41. Irish Eyes

Carolan Guitar

Acoustic guitarist Steve Pinnock has been putting Carolan through its paces while producer Simon Paterson has been exploring how best to record its voice.

Steve and Simon

Based in Nottingham, Steve is an innovative acoustic guitarist, well known for his solo gigs (we can still remember him playing a stunning solo set in front of several thousand people at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall) as well as a founding member of swing-combo Mood Indigo. Steve, who was recently acclaimed by Acoustic legend Antonio Forcione, stretches the acoustic guitar beyond its conventional boundaries through an eye-watering array of playing techniques.

Simon is a musician, producer and also an educator working in the School of Music at the University of Nottingham. We met Simon a while ago back in post 31 when we interviewed Remi Harris and he raised the possibility of recording Carolan in the University’s wonderful Djanogly recital hall.

Steve drops Carolan to the unusual turning of DADGAE and begins with his composition Irish Eyes…

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39. The Smoke

An interview with session guitarist, composer and producer Kevin Armstrong who has played with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Thomas Dolby, Sinéad O’Connor, Morrissey and Prefab Sprout among many others.

Carolan Guitar

Carolan has been down to The Smoke for a couple of days to see the sights and meet up with session guitarist Kevin Armstrong. The sights included a trip to meet the curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a research seminar at Imperial College and of course, a visit to Denmark Street, very much the spiritual home of British Guitar playing since the 1950s and known as Britain’s Tin Pan Alley. We drop in at Macari’s where we chat with owner Anthony about guitars and where a passing customer from Columbia takes an interest and plays us a few tunes. We think that we might even have been invited to a Columbian music festival.

Visiting Denmark Street

Then we’re off to the Institute of Contemporary Arts for our interview with Kevin Armstrong. Kevin is one of that most revered breed of guitarists, the professional session player, as well as a producer, songwriter and composer for film and TV. He…

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38. Caroling Carolan

A christmas carol for you. Have a good one!

Carolan Guitar

It’s Carolan’s first Christmas and so the perfect time to regale you with a carol, in this case Gustav Holst’s beautiful tune for ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’.

Recording this provided us with a good opportunity to begin to explore how best to capture Carolan’s voice. It seemed best to try this out at home first before venturing into a professional set-up, so Steve heads upstairs to his man-cave for a long Sunday afternoon of messing about with mics and things as well as grumpily shouting at anyone who dares to make a noise nearby (including neighbours, wildlife and passing vehicles, although at least one of these manages to sneak onto the recordings anyway). Adrian then takes on the task on mixing and mastering in his own cave.

Here’s a second recording, this time of O’Carolan’s Concerto (also known as Mrs Power), one of Turlough O’Carolan’s better known pieces.

And now a warning. The rest of this post describes how Steve and Adrian set about recording the…

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35. Give a Hand

Carolan Guitar

Carolan hears that acclaimed celtic guitarist Tim Edey is performing at nearby Southwell and so sprints over to meet him. Tim is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer who has toured and recorded with the Chrieftens, Christie Moore, Sharon Shannon, Natalie MacMaster, Altan, Capercaillie, Brendan Power, Michael McGoldrick, Session A9, Wolfstone, Lunasa and Mary Black  to name but a few. If this isn’t enough, he was also named BBC Radio Two’s Musician of the Year in 2012. You can find out more about Tim’s music at his website.

We’ve seen Tim at big festivals and have been wowed by the things he can do with a guitar, including some incredibly nifty shifts of capo position in the middle of tunes – blink and you’ll miss them. It’s marvellous to now see his technique close up in an intimate venue, especially as we’re sitting right in the middle of the front row.

At the soundcheck, Tim plays…

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34. Accessorize

Carolan Guitar

Time for a nerdy interlude while we get on with editing some more videos.

We don’t know about you, but there’s something really exciting about nosing around in other people’s guitar cases, exploring their nooks and crannies in search of accessories. A touring guitar case needs to be well stocked with pretty much every accessory that might be needed on the road, plus a few more gadgets and gizmos for good measure.

We may be in danger of over-sharing, but here are the contents of Carolan’s case. First there’s the case itself. It’s a Hiscox Pro II, a hard minder of a case that offers serious protection to Carolan and that also doubles up as a small stage, body shield or even a canoe in extremis. It also comes in a chic Cream colour, reminiscent of late period Elvis.

Open up and the case and you should be greeted with a selection of strings, posters, gig tickets and other…

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33. Bluesmen

Carolan Guitar

Welcome to the first of our 2014 Beeston Oxjam Takeover retrospectives.

First up, Jimmy Wigginton takes time out from running the Guitar Spot to sit down on his own sofa and play us some blues on Carolan.

As someone who has traded guitars for many years, Jimmy is able to regale us with some fine guitar stories including how one well-known Jazz guitarist came to buy the same guitar for the third time.

Read more of Jimmy’s stories and his thoughts about guitars and Carolan in Issue 32 of Beeston’s wonderful organ the Beestonian (strap line – ‘Half a Decade of Beeston Based Babbling’).

Later on, we’re joined by Jimmy’s young protégé and one-time student Joe ‘Slide’ Barber who takes a slide to Carolan for this version of Statesboro Blues.

Now we’re sounding mean and honky. Positively ‘mardy’ as they say around these parts. Surely we can’t get any more miserable?  … hmmm … next up it’s the  the singer-songwriters.

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30. Scanners

Reflections on the craft challenges of embedding interactive codes into delicate wooden structures

Carolan Guitar

The team has been living with Carolan for a short while now, giving regular demos to a number of people in different settings and observing what happens when they scan the codes. So, we felt it was time to reflect on the technical aspects of embedding the codes into the guitar and the lessons learned for luthiery, and to summarise as to how well the guitar’s Aestheticodes stand up to being scanned?

Right from the start of this project we knew we were venturing into uncharted waters; by using woods, inlay, engraving and sound holes as part of the codes we only added uncertainty and risk – but that’s all part of the research and of course the fun! We tested as best we could throughout the design and build process as we discussed in earlier blog posts, such as 4. Questions, 6. Etchings and 11. Mock-up. Despite all the testing…

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