Rob MacKillop

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Exploring the Plectrum Guitar

In Music on January 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I have a growing interest in the Plectrum Guitar, which is often associated with jazz but in fact has a much wider repertoire and practice. One could fancifully trace it back to the vihuela penola of 16th-century Spain, or ‘Latin’ and Moorish guitars of the medieval period, but for most people the work of Eddie Lang would be a good starting place. This wonderful website provides an overview of his work.

When I started guitar, aged 14, alone in my bedroom, I had Ivor Mairants’ Book Of Daily Exercises and Mickey Baker’s Jazz Guitar Volume 1 to keep me company. Sadly I made little headway with either book, but now aged 51 and looking back I recall my struggle to try to understand the instrument and its notation, and I find myself wishing to take another look, to try and reconnect with that kid in his room.

Just this last few days I have received a NEW GUITAR – always a BIG DAY 🙂 It is The Loar LH-700, a recreation of the early archtops made by Loyd Loar for Gibson. It is a magnificent guitar.

I also got hold of the following book from Mel Bay Publications, The Masters Of The Plectrum Guitar:

…which has a wealth of material in it, some items by Eddie Lang. I recorded the first two pieces in the book. The first uses the strings the guitar came with, regular acoustic-guitar strings. The second has flatwound (smoother) strings as I felt the regular strings were too bright.

I also have some old Plectrum Guitar tutor books, such as Ivor Mairants’ Guitar Tutor in Theory and Practice, and ordered from Abe Books, Play The Plectrum Guitar.

So, yet another musical avenue to explore!
I’ve created a Page on my Blog site devoted to the Plectrum Guitar:


Engaging with the new technologies

In Music on January 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

My teenage daughter’s generation do not use email, favouring instead communicating via Facebook and Windows Live, while Twitter is also favoured by many. Sharing ‘likes’ has become the new revolution in online usage, with each video, photo or article accompanied by half a dozen or more ‘share icons’. Suddenly my old website looks…well, old. It lacks interaction – the viewer needs to email me any comments, or copy a link to send to a friend. Far too much trouble. Now, all they need to do is click the little Facebook icon, and all their Facebook friends (sometimes hundreds) can view their recommendation.

With that in mind I have turned again to this wordpress blog, and have started thinking about its use and usefulness as a web page. Each blog entry or Page is accompanied by a number of sharing options, plus viewers can easily make comments, interacting with the author and also with anyone else who wishes to comment on the same thing. A dialogue ensues. As a web author, I like and wish to encourage this interaction. My musical activity is often project led, and exploratory, and as such I appreciate feedback and enquiry. I am learning as I go, and some people enjoy going on the journey with me, while some others feel they have knowledge I am lacking and wish to help by pointing me to different resources. All good use of the net.

The ‘Page’ element of this Blog can be very useful. I plan to include introductory information, with links to my other websites for greater depth. I’m not sure if I can easily include here all the info on my other sites – some 15 years of work – into this one site, but we shall see how things develop. It may be a case of having only this one site, with everything brought together and edited for the new online experience. We shall see…your comments, of course, most welcome…

Ballad in Eb for banjo – Parke Hunter

In Banjo on January 18, 2011 at 9:41 am

This is a beautiful piece by one of America’s best banjo composers, Parke Hunter, 1876-1912. I’m recording wav/mp3 files of all the main pieces in Mel Bay’s Banjo Method, actually written by the late Frank Bradbury. This piece stood out as being very different to the others in the book. By the way, it is a fantastic book for learning to read standard notation on the banjo. My sight-reading ability has improved dramatically while working through the book. Eventually Mel Bay will host the files on their site.

I’m Back!

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I’ve been very remiss in completely forgetting my blog duties! I’ll try to be more active now, and try to figure out how to integrate with Facebook and Twitter.

More news to come – a very busy musical year ahead…

%d bloggers like this: