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.


Snow, snow, thick, thick, snow

“Snow, snow, thick, thick, snow” sums up the current situation in South Wales perfectly.

A view from our kitchen window at 8.00 a.m. March 2nd.

I woke up this morning to no central heating and must wait until Monday or Tuesday for British Gas to attend for boiler repair. We are actually quite lucky because it looks like a pump or valve problem which means that we still have hot water (via an immersion heater) and electricity (for our 2 convector heaters) . Others are not so lucky.

Still, the snow falls outside. It’s pretty but it’s dangerous. Our neighbour is trying to dig out a path on the road with his mechanical digger. The UK is never well equipped for these weather conditions despite the advanced warning. It seems that plundering supermarket shelves of supplies is what passes for ‘being prepared’ – reactive rather than proactive perhaps.

Currently, I’m enjoying relearning all about Javascript, CSS and HTML in preparation for projects that involve the Earth Balm music material. I do seem to be stuck in a cycle though.

Wherever you are, keep safe.

Looks like Red Cow Music in York, one of my favourite music shops, is about to close.


Return of the shadow — Calmgrove

“[The] shadow is that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors. [It] can now be ascertained on closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is his shadow, does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number […]

via Return of the shadow — Calmgrove

A witch’s trial — Calmgrove

Terry Pratchett: A Hat Full of Sky Corgi 2012 (2004) We’re all familiar with Alice going through the looking-glass into a topsy-turvy world, a world where she is able to look at things in a different way. Unexpectedly, Alice makes no attempt to find her own reflection: “The very first thing she did was to […]

via A witch’s trial — Calmgrove