The blues volcano practice Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd

By George! Hello Adam!

January 11, 2012

One minute you’re down in the dumps because your drummers left the band the next minute you’re back up in the ash clouds because a new drummers joined , such is the life of Lincolnshire’s most volcanic rock band. With the current frequency of drummer changes I’m beginning to think from now on for conveniences sake we should just call our drummer ‘drummer’ or to use the over active lovers ploy ‘darling’. Just kidding Adam …..welcome! We had a great session last night and it looks like we will catch up with rehearsals real soon.

George has decided to leave the band due to work commitments but will happily still be playing with our old friends Page8 and we wish him all the best and hugs etc

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Happy new year everyone. Things move slowly but surely at the Blues Volcano. True to our name we work to geological time. We’ve been rehearsing since 1968, in fact several decades before George our drummer was even born. The average rock band practice to gig ratio is about 350 practices to one gig. We’re currently at 415,356 to 1 so we’re well above that which is of course how it should be. But hey , 15 songs already under our belt so were easily half way to a set….expect to see eruptions all over the area from the spring onwards. Next practice is tomorrow night which after the long break is very welcome. If you needed proof that dinosaurs did indeed once the roam the earth don’t forget to check us out for forthcoming gigs, tell all your friends and ‘like’ our Facebook page

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Informative and highly amusing series of articles by a jazz musician highlighting the shortcomings of the average pub band

10 things pub rock bands can learn from jazz musicians (Part One)

A while back, I wrote a two-part post called ’10 things jazz musicians can learn from pub rock bands’. Despite the fact I decided to remove a couple of points from the first draft (so there were only eight in then end!) these posts have been the most popular on the blog to date. I thought it was about time I took a look at things from the other perspective; so here is the PlayJazz guide to 10 things pub rock bands can learn from jazz musicians.

Learn to Play
Seriously. The average grassroots jazz musician is a universe beyond the average pub rock band member when it comes to basic musical competence. When jazz musicians don’t sound so good, it’s often because they’re trying to pull off a 32nd-note, diminished-whole-tone-scale pattern at 200bpm.

When pub rock bands sound bad, it’s because they can’t play. Bass players that can’t keep time, guitarists that can’t play half the chords, drummers that just can’t – there are an incredible number of players in pub rock bands that shouldn’t even be thinking about playing in front of friends and family yet, let alone playing gigs! Do yourself and our bleeding ears a favour and spend some time in the ‘shed before inflicting your bizarre twanging and banging on the rest of the world.

And just to be crystal clear about this, I mean practise. Note I’m using the word as a verb, not a noun. This is not the same thing as showing up to your weekly rehearsal (we all know how much pub-rock bands love to rehearse), making the same mistakes in the same places for 25 minutes and then sitting around for two hours drinking cans of beer, smoking spliffs and slagging off everyone who has ever been successful in the music business. This means actually getting off your arse and putting some work in so you don’t suck. Got it?

It Doesn’t Matter What Your Band Is Called
Look, I know you think that picking the right band name is probably the single most important factor in whether you achieve the global fame and fortune that your musical genius richly deserves, but seriously, it makes absolutely no difference what your band is called.

History is littered with successful bands with unbelievably stupid names, such as ‘Hootie and the Blowfish’, ‘Kajagoogoo’, ‘Chumbawumba’, ‘Hoobastank’, ‘Spandau Ballet’, ‘Smashing Pumpkins’, ‘The The’, ‘Mott the Hoople’, ‘Prefab Sprout’….Need I go on?

The reality is that even with the most inane/pretentious/unimaginative/downright stoooopid name, you can be successful. Or not as the case may be. Either way, as a factor in musical success, it’s not going to be anywhere near as important as pub rock bands think it is.

Jazz musicians have always known this and, preferring to concentrate on the music, they make their band names as unoriginal as possible. In fact, after the last band with the word ‘stompers’ in the name hung up their sousaphones, the old New Orleans jazz musicians forced congress to pass a bill making it illegal to have a band using anything other than a musician’s name and the number of people involved in the group as a name. This explains why all jazz bands were called ‘The Oscar Peterson Trio’, ‘The Miles Davis Quintet’ and so on. This directive produced names that were very descriptive and very dull – therefore forcing audiences to focus solely on the music.

Few people know that this law was repealed in 1952 when Jazz musician and amateur lawyer Milt Jackson single-handedly fought a lengthy and hugely expensive legal battle which went all the way to the Supreme Court. On winning his case and being now legally entitled to call his new band anything he liked, he went with the imaginatively shocking, outrageously radical and indisputably paradigm-changing name of ‘The Modern Jazz Quartet’ .

The moral of the story Dear Rocker, is that you need to spend a bit less time in the Pub arguing about whether ‘Walrus Massacre’ carries the necessary gravitas to propel you to the big time and a bit more time learning how to sound less like a bunch of fat mammals being slaughtered.

You don’t need all of those drums
You really don’t. In an evening at a grassroots jazz gig, the drummer will play at least of couple of solos and will undoubtedly have numerous opportunities to trade 4 and 8 bar sections with the rest of the band. For this he uses a kit with a tiny bass drum and at the most, a couple of toms. Setting up any more than 3 cymbals will result in a visit from the Jazz Police.

At an average pub rock gig, the drummer doesn’t get a solo (for a very good reason). Nevertheless, pub rock drummers seem to labour under the illusion that they require a kit the size of a small principality to play the drum parts to ‘November Rain’ and ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’.

Pub-rock drummers: Nobody is impressed that your kit takes up 3/4 of the venue and is spilling over into the car park. Nobody thinks it’s cool that your bass drum is so large, a family of Guatemalan refugees has moved in. Even the most gullible member of the audience knows that you can’t possibly find a place in the set to use all 6 floor toms, and everybody knows that there’s no way you could possibly distinguish the nuanced individual sound of each of the 19 cymbals in a blindfold test.

And apart from anything else, why would you bother with all that showing-off when Buddy Rich can wipe the floor with you with just a snare drum? (skip to 3.45 if you’re impatient!)

Here’s the next one

10 things pub rock bands can learn from jazz musicians (Part Two)

Lastly the final one. Wasn’t quite so keen on this although the keyboard player bit was spot on. I still like the simple chugging anthems chords though and oddly so do millions (when played properly)

10 things pub rock bands can learn from jazz musicians (Part Three)

I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’ve been a lazy guitar student . I’ve been playing for 40 years on and off but only this week has it really dawned on me that there’s no short cuts if you want to really progress. If you’re reading this and you’ve only just started then hopefully I will save you years of noodling, all you have to know is how to practice and you will get better and better. How quickly that happens I guess depends on how well you can concentrate and how much time and effort you can put in.

So what have I been doing wrong? Well I’ve gone for an 80% solution. If I wanted to play a song I would learn it up to a point that it sounded pretty good to me. Once I got to a certain point I would jam the bits that I couldn’t do properly and just groove away and sort of create my own version. Nothing wrong in doing that of course except if one doesn’t make the effort to really learn the song one falls into a trap. Armed with a certain level of skill you’ll go off and learn lots of songs, only they will all be your version. I accepted this 80% solution and developed a style of playing and satisfied myself with the idea that somehow I was being creative when in fact I was being lazy. I have often scoffed at guitarists that were obsessed with playing tracks note for note and I have met many that can do precisely that but don’t seem to be able to jam. Until now I’ve felt being able to jam as being more important than being able to play properly.

80% solutions work well in most walks of life but I reckon in guitar playing its limiting. My playing is full of issues and the 20% part that i havent bothered to sort out are all the bits of my playing that sound crap. Keeping to the beat, phrasing, and memorising are my particular bug bears and that’s because they were difficult and time consuming to work out I skipped the problem and it’s meant that I don’t have the fluidity and flexibility to play in the infinite different phrasing and styles that I could be by now. My fingers are programmed to play a certain way – I’ve developed a comfort zone that makes certain licks so hard to do. There’s nothing difficult about any particular lick that doesn’t stretch you physically , the only reason you find it hard is because I’ve never phrased those notes in that particular way before

This is different from something being hard because your fingers don’t stretch that far or it’s simply too fast for you. If that’s the case then you have to leave it alone or create a workaround. No what I’m talking about is the lick that someone else can do easily but I find I keep messing up. The reason I mess up is because my fingers are programmed by years of playing in my comfort zone. So this why I’m determined now to do what I should have done right from the start and that is to learn great solos note for note and beat for beat. And it’s taking hours and hours sometimes just the simplest lick I have to repeat hundreds of times but when I crack it it’s very satisfying, and because I’ve learnt other stuff about playing over the years like playing with feeling I have to say it starting to sound pretty good.

I have to thank my guitar tutor Gizz Butt for this. I’ve never had any lessons until a few years ago and I reckon all players would really benefit. I guess many of you know that but I didn’t and this is my confession. Hope someone learns from it.

I think many if not most guitarists think they are better than they actually are. We’re a pretty cocky bunch. Something I’ve learnt is that once you really start to try playing properly your repertoire goes right down. I used know loads of songs only I didn’t really I could just play lots of songs badly and mostly incompletely.

I should explain that most of my playing time has been noodling on my own and this is the worst sort of practice I think you can do. You’ll never learn anything because you are never wrong you just make a mistake ignore it and carry on. There’s no band or audience to collaborate with. If you are not in a band you must practice to backing tracks or at least a metronome. Being in a band makes you realise how much you need to learn. Now instead of knowing hundreds of songs I know 15-20. Even then these need a lot of work and I spend hours just on these songs.

I guess some guitarists learn really quickly and that’s what makes them a natural. But for me it’s about lots of practice and practicing properly. I may have been playing for years but I still discover everyday just how much of a beginner I really am. But I’m now making progress…..

Blues Volcano re-ignites !

November 9, 2011

After a short period of dormancy the Volcanos are back in business. Two new members have joined – George Hakes on drums and Graham Dyer on Bass. We’re complete at last! ¬†An all human band again, and about time.

Now I know I need to sort this blog out and get some Bios of the new guys and get some new pictures etc, but the music comes first so we’ll be busy practicing for our first gig with the new line up. Will keep you posted folks


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latest recordings

July 8, 2011

Some more music….

red house

2468 motorway



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