we will bring up young guitarists to be musically literate by being good readers. Until that happens, they will be cut off from vital musical experiences, and from the pleasure of reading and playing unfamiliar music straight from the score at first sight.

I think our children deserve better than that.

25th November 2012, London

Preparing For My Concerts With Just One Day To Go

- What To Do When I Am Supposed To Know It All -
I write these words just twenty four hours from the first of four concerts in the space of four days. By the time I post these lines I will have played two of them, each with a different programme, one in Oxford as part of my Magical Mystery Guitar Tour, the other of Spanish and Latin-American music in the Wirral for the International Guitar Festival of Great Britain.

That sounds like a lot of music and it is, but I have already done all the practise I really need to do. I have played the same programmes or very similar ones on various occasions these past months. I have thrummed and strummed and plucked my guitar almost every day for the past six weeks. Is there anything I could usefully do now to get any better before tomorrow? Well, no, not by the way of more practise!

Photo: in the Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead, on Friday 16th November, just before my recital, admiring the gallery's neo-classical paintings. In the background is a painting by Jules Girardet, 1882, called "General Lescure, wounded, crossing the Loire at Saint-Florent, with his army in flight. 1793"

But there is something else I will do, and that is to get myself into as positive a frame of mind as possible. A happy and relaxed state is conducive to producing the best results for keeping at bay negative thoughts. On stage the struggle is between self-belief and self-doubt invariably competing for the upper hand during a performance. Here is an artistic twist to the fight or flee mode humans have inherited from thousands of previous generations, both human and pre-human, when faced with stressful or violent situations.

Now believe me, I don't want to be taken for an over-excited chimp who fights by standing his ground shrieking and making funny faces. Nor do I want to be like one of our feathered friends who panics and takes flight at any approach by members of other species. Mindful as I am of such extreme reactions five minutes before the show starts I intend to say to myself:
"I have done everything I know to prepare well for this event, there is no reason why I should not play my best."
I find it most calming in the moment before stepping onto the stage to look at myself in the mirror and say such a thing. And yes, I do talk to myself if you really want to know!

On a practical level I like to play through difficult passages quietly and slowly in the last hours. I also close my eyes and visualise myself playing through the pieces noting hazy areas which may be vulnerable, technically and memory-wise.

Apart from that, I trust to habit and routine. I arrive in the hall no later than two hours before the start, decide the lighting, try out the hall for sound only briefly, enjoy an apple-pie and cream sixty minutes before, and slowly change into costume with forty-five minutes to go while drinking a black coffee.

I am getting into a good mood already just thinking about it, now with rather less than twenty-four hours to go. No fight or flee for me, so roll over chimpanzee and sparrow, and welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to my calm and composed human persona, primed for action!

London, 14th November 2012

Yesterday I played Penny Lane in Penny Lane

Carlos In Penny Lane, 10th November 2012

The first concert of my tour starts out in Liverpool

All concerts are special, but some are extra special. And so it was yesterday when I played Yesterday and Penny Lane in Penny Lane!

This was the first concert of my Magical Mystery Guitar Tour which takes me to seven more towns and cities in England over the next sixteen days. Where better to kick off the tour than at St Barnabas Church, Penny Lane, Liverpool, where Paul McCartney sang in the choir as a child and where he was best man at his brother's wedding?

Penny Lane, made famous by one of the Beatles' most joyous songs is a leafy road on the fringes of Liverpool's city centre. It was raining as I stepped out of the taxi on my arrival for the concert. I could see a barber’s shop across the road, and close by a fire-station, just like the song:

“Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
Then the fireman rushes in
From the pouring rain...”

It is but a short distance from Strawberry Field and from John Lennon's childhood home which is now property of the National Trust. The whole area resonates to the legacy of the Beatles.

In the programme I played Strawberry Fields too, the piece that took me the most time and effort of all my Beatles' arrangements. I also included another piece which I thought at one time wouldn't be suited to the solo guitar but which has turned out rather well even if I say so myself, and that is Lucy In the sky with diamonds.

St Barnabas Church is lovely and Martin Hudson and Colin Hall, the organisers did a grand job, including some spectacular stage lighting with light show. One moment my hands went yellow, the next bright pink, and then an alarming shade of purple, with the whole process repeated on a time loop.

Not all the programme was given over to Beatles' music, I also played my arrangement of Brian May’s Who wants to live forever and Asturias, Cavatina, Memories of the Alhambra plus music by Villa-Lobos and Rodrigo.

After there was a reception at the Penny Lane Gallery organised by Christine Colvin. At present it is largely dedicated to original works and prints about and inspired by the Beatles. There I met an ex-recording manager of the Cavern Club where the Beatles started out in the '50's.

This has been a Beatle-manic two weeks for me. On the 28th October in Phoenix, Arizona guitarist, professor and scholar Frank Koonce guided me through the finest museum of musical instruments I have ever seen anywhere,with each instrument illustrated by sound and video in a native settings. It was the last exhibit that moved me the most. There on a plinth stood a perfectly ordinary upright piano, with a film of John Lennon singing Imagine on the very same instrument, for it was on this one he composed that great song.

If you had told me five years' ago that I would be living these experiences and playing Beatles music from an album of my own arrangements which had reached number one on the itunes classical charts I wouldn't have believed you. But then Tomorrow Never Knows - so sang the Beatles on their Revolver album, and I agree.

My tour continues here, there and everywhere (oops, that's another Beatles' song). Hope to see you at one of them.

11th November 2012, London

My Week In Arizona

Carlos in Arizona with the Santa Catalina mountains and saguaro cactus

Lead Guitar, a 300-year-old Cactus and Other Hot Issues

Imagine playing the guitar on an ample terrace facing the sun-drenched red and black Santa Catalina mountain range of Arizona in Tucson, to an audience of dozens of saguaro cactus and the occasional humming bird. Such was my good fortune last week in the lovely home of the distinguished pharmaceutical research scientist Andre Pernet and his charming wife Julia, Chairman of the Tucson Guitar Society, at the beginning of my week’s concert tour. Mind you, saguaro cactus are not your standard issue desert cactus, they only grow in this area, live to 300 years of age and only sprout arms when they reach the age of 70, not before. No one has taught them to clap yet, so my playing was greeted with silence, not that I am complaining, for I received plenty of that from loud and vibrant audiences in Tucson, Flagstaff and Phoenix.

My manager, guide, adviser and driver was none other than the guitarist Brad Richter who once studied with me at the Royal College of Music in London. Since that time he has developed a unique career as composer, guitarist and visionary teacher. He is the co-founder and Executive Director of Lead Guitar, a music and guitar-learning programme described as providing to students:

”technique, music reading, theory, performance skills and ensemble playing through which they develop their self-discipline, self-esteem and ability to work as a team - attributes that help them realize success throughout their lives.”

Thousands of children are receiving free tuition in dozens of schools spreading gradually across the USA. In a country reputed to always manage its affairs with carefully calibrated financial rewards in mind here is an educational provision which relies largely on the idealism and good will of local teachers using Brad’s well-devised, clearly thought-out teaching material, much of it ensemble-based. It has grown alongside Venezuela’s El Sistema which boasts of creating hundreds of orchestras nationwide from children and teenagers, some of them from deprived and criminalised backgrounds. Like El Sistema Lead Guitar provides an opportunity for poor children to play a musical instrument. In Arizona it started out in schools on the Navajo Reservation but has quickly grown from there.

It matters not whether children learning to play a musical instrument do not become professional players, for what matters more are the startling effects – intellectually, emotionally and socially – of growing up actively involved in music. I have written about this before in Playing In Groups Helps Advance Social Abilities where I referred to a recent study by Cambridge University.

From the desert heat of Tucson we drove to the more moderate temperatures of Flagstaff, passing by countryside where vegetation changed rapidly every 50 miles or so from desert and savannah to luscious green. There I met Craig Yarbrough, Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Guitar Society whose energy and enthusiasm drives so much of the guitar activity in Arizona. He shows delight not just through his facial expressions but through every joint of his loose-limbed body!

And finally to Phoenix and yet another good hall. My host here was Frank Koonce, whose comprehensive edition of J.S.Bach's Lute Suites has rightly earned him international recognition.

I played the same programme in all three concerts including the Villa-Lobos preludes, Bach’s Lute suite in E minor, Albeniz’s Granada and Asturias, Smith-Brindle's El Polifemo de Oro and my arrangements of the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Strawberry Fields, and Here Comes The Sun, and Queen’s Love of my Life.

Judging by the response a good time was had by all, including me.

After an intense week of activity I departed Arizona around the time of the Eastern coast’s Hurricane Sandy with a detour to Mexico, spending several days there on my way back to the UK….but that’s another story.

3rd November 2012, Mexico

The Beatles' 50th and my November tour

- what is going through my mind as I go on the road -

In just a few days' time I will be touring the UK with my programme Magical Mystery Guitar Tour which includes classic guitar favourites and a selection from my album of my arrangements of their music for solo guitar as a 50th anniversary tribute to the Beatles. I am putting the final touches to the programme and thinking anew about the pieces I am playing. I wish my performances of them to be the best they have ever been.

In my preparations I have been searching for more meaning and more expression even in familiar music like Albeniz's Asturias and Tárrega's Memories of the Alhambra, which I have known for much of my life. I have tinkered again with my arrangements of The Beatles' music.

When I play music live in concert it is a journey of exploration for everyone, including me. However familiar the landscape to the listener and to myself my interest is to discover and point out new views, new colours, new shapes and unify them into a convincing and satisfying whole. Sometimes music tells a story without words. Sometimes there is no story but the music speaks to us because of the emotions it contains, without us being able to define them in words.

Whatever music may be about (if anything at all), it has form and shape which I try to project in a beautiful sound-scape. Whatever its meaning at least may it sound wonderful!

And so with such notions in my head I leave you so as to ponder and practise a little more in the hope of scaling some more mountain peaks of the pieces I have chosen to play on the tour.

A daunting task it is, but I intend to have loads of fun doing so!

"Magical Mystery Guitar Tour" during November plays in Liverpool, Oxford, Marlow, London. Norwich, Swindon, Wirksworth and Cambridge. See the Tour Dates page for full details and to book on line.

28th October 2012, Phoenix, Arizona, USA