Cliveden House Guitarist Wedding Party Band Big Mama Funk

A Busy Christmas

Okay, so it’s nearly the end of January and now we have got a little bit of time to look back at what the bands got up to at Christmas and New Year.  It was an incredibly busy time and it quite nice to have a little bit of respite before the year gets really busy again.

So, Jazz Juice has been performing at Cliveden House for the last seven years, and it is always a privilege to do so.  The venue is simply exquisite and there is always a sense of occasion when you drive up the wide and perfectly manicured driveway up to the Luxury Hotel.  This year a duo of guitar and saxophone was required to play on Christmas Day and returned on Boxing Day which was then accompanied by a five-piece party band called, “Big Mama Funk” in the evening for dancing and celebration into the wee small hours.

vocal and guitar duo Surrey party band

The following day the Jazz Juice duo was booked last minute to save a wedding!  The happy couple were certainly unimpressed when we heard from them because they had several bands let them down, however they were a lot happier after they got in touch with myself, as I was able to fix this Duo for their reception and evening party.  It went down incredibly well and there were very, very happy with how everything panned out in the end. Happy Couple Wedding Surrey Band Party Duovocal and guitar duo Surrey party band

Forty eight hours after that, Jazz Juice were back at Cliveden for another wedding.  This included our pianist playing during the ceremony and an evening trio playing Jazz and Up-tempo party standards.  So the guests could initially relax and then be encouraged to get their grove on.  This was followed by our DJ who saw the night out and the early morning in with pop and dance hits that kept the guests asking and wanting more.

Cliveden House wedding music DJ party band

The next time we were back at Cliveden House was New Year’s Eve were a trio consisting of piano, saxophone and double bass performed and saw the New Year in up until another DJ took over after us.  It was not long until we were back again New Year’s Day so the band performing for seven hours in total!  We were the entertainment and atmosphere makers for brunch and dinner, and that concluded our Christmas period this year.

It was thoroughly exciting and very, very humbling to be a part of such an incredible organisation delivering unrivalled quality to discerning guests.  It gives me great pride to work with such a partner and I relished the opportunity.

Back on the Rollacoaster and Bye Bye Baby

Saturday night was an exciting evening back with Rollacoaster playing for a wedding near Devizes.  The marquee was situated in the grounds of a beautiful home, and it was very much a classy affair!  The nine-piece band performed for almost 3 hours, and the dance floor was packed from the moment we kicked off until the end.  We rattled through tunes by Stevie Wonder, Queen, Bon Jovi, The Killers, Pharrell Williams and many more, and the band were incredible!

Gary Mullins Guitar Player Teacher Aylesbury London Bucks

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After getting home late I was able to have a bit of a lay-in before hitting the road in the opposite direction to Hunstanton for a Bye Bye Baby show at the Princess Theatre.  There weren’t many seats left, that’s for sure!

If you haven’t checked out the band, Bye Bye Baby is a Frankie Valli tribute show, telling the story of music of the man and the Four Seasons.  Go to byebyebabylive.co.uk for more information and see when we’ll be at a theatre near you.  We’re all over the country and 2017 is getting very busy!

Bye Bye Baby Guitarist Tutor Teacher Gary Mullins

Why Take the Sight Reading Option in Your Rockschool Grade Exam

The Sight Reading component in the Rockschool Grade Syllabuses is an alternative option to the Improvisation/Interpretation segment from the Debut Grade through to Grade 5. When taking the exam you will need to identify your selection, and it will follow immediately after the Pieces and Technical Exercises.

Speaking as a guitarist, the option of the Improvisation and Interpretation is often a preferred selection by students, mainly because it is perceived to be an easier option to gain more marks. While this is a sound approach for the short-term success of the Grade exam, I would strongly encourage all musicians to look into the benefits of Sight Reading. Furthermore, from Grade 3 onwards there are strong improvisational elements to the pieces, so Sight Reading would be a logical choice for the musician who desires to be more rounded.

It must be said that the groundwork required to ‘Read’ effectively shouldn’t be underestimated, since you are learning to interpret a new language and apply it to your chosen instrument. This is not only on a basic pitch and rhythm level, but also with expression, and dynamicism, in order to evoke certain tonal characteristics and dynamics. As with every skill, these additional nuances become more natural over time, with the basic pitch and rhythmic components being the primary focus to begin with.

As I’ve alluded to, the strength of Sight Reading is in the bigger picture, rather than any short-term avoidance of ‘effort’ by taking the commonly-preferred Improvisation element. Put the energy in to Sight Reading as soon as you can and you’ll be a much better musician for it!

Benefits of Sight Reading Include…

  1. The obvious – being able to look at notated music and at the very least be able to interpret and understand what’s been written, and to ‘bring it forth’ as sound with meaning. There are varying levels of performance in this area, ranging from simply being able to play one note at a time out of a chord or phrase (and building slowly), right through to rapidly performing anything put in front of you. Whether you’re closer to the former of the latter, simply having an understanding of where and how to play a written note on your instrument will give you a huge advantage in your exam and beyond.
  2. You’ll be able to communicate with fellow musicians in using language in terms of rhythms and pitch, making conversation easier and teamwork more effective. ‘Boom, dat, boom boom, dat’ with a drummer becomes, “play crotchets on beats one and two with the kick and snare drums respectively, then two quavers on beat three and the ‘and’ of three with the kick drum, finally playing the snare drum on beat four”. This sort of language is common across instruments, so dialog can exist between musicians across broad swathes of players.
  3. Your transcription skills will be vastly improved. Your ability to reproduce written sound will also work the other way, enabling you to write down what you hear either to write your own musical ideas, or to present the information for a colleague to play. This area will also encourage your aural skills, also tested at the end of the Rockschool Grade exam.
  4. Reading standard notation means you can play music written for almost any instrument, or at the very least have a clear idea of how it will sound for that particular instrument.

 

Each of these outcomes will give you a fantastic opportunity to play more of the music you want to play, more efficiently. Furthermore, aspirations to perform in public professionally or semi-professionally will be encouraged with the addition of these new skills. I can categorically say that my ability to Sight Read has been a critical component in enabling me to play guitar professionally, and do a broad range of performing and teaching work. It permits me to pick up almost any notated music and bring it to life on my guitar to some degree. This is a wonderfully liberating skill to have, and is a real asset of Sight Reading on your chosen instrument.

In order to get the most out of your Sight Reading experience you should really try and read something every time you pick up your instrument. Make it a habit and it will soon become very natural and practical. Read anything and everything, and don’t worry if it’s written for your instrument or not.

Mock Exams Now Available!

Are you getting ready for a Rockschool exam and want a little bit of extra insight to get the final preparations right?  Our team of professional tutors are perfectly placed to offer insightful advice on how to make the most of your exam, tailored specifically for you.  Along with a Mock Rockschool examination to help you get a feel for the experience, we will also deliver a set of notes and areas for focus and improvement.  These will include points on…

  • Technique advice
  • Solo composition help
  • Assistance with developing dynamics
  • Tone suggestions/modifications
  • Technical Exercises tips and tricks
  • Help with General Musicianship Questions

We recommend having a Mock Rockschool Exam at least one month before your proposed exam window so we can give you the best opportunity to make modifications and improvements, and give you the opportunity to have another go in order for us to see your progress and make any final recommendations.

Send us a message, and we will make the arrangements.  Mock exams can be arranged via Skype or in person (where permitting).

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What a Weekend – Frankie Valli, Richard Shelton, Waddesdon Manor

This weekend has been a really varied, interesting and fun set of gigs, covering over 700 miles! 

On Friday I was in Whitley Bay with Bye Bye Baby – a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute show. This took place at the Playhouse where we played to 500 people, and had many of them dancing in the aisles! 

  
This is a great production – incredible music, faithfully recreated by myself and my colleagues. It’s loads of fun and I really look forward to these gigs, partly because I get to play my Gibson double neck! 

  
I also take my Gibson Les Paul Gold Top as a back up, and I needed it this time as I snapped the high E on the six string on the double neck!

600 miles later, and I was in central London with the Denmark Street Big Band for the Richard Sheltpn album review show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club on Dean Street, London. 

  
Amongst some original tunes arranged specifically for the big band, we also played a lot of Sinatra classics. My highlight of the gig was an instrumental performance of Under My Skin, where bass and tenor sax were largely playing together, and they were incredible! 

Richard was great too – entertaining the crowd with great stories and anecdotes, and his voice is fantastic too. I particularly enjoyed his duos with pianist Ben who was loving it! 

  
The weekend got wrapped up with a solo performance at Waddesdon Manor, playing during Afternoon Tea. This is a bit of a slog (4.5hrs!!) but it’s wonderful to share my arrangements and performances of tunes like Li’l Darlin’, Pure Imagination, Misty and more! 

  
Like the big band gig the night before, I played my Gibson ES175, which was exquisite! I used the AER Compact 60, and have started using a little bit more gain on the first channel with the guitar which has been great – it gives the guitar more presence and sounds really full. 

 Needless to say, the food was great, and it was really busy! You should check it out – one more week to go – next Sunday is my last slot, 12:00-16:30.  

  
The coming weekend is going to be just as hectic, with a workshop from Clive Carroll at the Aylesbury Music Centre to facilitate, a gig with Rollacoaster and the final Waddesdon Manor performance. Before then, prep and practice! Bring it on! 

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Playing Wicked with LMTO – The London Musical Theatre Orchestra

The London musical theatre orchestra is a relatively new organisation designed to take famous works and extend them to orchestral playing. The integrity of the original works is kept, however where necessary additional parts are arranged to accommodate extra members of the orchestra not normally present in the show’s stage counterparts. 

The most recent production, that I had the honour to perform, was the music of Wicked, as part of a 100 piece orchestra which included 40 voices! 

The music was orchestrated for two guitars of which I was Guitar One. This particular part had the majority of the electric guitar parts and included passages requiring me to use an Ebow and Seek Wah sound amongst typical heavy distortions and shimmery cleans. There were a lot of interesting suspended chord voicings, searing lead lines and some delicate chord and arpeggio work. A real workout! 

There are many ‘corners’ in the music of Wicked, involving lots of time signature changes and variations in feel. In order to navigate these we had a rehearsal in the afternoon and a full run-through with the choir in the evening. The sound was incredible, and it was a real buzz to play this music in such a setting. 

It was a shame we couldn’t perform the music to an audience (due to rights issues), however I am hopeful that the opportunity will arise in the near future. The next show will be the Sound of Music, however I will be otherwise engaged elsewhere, so I will have two wait for the next one! Do check out the LMTO, as it’s a fantastic organisation! 

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Mitch Dalton and the Long Dog

Last night I went to the Long Dog pub in Waddesdon to check out the jazz night that takes place there every other Tuesday.  This is because I bumped into one of the organisers and house band members on a recent gig, and he told me that Mitch Dalton was going to be playing at the next one…. So I had to get there! 

It was incredible!! The quartet are all top, top, players who have played for some of the most important names in music, and they’re playing a village pub just outside Aylesbury… I left feeling like I’d robbed them – all I bought was a coke! Typically I’d be paying proper money for a ticket to see these guys – if I could get one – and that wasn’t necessary at all on this occasion… Or any Tuesday at the Long Dog! 

If you’re local, stick it in your diaries!! You can see some of the best musicians in Jazz without having to travel into London to do so – or pay the money, which I would only be too happy to do! 

I got to meet and watch one of the top guitar players last night, and I’m still buzzing now! See you there in 13 days time! 

   
       

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The Bye Bye Baby Tour Begins! 

In recent weeks I’ve been working with a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute act called Bye Bye Baby. Fronted by four guys, I’m one of seven additional band members and collectively we’re touring theatres all over the country. 

We kicked the tour off last week in Croydon and Clacton-On-Sea, and tomorrow night we’ll be in Carlisle, so there’ll be some miles going on the car! 

The music has been arranged specifically for the band, the sound team are incredible and the other musicians are superb, so it really is a great play and a great night out, with the fantastic iconic music Frankie Valli. 

Be sure to check out http://www.byebyebabylive.co.uk for the dates!