Category Archives: Music

Legality of online tablature sites

We all want something beautifulWas having a conversation with @patrickyiu about the legality of guitar tab – after all, it straight out makes use of someone else’s copyrighted material, most of the time, even if it is someone’s interpretation of it… For the uninitiated, guitar tab is musical notation for dummies for guitars (probably for most stringed instruments, but most commonly available for guitar, bass and… drums online) – a series of dashes and numbers indicate which string you need to depress and which fret of the guitar  you need. All that’s needed is a knowledge of the song and you can use this system to learn entire songs.

I remember in the early days of the net, finding great pleasure in discovering the Online Guitar Archive – OLGA – which saved me a fortune in music books and eliminated the need for me to learn how to transpose musical notation – which I’d learned from piano lessons – to the guitar.

OLGA, however, was shut down following disputes with the record labels. In the past decade, however, other forces have arisen, including the Ultimate-Guitar site, creator of that iPhone App I mentioned the other day. Curious about how this could possibly be legal, I delved through the bowels of the Internet, finally arriving at Wikipedia (Ok, it might have bent he first place I went) – where I read about the rise of legal tablature sites.

Turns out they share ad (and presumably app) revenue with the labels, which is rather clever. Here’s to new business models on the Internet and me finally learning how to play a few songs in their entirety…

Ultimate Guitar Tabs iPhone app

ultimateguitartabs@patrickyiu introduced me to the Ultimate Guitar Tabs app for iPhone (£1.99, Appstore), and it may help me get my routine on with the guttering I mentioned a few weeks back. If I’m honest, my promised practice routine hasn’t quite materialised but I’m blaming this on my inability to get a new playlist configured on my iPhone as my Media Centre/music library has been in the shop (bring on iCloud).

The app lets you access thousands of tabs from UG’s website ‘in-app’, complete with automated key-changes and auto-scrolling through the tab, so you don’t have to pause to flick down and see what chords/tabs come next.

It’s a lovely bit of code. I’ve also downloaded the iPad app, but mysteriously this app was free with in-app subscription modes, and I can’t quite bring myself to pay for the same service twice – so will see how I get on with the iPhone app in the weeks to come.

Browser art?

Google Chrome LogoI think Google is fast inventing a new art form with its Chrome experiments. I loved Arcade Fire’s Wilderness downtown, the 3 Dreams ofBblack 3D accelerated music vid was fun and the new OK Go! personalised message dance video is a lot of fun – although it is making me wish I had waited four months and bought the Core i5 Macbook Air, as it is pretty processor intensive!

Check them out if you haven’t already.

Playlist in development

Jack Black @ Blizzcon 2010

I’ve retained some of my inspiration from watching the Warm Leads play a couple of weeks ago and started working on a playlist. Here are the tracks so far:

  • Killers – Mr Brightside
  • Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man
  • Barenaked Ladies – if I had a million dollars
  • RHCP – Californication
  • Beatles – Norwegian Wood
  • Eagles – Hotel California
  • The Fray – How to save a life
  • Gary Jules – Mad World
  • Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire (terrible)

I think Kings of Leon is going to drop off – it doesn’t work, as Patrick warned me, on a single guitar arrangement. At least, not if you’re me. But the others are working out OK at the moment, if I haven’t made any progress memorizing them yet.

I do have better tools available to me today than the last time I took guitar seriously. There are a plethora of useful (if slightly agonizing) Youtube tutorials ( keeps coming up) in addition to lots of freely available chord and tab arrangements out there.

I just need to make the time to memorize some chord sequences and lyrics.

Any other suggestions for songs I should work out, folks? I have a separate list for Emily which includes Old Macdonald, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Dingle Dangle Scarecrow.

Jam session and a playlist

fender stratocaster double fat

Not my guitar. But not far off

Suitably inspired, I moved my 15 year old 15 watt Marshall practice amp downstairs yesterday and got out Excalibur – my limited edition twin-humbucker 1990s Fender HH Strat variant – for a little solo jam last night.

Huge fun.

Totally unexpectedly, songs I learnt to play as a teenager at boarding school came relatively easily to my fingertips. Well, riffs I learnt to play, if not songs in their entirety. The ‘middle 8’ continues to confound me, and I need to learn some.

I’m going to make myself a playlist of songs I want to memorise. It won’t be massive, 10-15 songs or so in the first instance. But it’d be nice to sing and play whole songs rather than the fragments I know at the moment.

Any requests? I think Weezer, some Killers, some Mumford, maybe some RaTM… will all make it onto the list.

Live music and inspiration

warmleadsA few colleagues have got together and formed a band, the Warm Leads (fantastic choice of name you might have a better understanding of if you work in the PR industry), which performed to much joy and delight after a company offsite last week. They’re all v talented and chose a well-crafted mix of current rock/pop tunes and classic rock to get the audience jumping.

I naturally went slightly nuts on the dance floor. I love live music, and small intimate gigs are *fantastic* when the band has the technical proficiency, talent and presence to make it all rock together.

What it absolutely invariably does, however, is make me want to pick up my guitar and rush onstage. I didn’t; and in point of fact probably wouldn’t have been able to do much. My "talent", such as it is, never extended much beyond the opening riff or catchy chorus of any number of songs.

But I’ve been tabspired; I’m going to look up some of my favourite songs and restart my guitar tablature folder, practice, and try to at least be able to entertain my daughter, if not jump on stage the next time the Warm Leads are gigging…


Collapsed whilst relocating campsiteWatching the footage from Glastonbury took me back four years to my first trip to the festival. I was overweight and underfit, struggled with the camping, and knackered each day by the tramping about in wellies. I hated not feeling clean and I felt properly wiped out by the cost of everything.

But I had fun, after a fashion, and in most respects thanks to Amanda’s amazingness -  and its funny how – looking at the footage – the discomfort in itself acquired a sort of nostalgic charm.

I’d like to go again, or to another festival – better equipped this time – if we can work out a way of making it fun for Emily. I’ve had the Big Chill and Bestival recommended to me as family-friendly, will need to give it some thought….

@Urusen in the studio again

3269Long time readers and old friends will know how much I rate the music of my friends at Urusen; Ben and I shared a course at university, have jammed a few times over the years, and we played one of their songs as the first dance at our wedding. So it’s with absolute delight that I note that they’re back in the studio (Real World Studios, no less), and are being featured on the Society of Sound – a member’s club of (as happenstance would have it) my favourite speaker company – Bowers & Wilkins. They’re featured on the B&W blog with a video clip detailing their recording session at Real World (read about it here), and the video is here.

There are also new clips on their Myspace page, for fellow fans. Ben & gang – when can I buy the new album??!