Last night I ordered a new DMX light controller. This will give me more control over my LED par cans, enabling me to produce better quality light shows for my own band and performances, not to mention other performers I work with.
Win a free half hour guitar or ukulele lesson by Skype, FaceTime or google hangouts. During #DevonHour on twitter, this week only (21/82013), 10 questions about me will appear under the hash tag #SoYouThinkYouKnowMe. Simply tweet the answers back to me. All the answers are in my twitter time line and blogs.
The winner will be announced shortly after Saturday 6 pm (24/8/2013) when the competition closes, here and on Twitter. In the event of a tie, I will draw a winner from the most correct answers. Anyone is eligible to play, except me. Good luck!
You must be able to get your hands on a guitar or ukulele.
No cash alternatives.
My decision is final.
Every time I camp at Tamar Lake, I see a sign at the end of the road saying, 'Wei's Chinese Kitchen'. I always say, 'we'll have to go there sometime'. Well, finally we went and tried it.
We followed the sign to another sign pointing into a field. Ahead was caravans and tents, to the right was a smallish wooden building with red Chinese lanterns adorning it. Walking away from the building was a tall slim gentleman, who approached us because we were clearly unsure about where we should park. 'Can I help you'? I replied 'we're looking for the Chinese restaurant'. He told us where to park, and pointed us in the right direction for the entrance.
Once inside, the same gentleman introduced us to the menu on the wall above the hot plates. 'This is what we have this evening, Wei changes the menu every day'.
We were offered a choice to either eat in or take away. The take away was £4 per punnet, but we chose to eat in, the all you can eat for £9.90 per person.
We were offered a table for two, and very quickly a bag of prawn crackers appeared to get us started. We tucked in. Very soon after this, a Chinese lady, who we were later to find out was Wei, offered us a chicken, sweet corn and noodle soup.
The main course was a number of dishes, including, egg fried rice, prawn balls, chow mein, sweet and sour, duck and pineapple, and many more. I tried them all except the beef with chilli. I'm not keen on beef, and really dislike chilli, hence the wide berth. Everything I had was unbelievably delicious, causing me to tweet, 'this is one of the best restaurants ever'. We were also offered tea or coffee and apple pie and ice cream.
Amazing, and highly recommended.
Today I have collected eight new hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust. Picked them up from Winkleigh, Devon. Here are a few snaps and a short film of the day.
The chickens arriving in the back of my Land Rover, in boxes supplied by Roger Wickham of Devon Outdoor.
I have been meaning to write this blog for a long time. A couple of years in fact. I keep putting it off because I know it's a little controversial and I want to get it right. In other words, I've done my research. Many of you may disagree (I have had many debates on Twitter and Facebook about it). It makes my blood boil.
Now just to be clear, when I say 'why you should not play them', I also mean, you should not watch them, or eat or drink in the venues that promote them.
The pub landlords that promote such events will tell you, they put them on
'to give new talent an opportunity to play in front of an audience', as if they are doing the 'new talent' a favour. Well let me tell you, this is a big fat lie, they put them on for profit. Now profit is not a rude word, but everyone contributing deserves a slice of it. They are using the musicians skills and talent to line their own pockets, and not share any of it with the musician. Okay, they often give you a 'free pint'. Let me tell you about that 'free pint', it's not free, you worked for it. I wonder if the landlord pays his plumber and staff in pints. Pints do not pay your mortgage, kids shoes, or even a packet of guitar strings. They should also be declared to the VAT man by the landlords because, as an accountant informs me, they are in effect making a taxable supply to the musician in exchange for services, so the VAT on the full value of the pint should be paid over. I hope you landlords are declaring them. Equally, musicians should be declaring them to the tax man. You are accepting beer as income. I suspect the whole thing is a hot bed of petty tax evasion. I suggest musicians should try going down to Soundpad in Barnstaple and offer them a couple of flat pints of beer for a packet of Ernie Balls. I can ensure you they will laugh you out the building. Musicians are consequently 'paying to play' as the old musicians slogan used to say.
Another trick that the landlords and agents use to pull you in is, 'come
play the open mic night, and we'll see how good you are. If you are good enough I will book you'. This is another lie. They rarely give gigs this way, although they will deny this. I know many venues that book a whole year or seasons entertainment on this basis, abusing the good will of hopeful entertainers.
Entertainers need to stand together, say no to this rip off, and put an end to this awful practice, that is in all but name slavery.
People have argued 'but they're fun'. I don't think putting musicians out of work and treating them as slaves is fun. I take no pleasure in it. Where are your principles? It's a nobel art.On occasions, I've had other musicians tell me, 'I only play for fun, I work in the week, I don't need the money'. Again, I don't see how putting other musicians out of work is fun. How would you like it if I go to your boss and say to him I'll do your job for free, because I work as a musician, therefore I
don't need the money? There is a minimum wage law, some how musicians fall through the net. Has this musician got public liability insurance? I have never
met one that has. Therefore any accident, such as taking someone's eye out with
a guitar neck, or burning the pub down with your untested (PAT) electrical equipment, is not usually covered by the landlords insurance policy. You're taking a hell of a risk.
When it comes to these practices, I want venue owners to give up, and pay up!
I'm off for a walk to calm down.
How to buy a guitar
Every week people ask me what's an ideal guitar to learn on, with the hopes of becoming the next rock god. But truthfully, not all guitars are suitable to learn on. If you are serious about learning to play yourself, or if you’re buying the guitar for someone else to learn on, you must be prepared to invest a little money. Don't buy the cheapest guitar, but buying second hand will save you half to a third of the cost. It's always a good idea to take your guitar teacher along with you for advice. I always try to do this when my students ask. Alternately, take a friend who plays.
The most important aspect of any guitar is that it must have a good playable action. What this means is, the strings must be close to the fretboard to make them easy to press (see fig 2 and fig 3). When the strings are too high the person attempting to learn to play usually quits in frustration. They find it too hard. The saddest part is that they think there is something wrong with them. Secondly, a straight neck. This can be checked by looking down the neck as if it were a rifle. Also check by holding down the bottom string (the thick one) on the first fret and the last one. There should be a small gap between the string and the 7th fret. This is called neck relief. The gap should not be too big (see fig 1), but should be there. It is also important to have good intonation. The 12th fret should produce the same note as the open string. This can not usually be adjusted on an acoustic guitar, therefore it needs to be correct. It's usually adjustable on electrics, but it is a little fiddly, so this should only be done by someone who knows what they are doing.
The next thing that is crucial is getting the guitar in tune and it playing in tune. Tuners should tune smoothly and stay in tune. This is a common problem when the guitar is very inexpensive.
Another common question is should I buy an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar. They may look somewhat different, but the finger positions for chords, picking, strumming and scales are identical. If you can play an acoustic then you can play an electric and vice versa. An acoustic guitar has a hollow body and doesn’t need an amplifier. Great for camping and power cuts. Electric guitars are designed to be used with an amplifier. They can be played at any volume and effects such as overdrive can be added. So the choice is yours. Most serious players end up with both.
When you select a guitar there are a few different sizes to choose from. A half size is the smallest. A three-quarter size acoustic has a smaller body so it is ideal for younger people aged 8 - 12. The full size dreadnought is comfortable for anyone who is an adult or young people, the size of an adult.
It is important that your guitar is in tune. Tuning is a process that is learned. Nobody automatically knows how to tune a guitar. Fortunately, there is a small battery operated device called a “guitar tuner” which by picking a string and watching the meter you’ll get your guitar in tune easily and quickly. You can also get them as phone apps. Playing a tuned guitar is far more satisfying.
This shows the neck relief being mesured. You are looking at the middle of the neck.
Showing a guitar with a poor action. I would not consider buying a guitar like this. The coin is a UK 20p
Showing a guitar with a good action. This coin is also a UK 20p