Life as a musician with the pandemic now seems to be settling a little with the wide vaccination programme. The arts and culture in general has been hammered yet again. Images of musicians on balconies playing songs giving relief to people have long been forgotten and life as usual seems to have returned for us. Only in the sense that we have been pretty much forgotten or told to get another job, hmm.
Personally, I have spent this period trying to reinvent myself. My situation has been a little difficult over the past few years anyway, losing my hearing (see about page) and trying to find a way forward. Luckily, I have regained my hearing but then Covid hit, bang! I have been very lucky and been able to spend this time building a studio at home and starting to compose and record once again. So where does this leave me now?
The future of music is certainly uncertain, at least in the sense that musicians are having to find yet again, another way of being. We have already been hit very hard by streaming. We get something like $0.00437 per stream which doesn't go anywhere near feeding anyone or paying for your bills. A song can take weeks to compose, record, produce and put out there, unpaid time too of course. Without trying to be too negative, this is how it is.
We post on FB, Instagram etc where people 'like' your music but what for? It is lovely to receive positive feedback, don't get me wrong, but it's not so much the exposure we need after many years, but more a way to survive, to make money. The record industry and people's mentality need to change. Imagine this - you work for months on end, invest thousands of pounds in a studio, create a new album, put it out there with all the hope and energy in the world, it's your baby...then, nothing. Loads of lovely (and sometimes not) comments, 'likes' and 'shares' but zero revenue. How can this last? I think this situation must impact on many of us. How or why would you continue to be creative if you have no chance of producing that album, that live show, that composition? It must stunt creativity sometimes even without realising any more. The future is tough for music. So, my question is, how are we going to change the mentality about music? How are we going to make people pay for our work again? I would love to hear your suggestions.
Please leave me your thoughts below.
'Maestros of Music' and 'Discover flamenco with Rafael'
Lockdown or 'confinement' as they call it here in France has been one of the toughest periods for the world in recent history. Seeing the suffering and numbers of deaths spiral out of control has been truly awful. It has been perhaps a period that will change the way we work or behave for the near future and beyond. For me and the entire creative industry, it has been disastrous. We are already hit by cuts, by free music online being streamed, often with no or virtually no rights on the music we record, forced to sign away our royalties etc etc. Where to go, what to do? I have no idea. We have to reinvent ourselves quite often and hope that will give us a way forward. Now us musicians have another problem. No live concerts for the time being, or at least in venues. Maybe we will go back to the fifties and the 'drive in' era.
Anyway, in lockdown I have tried to keep busy and find a way to keep my creative brain turning over. I thought it would be a lovely idea to meet old friends, professionals and share our knowledge to the world, free of course. As I speak several languages, I have met up with musicians in France, Spain and the UK and more to come soon. Above, I meet up with flamenco harpist Ana Crismán, the only flamenco harpist in the world and we find out all about her and her unique way of performing flamenco music.
I have not only been performing flamenco all my life but also researching it too and it seems the perfect time to start to bring out some of the interesting ideas and musicians that are not always discovered. Please go to my youtube.com/flamencoguitarist to see more.
Stay safe and look after yourselves amigos.
Lessons in English / Español / Français / Italiano
Here is a short example of a lesson, explaining the relaxation of the wrist and a bit of alzapua technique. I have been teaching online for a long time but now more than ever it's more relevant. Book a lesson, email me or message me to find out more.
The lessons are for all guitarists, not just flamenco guitarists who want to improve their playing. I have taught many musicians from different backgrounds and they say it has made a big difference to their playing and outlook on rhythm, musicality and technique. There is always something new to learn.
Acoustic, electric or classical guitarists whatever your background...go for it, give it a try!
See you soon, hasta pronto, à bientôt, a presto amici :-)
39 years ago today I was in Madrid and it seemed like just another day. I had returned from school as usual and things seemed just fine. As the evening drew in, we started to hear news of Spain being taken over by the military, again. Remember that Franco had died just over five years earlier and this was a very young democracy. There was a lot of confusion and tension and tanks were immediately deployed on the streets of the centre of Madrid. Anyway, the atmosphere in Madrid was tense, there was a lot of confusion and within the first few hours a curfew was set of 9 pm and everyone had to be at home or else risk who knows what. Spain was still quite hardline and any excuse for the authorities to arrest you and undergo some beating was ok by them. In fact, an older boy than me from my school was mistaken for a young activist in those days and suffered quite a bad beating, awful.
Images of the attempted coup d'état on 23F 1981
Being half British, half Spanish but having grown up most of my life in Spain until then, my parents were advised to be on alert and to start packing our bags to leave Spain in the coming days if things got worse. By the next day thankfully we discovered that the coup was mainly a small amount of military personnel in Madrid and Valencia and that they didn't have the support of the majority of the generals or the army. Teniente Coronel Tejero was at the helm of the most famous scenes in the Spanish congress where machine gun shots were fired. His now famous words of 'que se sienten, coño' were shouted at the members of parliament and everyone crouched down except notably the defiant Gutiérrez Mellado and Presidente Aldolfo Suarez. The elderly Mellado refused and was then manhandled by the military and and his actions were praised by the Spanish public in standing up to the incursion https://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/30-aniversario-23-f/gutierrez-mellado-comenta-su-actitud-23/1018336/
For the recently reinstated monarchy led by King Juan Carlos this was a chance to make or break. A time to stamp his authority on the military and come out and 'save' Spain. I remember the television speech vividly in which he stated the insurgents did not have his support and that he would fight for his country. That was pretty much the end of that. I think once the military realised that the king was not going to allow this and that they did not have the support they needed, within hours the whole ordeal was over. Scary and exciting times to be growing up in Madrid. The 70s and 80s were an amazing time to be in Madrid and anyone who lived there at that time growing up knows exactly what I mean.
At the time, I was going through a phase of playing a bit of electric guitar and was having lessons with 'Carlos' my jazz guitar teacher. He seemed like a 'progre' or lefty jazz musician and going to his house was like going underground. I loved our sessions and it was another world to the flamenco scene. In fact, the feeling was the same but it was nice to get involved in an unknown world to me, it was cool. So, I studied my scales, played my chord progressions but eventually flamenco took me back and that was the end of that!
One good thing about moving country and starting a new life is that you are forced to start all over again, almost as if I were a beginner at this game. That is both daunting but also refreshing. I suppose in a way it is easier now as I already have an established CV and proven track record.
A new life, a new web site. As some of you may know, I have moved to Landerneau in Brittany, France. Sometimes we all need a change for whatever reason and it seemed the right moment for me to do so. Settling in to a new life is always challenging and rewarding at the same time. Landerneau is a pretty little medieval town near the sea and a hub for culture in the area. The Leclerc family (of the Leclerc chain) are from here and we are very lucky that they invest enormously in promoting music, art and culture in the town, merci!
So, after a few months of being here I am slowly getting to know my way around. I continue to teach online and that is great as I can keep in touch with old students/friends and can meet new ones at the click of a mouse. I am interested in collaborating with musicians here and again am starting to open a small network of friends and already some very interesting ideas are coming up. Keep coming back for more news :-)
I am also determined once and for all to keep this updated and post some video tuitional tips, pieces of music...content in general. Fell free to make any questions or requests and I will try to meet them.
I finally feel more relaxed about my hearing situation too. That has been a major and life changing experience for me. I have bi-lateral Otosclerosis and gradually was going deaf. It got to the point where I couldn't hear even with double hearing aids. The last few years have been the darkest and most difficult for me and losing my hearing was a truly scary experience. I am so grateful that I eventually found a surgeon and his team at the Royal ENT Hospital in London and he and they were able to restore my hearing in both ears through a procedure called a 'stapedectomy'. Essentially, I have a prosthetic implant in each ear that allows my hearing to be restored, incredible. I feel lucky and sad however. I lost my hearing and feel sad for all those people who have gone deaf and have or had no chance of hearing again and lucky because, well...I can hear! Beethoven had the same rare condition and we all know what happened to him. Anyway, if you are or you know anyone with deafness or hearing problems and I can be of any help, please pass on my contact details and I will do as much as I can to help.
One of the reasons for moving to Brittany was the wild and beautiful nature and coast. Being able to hear all these sounds again and also looking after my ears, having lived in London for a few years, contributed to this. Musicians (and everyone else), you really must protect your hearing and make sure you don't submit your ears to constant loud noise. After doing a lot of research I came across three organisations who helped unconditionally
1. Musicians hearing services - they were understanding, helpful and give great advice
2. ACS Custom - ear protection and CIEMs (custom in ear monitoring). They have been brilliant and very open and friendly, more than any other. I did my research and ACS not only had good products but also were essentially 'there for me'. I can't recommend them enough. If you are a pro musician, you will feel right at home...and if you are not, you will still feel right at home! They help anyone from TV, racing car drivers, musicians to every day humans! Check out their site and don't hesitate to contact them wherever you are in the world. Click on the name link to take you to their site.
3. Help Musicians - I am the first person who doesn't want to ask for help and refused for a long time. I eventually contacted them and they were excellent. Whatever you are going through whether physical or psychological...really, whatever the problem is, contact them. They are there for you and will help you, do it. Contact them.
Ok, so I have moved, I have sorted some of my problems out and am ready to go!!! This is my first post but please keep visiting as I am hoping to post every week...or that's what I am being told to do and I always do what I am told :-)
Hasta soon amigos, friends, amis etc.