I grew up in England, attending school in Gloucester and then reading Classics at Peterhouse, Cambridge University. After working in London for three years, I moved to Belgium in 1993 where I have lived ever since.
I played the piano as a child and also started playing the guitar, but never took it seriously until 2012, thanks to Rocksmith. I've also done a lot of singing, including over 30 amateur shows.
Since 2012 I have been avidly accumulating guitar-related information as well as guitars and related gear, and I decided to create this site to share some of my knowledge, experiences and opinions with anybody who might be interested.
This website is an evolution of my YouTube channel, and today I return to the beginning of that. My first YouTube video was a review of my Chapman MLB-1 bass guitar, which was one of the first of the Chapman basses, and I made that video because there were no reviews or other videos about this bass apart from the ones from the Chapman guys themselves. It is the most watched of my guitar-related videos, with almost 9,000 views (one of my videos about my Audi A4 has supplanted that as my most watched video of all, but that’s not the subject of this site).
Now I see that there are a couple of other short reviews and demos from other players, but there still isn’t much out there about this bass which is a real shame, because I still think it’s an excellent bass for the money. I’ve had no desire to replace it by a better bass and I heartily recommend it, after 18 months. It’s a shame that Chapman Guitars has not built on this by releasing more basses, perhaps with different pickups, different finishes or 5 / 6 string versions.
As a side note before the video, I’ve been adding articles to the My Gear section of this website (the Chapman Bass article will go up soon!), so please take a look there for pictures of and the stories behind my guitars and other gear.
If you are interested in buying one of these basses or reading the specifications, you can find them at Anderton’s or Thomann, or at your favourite Chapman retailer if you’re outside Europe (although those retailers will ship worldwide).
Crimson Guitars is where I will be going at the end of October to follow a week’s course in guitar building, and I will build my own guitar (see the articles beginning “Planning my Guitar Build part 1“). They do a lot of instructional videos on luthiery skills, and recently Ben Crowe, the Master Luthier, attempted to build a guitar in 12 hours.
The whole build was filmed and made available in all of it’s 12-hour glory on YouTube, and I’m afraid to say that, apart from skipping through some of the sanding, I watched the whole lot. Thanks to Ben’s commentary and the interest of watching the whole process of making a guitar, it was actually rather interesting!
Below you will find the first episode, “Preparing for the 12 Hour Guitar Build”, which preceded the 24 half-hour episodes. They are also going to produce an hour-long highlights version, but for those with the stamina, the full 12 hours are worth the watch.
Ben is obviously certifiably mad and I’m looking forward to meeting him!
I have added a new article today which is a list of luthiers working in the UK. This list is based on recommendations I have received, and focuses on small individual luthiers or companies, rather than bigger brands. It includes all areas of the UK plus Eire.
Please do comment and tell me about your favourite luthiers (even if that’s you!), and I’ll add them to the list.
Some of you will already know the Rob Chapman forum because at this stage probably many of my readers come from there. For those who don’t know it, the Rob Chapman Forum (RCF) is an internet forum for guitar lovers, started by Rob although he only appears very occasionally on the site. Rob Chapman is one of the best known YouTube guitar bloggers / presenters, best known for his work with Anderton’s. Recently, Rob has been working with his band Dorje, and he also heads Chapman Guitars, one of a very small number of UK-based guitar brands (as opposed to luthiers, of which there are plenty in the UK).
The RCF is one of my two favourite forums (the other is AVForums), and the people on there are generally helpful and sarcastic in equal measure! It’s also the home of the RCF jams, as posted a couple of days ago.
The Chapman guitars are partly responsible for my YouTube videos, since my first video was a review of the Chapman Guitars MLB-1 bass in January 2015, and I just continued from there. It’s a really nice bass, and I think it’s a shame that CG hasn’t made more bass guitars!
Here are some links to the Chapman forum and other Chapman-related sites:
Today I made another video which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I recorded myself playing a short piece through my Marshall Mini Silver Jubilee head, and I recorded the sound through six different microphones. I had three “proper” mikes pointed at the speaker cabinet, and then I used the DI output from the amp and finally the sound and video from my camcorder and my mobile phone.
If you aren’t used to recording, the differences in quality and tone might surprise you – even between the three “proper” microphones (which are decent although not top professional quality). For me, it shows how difficult it is to record good sound. I think my favourite was the Shure SM57 – what’s yours?
I plan on doing a short series of demos of the Marshall 2525H with different guitars. This is the first one, using my Epiphone Rosso Corsa, which has Slash’s signature Seymour Duncan pickups.
I hope to make a few more of these in the near future. As well as the Epiphone, I also made a short video checking out the tones of the Mini Silver Jubilee in low power mode, to answer the question of whether you can have one of these amps AND a wife!
My answer is yes – this amp sounds great at low volumes too.
I hang around with a lot of other guitar geeks on the Rob Chapman forum, and over the last couple of years they have organised a series of jams. We pick a backing track, and anyone can record their own solo on top of it. Then some poor mug (so far, most often me) has edited them all together into a video.
The latest of these jams was based on a blues track, and here is the finished result!
I have a playlist on my YouTube channel with all of the RCF jams here. And if you want to come along and chat about all sorts of guitar stuff (not just Chapman Guitars, but that’s part of it), pop along to the Rob Chapman Forum.
I have a few nuggets of basic music theory as they apply to the guitar. This first one is about the difficulty of tuning guitars – and indeed any musical instrument – accurately, which I will show by looking at the mathematics of note frequencies.
In standard tuning, guitar strings are pitched either a perfect 4th (5 frets) or a major 3rd (4 frets) apart, and the ratios of frequencies are 4:3 (perfect 4th) and 5:4 (major 3rd). Therefore we multiply the frequency of each string’s open note by the appropriate ratio to get the frequency of the next string’s open note.
The bottom and top strings of a guitar are two octaves apart, which means doubling the frequency twice. The frequency of the low E on a guitar is actually 82.4 Hz, if we use A440 tuning, but we will use a notional base note of 100 Hz (it’s not so far out anyway, that’s about 3 or 4 semitones higher). Hence, doubling that twice, the top string should be at 400 Hz.
However, if we go up string by string, we get the following:
E – Pitch of lowest string = 100
A – Up a fourth (4/3) = 133.3
D – Up a fourth (4/3) = 177.8
G – Up a fourth (4/3) = 237.0
B – Up a third (5/4) = 296.3
E – Up a fourth (4/3) = 395.1
So we reach 395 Hz instead of 400 Hz, which is about a fifth of a semitone out. And that’s why you can’t tune your guitar!
I’m a big fan of PRS guitars, and over the last few months they have released several videos on Periscope where they pick out the woods and design a private stock guitar, guided by voting from the live Periscope users. One of the regular types of post on this site will be interesting videos that I’ve found on YouTube, whether old or new, and I’m kicking that off by linking to all of these Periscope wood selection videos so far.
I found these videos fascinating, to see the private stock wood library and the actual pieces of wood that they turn into beautiful and incredibly expensive guitars!
The original (unfortunately they committed the cardinal sin of holding the phone upright rather than on its side). This is a Custom 24, and right now it’s actually up for sale secondhand at World Guitars for £7995. More pictures can be found on the PRS Guitars blog entry about this guitar.
Number two, a semi-hollow McCarty – again, they made a blog entry for this one:
Number Three – this one is a Paul’s Guitar:
An interesting nugget of information from this video: most curly Maple trees don’t grow big enough to make one-piece tops.
Numbers 4 & 5 – they started to do them two at a time. Interestingly, they show the finished second Periscope guitar at the start, and a fine instrument it looks too! Here they did two Tremonti guitars.
Six and seven were done together again. Fortunately, by now they’d figured out how to hold the camera the right way up!
And the latest one was eight and nine:
I’ll try to keep an eye out for more pictures of the finished guitars – some of them probably haven’t been finished yet, and PRS has only blogged about the first two, as I linked above.