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Luke Shearer

Napier University’s Popular Music

napier - popular music

My name is Conal Mooney, and I am a first-year guitar student at Edinburgh Napier University Popular Music Course. This small blog is about why I chose the BA (Hons) Popular Music course. I will also mention what it has to offer you as a potential student and what it is like to study music in Edinburgh.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

After finishing my sixth year of high school, I knew I wanted to study music at uni. However, I had no real idea where I wanted to study. I was also unsure of what course path to take; whether to apply for a classical or a popular music degree or to study a music technology degree with no performance aspects at all. I decided I was most interested in a course which had the option of exploring many issues of music. I attended open days at Glasgow, Ayr and Edinburgh and spoke to friends and read student reviews. After my research, I found the BA Pop course at Edinburgh Napier University piqued my interest. Reviews of the course, as well as the vast array of career paths available, stuck out to me.

I visited Napier’s Merchiston campus and was very impressed with the facilities and what the course had to offer. The four-year course has a wealth of areas of study. These include composition, performance and technologies, as well as music therapy and community music projects. The lecturers and tutors are of the highest standard, with sought-after session musicians and accomplished academics making up the music team. Another aspect of the course that particularly attracted me is the option of a year abroad.

Napier University’s Popular Music Course Syllabus

First and second-year offer a focus on music genres, cultures and industries. These are centred around group discussions in lectures as well as analysis of studies and academic works on music. These years also focus heavily on practical music studies and technologies; the former encouraging a strong focus on theory and one-to-one instrument lessons. Instrument/vocal lessons ensure that you’re always seeking to improve your playing skills and help you to apply your learning in compositional tasks.

Music Technologies modules are where Napier’s superb technical facilities are put to use. Lectures in first and second year offer extensive use of digital audio workstations such as ‘ProTools’, ‘Logic Pro X’ and the advanced music notation software ‘Sibelius’. Rehearsal rooms, as well as studios in the uni, are open to students 24/7 for practice and recording use. These rooms are fully equipped with amps, drum kits, keyboards and professional mixing desks and speakers.

Third and Fourth-year modules allow for you to further develop skills in areas that you have strengths in. Modules such as music therapy, music psychology and instrumental/vocal teaching offer an insight into applying music practices in the real world. More advanced technology modules are available, using Ableton for advanced mixing and producing. Additionally, performance modules can be taken right up to fourth-year, as well as the more academic ‘Music in a Globalized World’ and ‘Entrepreneurship in the Music Industries’ laying a foundation for music research projects.

A Lecturer’s View.

In my brief time at Napier, it is clear that both the staff and students are happy and actively engaged with course. There is never a shortage of opportunities for musical exploration and work. Fourth-year student, Corin Anderson (composing, producing and DJing under the name CoriAnder) says,

“I recently accepted the post of Music Technology Lecturer on the Junior Napier Music course. My job is to teach high school students how to use industry-standard software to record, edit and mix music. ” adding, “Edinburgh Napier’s Popular Music course has opened up so many opportunities for me. The past few years have undoubtedly been the best of my life so far”.

My own experience of the course has been fantastic as well. In seven months, the amount that I have learnt with regards to composing, recording and producing music is immeasurable. My guitar playing has come on massively, and my sight reading is improving as the weeks go on. The folk in my year are spot on. We all get along well, and I have made some really good friends. I am looking forward to the rest of this trimester and the years ahead. I’m ready to work hard and keep making music. Hopefully, this blog reflects my honest feeling about the course and shows you that if you want to study music, Edinburgh Napier University is the place to be.

Corin Anderson is a music producer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ with a wealth of musical experience. Having written and released five albums and one EP as well as collaborating with other artists on many works, he is nothing short of accomplished. You can follow Corin’s music projects and releases on his website https://musiccoriander.weebly.com.

 

An interview with Gus Harrower

Gus Harrower Wonder

“Nobody would have to know, your secrets on the radio…”

Gus Harrower,Gus,Harrower,Live,Wembley,London,

Gus’ music career began at primary school when he started piano lessons at a relatively young age. However, he did admit that he “hated learning to begin with. I couldn’t get into it when I started, but I stuck at it”.

Gus continued his interest in music by becoming a student at Morningside School of Music. This is where he began to practice and excel at the piano. He only had praise for the teachers at the music school, saying that “the encouragement from Paul and my piano teacher at the time inspired me with the music I would go onto write”.

He continued, “listening to the music which the tutors advised me to, totally expanded my taste in music and helped with my songwriting”.

Gus’ Musical Influences

Musical influences were a thing Gus was keen to share, citing numerous artists that have shaped his career. He began with his favourite act, American indie folk band Bon Iver.

“Currently, I enjoy listening to Bon Iver. The band are very different from the music I write, however, the lyrics are brilliant and great to listen to”.

He carried on, “I enjoy listening to Billy Joel. He is an excellent pianist and was brilliant in concert when I saw him at Old Trafford”.

However, Gus was keen to point out that it’s not only famous musicians impact his music. He added, “I learn lots from my friends and other musicians around Edinburgh; they don’t have to be a big name to influence my music taste”.

 

What was very apparent in talking to Gus is that his music taste is very diverse. Other than Billy Joel and Bon Iver, Gus listens to different artists on Spotify and spoke about the last playlist he listened to. “On my artist page on Spotify, you can find a playlist called Ten Tunes. It’s quite varied; there is some Blossoms and Theo Katzman too”.

Music, Work and Studies

While on the topic of Spotify, Gus spoke about his music which features on the platform. He expressed that “Spotify is great for artists, as millions of people can hear our music”.

Gus Harrower

Gus already has some music on the music platform with his album “Where We Were” which is performing well. However, he isn’t content with tha

t. He continued, “the aim, for me, is to get my music on an editorial playlist. These playlists can be another way to get people to listen to my music, so I am hopeful that it could happen soon”.

Gus loves gigging and is part of a very successful wedding band. He said, “I am enjoying playing in the wedding band at the moment. I joined the band last year as a money maker on the side of uni, and we are now booked up every Saturday until November”.

In the band, Gus doesn’t play his music; however, he did mention that he likes playing covers of other musician’s songs. “I do enjoy playing covers, though we have had some strange requests for first songs. The other week we had a wedding and were asked to play the Foo Fighters, which was a change”. He continued, “we were also asked to play Peter Gabriel’s Book of Love which is a more common request.”

Our discussion then moved from music to studies. Gus is currently in his second year of Popular Music at Napier University. “I’m finding the course very enjoyable. The lecturers are great, and I feel I am learning lots of new techniques. That’s also how I fell into the wedding band; through my course”.

 

The Future

Gus is sure of his immediate future and has got the next couple of years planned out. “Firstly I want to finish my degree and try to fit in as many gigs as possible while I’m still at uni. I am also keen to work on my music over the next few years, as well as play in the wedding band”.

Gus Harrower,Wonder,Gus,Harrower,Edinburgh,Music,Musician,

Further down the line, Gus is undecided about what to do after university. However, he knows he wants to remain in the music industry. “I want to stay involved in music; I know that for sure. I quite fancy moving away from Edinburgh, possibly down to London for a while”.

He admitted that it is challenging to make it as a musician but, he does have a few ideas. “It’s hard to make it in music; however I am hoping to become a songwriter or session player maybe”.

Regardless of the future, Gus Harrower is aiming to get more of his music onto Spotify. In fact, his fantastic new single “Wonder” is available to download now. You can also purchase Wonder on Apple Music.

You can follow Gus on Facebook here: Gus Harrower Facebook

Piano Man: Billy Joel

Billy Joel Picture

I first came across the music of Billy Joel while on holiday in America. We were driving along the highway, and over the radio Piano Man, possibly Joel’s most successful hit is played. I was a teenager at the time, and I was listening to the usual pop played on UK radio stations. However, it was refreshing to hear smooth and relaxing music that helps you unwind. It was from this moment forward that my love Joel’s music began.

The Early Years

Joel’s father, a German classical pianist, did influence Joel’s music. However, it was, in fact, his mother who insisted he learned to play. He practised the piano alongside Morton Estrin albeit Joel admitted that he was a better organist than a pianist.

The Piano Man

Billy Joel Piano Man AlbumIronically, despite Joel’s adamance that his future lay with the organ, his first major hit was Piano Man. This song explains the lives of the Saturday night customers in a piano bar in Los Angeles. Although the lyrics are very impressive, it was the intro that caught my attention. I would argue that the intro to Piano Man is one of the most recognisable of all time due to its unique blend of instruments. The intro provides fifteen seconds of complete relaxation, which continues throughout the piece.

The easy listening feel of Piano Man has made it one of the old ‘classics’ played by radio stations. However, it’s not the only one of Joel’s songs to have the same effect. ‘She’s Always a Woman’ follows suit and has become a favourite on Smooth Radio, appearing regularly on air and, to be honest, you can understand why. A romantic story, where Joel spends the entirety of the piece picking out the faults of the lady, but instead of letting these annoy him, he responds with the fact that ‘She’s Always a Woman’ in his eyes.

A Man of Many Talents

Billy Joel isn’t only known for relaxing pieces and, in fact, my favourite Joel songs are more upbeat toe-tappers. ‘The Longest Time’, is enjoyable because of the almost barbershop quartet feel. This song is less well-known than some of Joel’s other singles however it did gain some popularity by featuring in American comedy How I Met Your Mother. I enjoy the different vocals on the track, and it is, again, another song which will get you singing.

Only the Good Die Young Album

“Only the Good Die Young,” tells the story of one of Joel’s high school crushes, a Catholic girl called Virginia. The song was highly controversial on its release, with many feeling the song was anti-catholic, however, I disagree. I feel Joel is merely lamenting the fact that he cannot be involved girl whom he is fascinated with, which is something many people can relate to.

The Future

Billy Joel is now, sadly, coming to the end of his long and illustrious musical career. At the age of 68, the New Yorker’s tour this year could well be his last. He won’t be visiting Edinburgh on this tour, unlike in 1979 when he played the Usher Hall, and his only UK gig will be at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, in June. His gig in Manchester will undoubtedly be a brilliant night as we listen to the greatest hits of a true music legend.

For more information: Billy Joel Website

Guitar Giants file for Bankruptcy

Selection of Gibson Guitars

After more than 116 years in business, guitar giants Gibson have filed for bankruptcy. The files submitted on Tuesday have stated that the company has at least $100 million in debt. Gibson have taken the step in an attempt to rejuvenate the company. However, the move has shocked the music community, as no one would have expected that such an illustrious company could have such major monetary problems.

History of Gibson Guitars

Orville Gibson founded his guitar company as Gibson-Mandolin Guitar Mfg. Co. Ltd back in 1902. Originally, he began by making mandolin style guitars and by the 1930s the company had started selling acoustic guitars. In the 1950s the Les Paul was created which is still, the most iconic guitar in the world. Garrison Guitars took over the company in 2007, and only seven years ago they were renamed to Gibson Brands Inc.

Famous Gibson Guitar Players

Slash playing GibsonThe list of famous Gibson players is quite extensive. Slash, of Guns ‘n’ Roses, is the first famous player to mention. Along with his outstanding top hat, Slash always carries a Gibson on stage, most notably a Les Paul. Slash is probably best known for his 1959 replica built by Kris Derrig, which his manager bought for him in the 1980s. Slash used this iconic guitar in the recording of Appetite For Destruction and still has it in his collection to date.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has played his famous Les Paul guitar for years. In fact, Richards became the first British ‘star-owner’ of the Les Paul in 1959. Throughout the 60s and 70s, Richards continued to use several Les Paul and ES models in many of his music videos, therefore, he has become a very well known Gibson player.

Another famous player is Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Like Richards, Page has owned several guitars and currently uses a 1959 “number 1”, which he once described as his “mistress and wife”. Jimmy Page most famously used a double-necked EDS-1275 in Led Zepplin’s live performances of Stairway to Heaven and The Rain Song.

Why Bankruptcy?

News emerged in February this year that the guitar manufacturer has financial difficulties. Their bankruptcy, however, has only come to light at the start of this month. According to CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, the company have decided to “re-focus on core business and instruments”. He added that his main concern was “the long-term stability and financial health” of the company.

Gibson’s financial instability is due to a culmination of several problems. Firstly their Chief Financial Officer Bill Lawrence quit after less than a year in the post. Then $375 million of senior secured notes surfaced and, also, the company now owe $145 million in bank loans.

Gibson’s bankruptcy, according to many in the music industry, is partially due to the demand for guitars decreasing. gibson guitarEric Clapton has said recently that “the guitar is over” and it is clear to see that the market for guitars has fallen since the early 2000s; encouraging the resale of guitars. This means that Gibson, are missing out on much-needed revenue.

What does the future hold?

Gibson hopes that they will undergo a restructuring process to return profitability to the company. Gibson have already begun offering redundancy to some staff to cut costs. Their aim for the near future is to reduce debts and generate funds to pay off their bank loans and senior secured notes. Gibson Brands Inc are hopeful they will retain their status as the guitar manufacturing heavyweights, by efficiently managing their debts. Most musicians seem positive that Gibson will re-emerge unscathed from this recent scandal.

Morningside School of Music director, Paul Boyd stated:

“Both the clients and staff of Morningside School of Music, are positive that Gibson Guitars Inc will overcome this significant glitch in their trading history and continue to be one of the leading international musical instrument brands.”

Written by Luke Shearer on Saturday the 6th of May, 2018.