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guitar Archives - Morningside School of Music

An interview with Conal Mooney

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The Conal Mooney Interview

 

This week we interviewed Conal Mooney, guitarist of the band Ill-Fitting Thoughts and former Morningside School of Music guitar pupil. We ask Conal about his journey through music from childhood and playing the guitar with up and coming venue-fillers ‘Ill-Fitting Thoughts’.

 

 

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What is your very first memory of music, do you remember the first thing that jumped out at you?

I’ve got no distinct first memory. However, I can recall listening to the likes of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin and numerous blues artists from an early age and loving them all. My Dad would play anything and everything which is essential when you are young.

 

When did you realise that you wanted to be a musician?

It was probably halfway through secondary school. I had the notion of being a musician when I was younger, but at around 14/15 that’s when I knew I seriously wanted to pursue it.

 

Do you come from a musical family, do you have people close to you who also perform?

One of my great granddads could play music, and my Mum used to play the piano when she was young. My eldest brother was also very able on the cello, oboe and guitar but stopped at around 16 or so. I think this is part of the reason why I wanted to start playing music. It’s worth mentioning that despite the rest of my close family not being musicians, there are all avid listeners of all sorts of music.

 

What artists inspired you when you were younger and had a positive impact on your desire to be a musician?

Largely Led Zeppelin. Not just because of Page as a guitarist but because their music made me realise the importance of production values as well as the fact that an artist can touch on so many genres. The likes of the Beatles, The Stones and blues artists such as Muddy Waters were also a huge influence when I was young before I discovered other music.

 

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Conal Mooney playing his Fender Telecaster USA live on stage.

Did you have music lessons growing up?

I did yes, starting when I was about 9 or 10. Initially at YMI group classes which taught you the basics. After a break of a year or two, I decided to start again in secondary school where a fantastic guy named Ryan Linfoot taught me. During first year I started guitar lessons with at Morningside School of Music. We touched on several areas of guitar playing as well as doing graded exams all the way up to grade 8. The most important thing I learnt there was how to improvise using scales even when I hadn’t been playing for an unusually long time. I think this is particularly important for musicians as it really helps you discover what you like and it also builds your musical ear.

 

Who are your favourite musicians now and why?

So many. All the classic bands and the blues guys still, but I’ve grown fond of Tame Impala, Kendrick, Anderson. Paak, Man of Moon, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Miles Davis, Debussy, Young Fathers, Bee Gees… too many to name. Why? You just have to listen.

 

What is your practice process?

Just do it. If you don’t, you won’t get better. Simple as that. Also practice sight reading sheet music, no matter how annoying it can seem. That as well as trying to sing along to anything you hear. My pitch used to be dreadful, and this helped a lot.

 

 

Are you enjoying your university degree course in music? What is your favourite and least favourite modules?

I am yes. Very much looking forward to the second year. It’s great overall. You touch on so many areas of music, and you have the option to later specialise in pretty much any area that you want. I particularly enjoyed music technologies using ProTools and Logic X, mainly because I had never done it before. As for the least favourite, I can’t say I had one!

 

Could you tell us a bit about what you are working on just now?

My band ‘Ill Fitting Thoughts’ recently finished recording an EP with Alan Moffat at Leith Recording Company. Alan did it all for free as part of a program he runs for young acts in Edinburgh. This was great as we got to experiment with VERY different sounds and take our time over it – we could never have afforded it had we been charged! Keep your eye out for word on when it’s getting released, not one to miss if I say so myself. Sadly, Leith Recording Company along with other businesses such as The Leith Depot is due to be demolished in a reckless endeavour by The Drum Property Group to build student accommodation. https://www.facebook.com/saveleithwalk/

Aside from this, I have still been doing gigs with the marvellous Gus Harrower following the release of his latest single ‘Wonder’. Still, more to come there as well as more gigs with the man himself!

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.

Top Ten Guitar Tips

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1. Practise, practise, practise

I cannot emphasise this one enough. You have to practise your guitar! If you only choose one of these tips to follow and ignore the rest, make sure it’s this one you choose.

2. Get into the habit of tuning your guitar BEFORE you do anything.

Remember to tune your guitar every time you pick it up. Nothing makes a guitarist sound worse than an out of tune guitar (and yes, even if it’s only slightly out, people will notice!)

3. Don’t try running before you can walk.

By this I mean get the guitar playing technique correct first before you try to play too quickly.  If it’s a fast piece you are learning, play it slowly and build up speed as you learn and practise it until you are playing it quickly and accurately.  Practise up AND downstrokes with your plectrum.  This may seem awkward at first, but is essential later for playing quickly.  For guitarists, the temptation is often to play faster than they are capable, which leads to ‘sloppy’ execution.  Each note should sound crisp and clear.  When the top guitarists play at blistering speed, each note is still played clearly and if you were to slow down the recording it would show that.

4. Record yourself playing

Whether it be on a mobile phone, 4 track, tape recorder, computer software etc.  When you record yourself and listen back, you will hear exactly how your playing sounds to the listener and you will often realise it’s not as great as it sounded when you were actually playing it.

5. Learn to improvise

This can be done by playing the guitar along to your favourite tracks.  Try to deviate from whatever is on the recording and be confident to try new things.  You will be amazed at how many new things you will come up with and how much quicker your guitar playing will develop.  It’s also great fun!!!

6. Have a jam!

Musicians enjoy nothing more than hooking up with other musos to generally make a noise!  It’s also a great time to develop your creative side.  Take turns playing backing/rhythm whilst the other person takes the lead and vice versa.

7. Replace your strings when they can no longer be wiped clean.

It’s amazing how much a new set of strings can bring a new lease of life to a guitars sound. Always take care of your instrument and clean your hands before picking it up to play.

8. Experiment with guitar effects and be creative.

The top guitarists keep their sound interesting by using effects to enhance their sound.  It’s amazing how different a piece can sound simply by changing the effects you use  Hendrix was a pioneer and always tinkering with sounds in the studio such as fuzz, Wah and distortion, he even played live with a plectrum between his teeth to pluck the strings.  The Edge of U2 has a trademark sound using a lot of ‘delay’ effects and Jimmy Page of Led Zepplin even played the guitar with a violin bow!!!

9. Try and learn your guitar scales

Do this to avoid repetition.  A good guitarist can look at modes, but don’t get bogged down.  Pick a mode that you really like and master it.  When improvising, you can then drop in and out of different scales and keep your playing interesting to the listener.

10. Invest in private or group tuition.

A professional teacher can enhance your playing by devising a learning schedule that will develop your ability quickly whilst keeping things fun.  They are a catalyst for you to become the rock god that you can be! Guitar lessons really do help a lot!

11. PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE!!!

Ok, I know it’s a top ten, but I’m repeating one for 11. as it’s important.

Chris Donnelly BA (Hons), is a guitar expert at Morningside School of Music and has vast intensive playing experience stretching over 20 years.

Jim Leggett – Amp Technician

guitar amp

This week we had a chat with our guitar amp technician Jim Leggett.  Be sure to check out our interview from a few weeks ago, featuring Rick McMurray, the drummer for Ash.

Q: What made you decide to start repairing amplifiers?

I have always had a passion for the warm sound that valve amplifiers produce. Being a keen guitarist and having a background in electronics ignited my interest in repairing and restoring vintage amplifiers.

Q: How did you learn your trade, did you have to go to university?

I trained as a radio & electronics engineer with PYE, part of the Philips group, in the 1970’s. Valves were still in everyday use in radio transmitters, and the principles of valve theory were still being taught at my old college in Glasgow.

Q: Did you have guitar lessons as a child?

My mother bought me an acoustic guitar when I was nine years old from Cuthbertson’s music shop in Glasgow.  I attended lessons given by their young guitar salesman, a fellow called Hugh Burns. Hugh went on to become a successful session musician playing the lead guitar on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street as well as becoming the musical director for George Michael.

Q: What is your favourite brand of amp and why?

I have many favourites. I own a Marshall valvestate which uses a valve “front end” which delivers a real mellow sound.  VOX amplifiers are a particular favourite and have a wonderful heritage. However, my favourite amplifier is not a valve amp; it is the Roland Micro Cube. This great little amp delivers a range of bright and punchy sounds and can run on its internal batteries, this means I can take my guitar outdoors and enjoy playing in the sunshine.

Q: Do you prefer building amps or repairing them?

I’ve never really got into the design and development of amplifiers. I much prefer repairing and refurbishing old amplifiers. It’s good to be able to give them a second lease on life.

Q: What is your primary goal in your business?

Repairing amplifiers is a tiny part of my overall business activity.  Today mainstream amplifiers are mostly manufactured in India or China and once they are out of warranty can be uneconomical to repair.  It is only worth repairing high-end valves and solid state equipment.  However, my aim now is to buy and restore old valve amps and resell them, instead of fixing new amps.

Q: What do you think is the very best electric guitar money can buy?

I own Fender and Ibanez, but I would like to own a PRS. These are wonderful guitars, but I have become impressed with the new range of Epiphone guitars.  They have excellent build quality, and onboard electronics plus they share the Gibson heritage but at a fraction of the cost.

Q: What do you think is the very best acoustic guitar?

I think both the Martin & Taylor range of acoustics have a wonderful sound, however, I do love the beauty of the Gibson Hummingbird as well.  Once again my favourite is the Epiphone range of jumbo acoustic guitars. These guitars come equipped with their E-Sonic advanced transducer pick up arrangement. In my opinion, this is a very impressive and well thought out electronics package. Add this to their excellent build quality, and you have a fantastic guitar.

Q: Do you have any amp maintenance tips for beginners?

My main maintenance advice to anyone with a guitar amplifier is to take care when plugging and unplugging the jack. By far the most common fault on the amplifiers I see is dry solder joints on the pcb connections of the input jack sockets. Taking a gentler approach will help reliability and prolong the life of the amp.

Jim is available for guitar amp repairs and can be reached by phone at 07836 503292 or check out his website.