An Féa Caol

An Féa Caol (David White’s Terz tuned guitar that I currently have guardianship of) has had a couple of days to aclimatise to being in Wales and to being subjected to my uncultured handling so I thought I ought to post a sound sample.
I’ve chosen my own arrangement of the Turlough OCarolan favourite “Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór”. It’s a single (third) take and recorded with an ageing Audio Technica MB4000C mic which refuses to run on phantom power so has an AA battery installed. I’ve had to get in close with the mic because it’s a little underpowered. I mention this because it hasn’t picked up the very sweet presence that An Féa Caol possesses though I hope I’ve managed to catch some of her sustain. Two files, the same recording (with quite a bit of ‘red recording light fever’ present) but the second with reverb. The tapping at the end of the files is click track spill, sorry.

Without reverb

With reverb

anthea at keiths


Yesterday’s Activities

I currently enjoy being a member of a fantastic guitar forum based in the UK: . The forum membership consists of guitar enthusiasts, guitar players and guitar builders (luthiers).

One of the luthier members of the forum is David White (find his website here). Each year (I think I’m correct in saying) David builds a ‘Road Trip’ guitar and David allows (vetted and fortunate) forum members to borrow the guitar for two weeks before handing the guitar over to the next lucky participant.

Yesterday it was my turn to pick up the guitar from Keith (forum administrator) in Somerset. I’ve included pictures of the handover (courtesy and permission of Keith) and some of my own photographs of the beautiful instrument.

The instrument is a Terz guitar which means that it is tuned a tone and a half (step and a half for US players) higher than a standard tuned guitar. It also has a shorter scale length. The guitar has a bell-like quality – it fair chimes and is loud for its diminutive proportions with a very sweet tonality. It also has to be said that it sustains for forever and requires very little effort to get the top to resonate. You can find out more about this guitar style in David’s line here.

Keith and Dale

anthea at keiths




I have to add that I’m glad I travelled yesterday as today would have meant navigating this:


Many, many thanks to David White, Keith Chesterton and the Acoustic Soundboard forum.

Below are some very hasty demos of the guitar recorded using a rather antiquated set up:


Fair Annie

What I learned Today…

360 Panorama

I spent a good two hours today in the wonderful A Strings Music Store in Pontypridd, South Wales. This was my second visit to the store and was even more enjoyable than my first (trying out a PRS Angelus SE). While I was there, I tried a couple of acoustic guitar amps: A Fishman Loudbox and an Acus ForStrings.

I learned some important things about my playing while I was there:

  • I need to play regularly with amplification because when amplified, the inconsistency of volume of my playing becomes more noticeable.
  • I can be lighter with my right hand when playing at volume because there isn’t a need for the guitar top to resonate (probably not true for K&K transducers).
  • I need to adapt my technique to address string squeak which is again amplified by playing at volume.

As a purely acoustic player, I need to attack the strings with my right hand to get the table (or top) of the guitar to resonate and sustain (though, perhaps I ought to change strings more often) and  I thought I had minimised string noise (again, perhaps I ought to change strings more often) but today’s experience proved otherwise.

So, I dug my Carlsbro Sherwood out from under the junk in the garage and installed it in my (tiny) music room and set it up on an amp stand to practice with until I can afford a quality amplifier. I have also resolved to get out and play more often in front of an audience.

Getting back to A Strings, I spent two hours being allowed to play without being disturbed (unless I wanted to talk) and offered coffee or tea. Find them here or here. I shall be returning to the store in the next few weeks!

Picture of Fishman Loudbox acoustic guitar amp
Fishman Loudbox acoustic guitar amp
Picture of Acus acoustic guitar amp
Acus acoustic guitar amp

Stuck in a Loop

It seems that I’m currently stuck in a behaviour cycle that lasts for approximately 8 months or so. It consists of (jump in at any point on the list):

  • working on old Earth Balm material for release on Bandcamp,
  • working on electric guitar playing (usually metal / prog rock styles)
  • working on graphics resources
  • learning Javascript and building web pages / web apps
  • working on my solo acoustic guitar
  • back to the top

This has been the case for approximately two and a half years now. I think it’s high time I jumped out of the loop and perhaps perhaps concentrate on the acoustic guitar playing (and singing) because it’s the thing I feel most comfortable with and have spent the most time doing over the last ten years – so logically, what I should be best at. Else, continue in the same tired old pattern.

With two sons off to Uni next year, supply teaching is no longer a viable option for work and I’m considering retraining or studying for more contemporary and appropriate qualifications. To this end, I had a Careers meeting earlier this week that had me genuinely excited about moving forward.

Just wondered if anybody else has had similar cyclical hamster wheel experiences, if and how they solved them and what the end results were.

Perhaps it’s just a well-past-mid-life crisis.

Photograph of myself and Nigel Hodge at the Castle jam night. Copyright info to follow.
Photograph of myself, Kelvin L Smith and Nigel Hodge at the Castle jam night.


Cubase and Logic help

Since retiring from full time work in February, my pension and part time wages haven’t been enough to cover my monthly bills and I’ve had to sell off some of my guitars and amps to cover the shortfall. However, I’ve been planning to work on my music files for a few years and kept some of the proceeds from the sales for upgrading my DAW to Cubase Pro 9.5 as its feature list is long and most marvellous indeed.

I diligently watched Steinberg’s ‘Festive Countdown’ sales offers (over the Christmas period) with my virtual cash at the ready . Everything except Cubase Pro appeared during the 12 day stint so I’ve decided to stay with Apple’s “Logic” DAW.

I’ve been with Cubase since I started recording with computers in December 2000 (at that time using it in tandem with Sonic Foundry’s “Acid Music” which had incredibly advanced pitch and time control but no midi or virtual instrument facilities) so was pretty au fait with how to make the most of it.

Now, I’m hoping that somebody out in the ether can recommend a truly comprehensive book that can help me utilise all of the features of Logic Pro X. I have the manual printed out and can refer to it but would like additional reference reading.

I’ve completed the task of turning all of the original Acid ‘stems’ into Logic files, including the Cubase / Cubasis VST generated audio but need to know how to make the most of facilities like side-chaining (particularly for gating audio), effects sends and returns and how to set up the mixer (I could go on and on). Next, I’ll be replacing audio with more modern sounding plug-ins and recording scratch tracks of guitar, bass and vocals. I need to do this because its my intention to alter keys and tempos and insert time signature changes (I’ve been bitten a little by the modern prog rock bug). It’s also my intention to incorporate more of my altered tuning acoustic guitar parts to the compositions. I have some 80+ pieces of older Earth Balm music, some even older Pre-Earth Balm songs and some 30+ acoustic guitar arrangements to keep me busy.

I guess I won’t be seeing daylight for several months.

Hope you all have a peaceful and prosperous 2018.


Edit December 27th @ 12.55: Thanks to Andy Long for suggesting this book.

Edit December 27th @ 19.33: Of course this means that all of the Cubase Files I recently converted from Acid Pro files now need to be converted to Logic Pro X files.


It seems that I’m getting close to 30,000 ‘visits’ to the blog and I’m grateful to anybody who visits this little corner of the ether, more so for those who return.

Apologies for being quiet and not posting regularly or indeed for a while.

I’m currently doing what I’ve promised to do for a while and I’m reworking all of my old Earth Balm tracks in a tiny corner of a perishingly cold garage. It’s meant reviving some old software and recordings and a switch back to the Windows platform on an ageing PC.  When I’ve cast that little primate from my shoulder, I’ve many acoustic guitar pieces to immortalise in binary and to record fully on paper too.

Hope everybody is well in these puzzling, troubled and troubling times.


Martin Simpson @ St David’s Hall

Off to see the fantastic Martin Simpson tonight at the St David’s Hall, Cardiff – with bassists Andy Long and Matt Cohen (of the Tim Crahat Band and Ghost Community, respectively).  Looking forward to good music and good company. Hopefully, MS will be showcasing many songs from the new album but also playing some of the masterpieces from past albums. Don’t get excited very often but I’m fit to bust for this.