Instruments and Influences
Peace And Freedom
Peace And Freedom
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Takamine EN30C
My main instrument is a Takamine EN-30C, which is a lovely small-bodied cutaway guitar with a cedar top and slotted head. I bought this one about 1990, second-hand but perfect, and it just gets better.

I have just (August 2009) acquired a new Patrick James Eggle Etowah guitar - see the links page for details. It's a lovely contrast to the Takamine, as it has a spruce top and Rosewood back and sides - 12 frets to the body and shorter scale. I am already finding things on this that I have never found on the Takamine.

As well as playing guitar, I occasionally play Mandolin and Bouzouki (I borrowed Andrew Smith's Fylde Touchstone for the recording, but I do have one of my own).

At Hobgoblin Music,
Newport Pagnell
with balalaika
My first instrument was the Balalaika, as my father used to build them. He played Prima in the London Balalaika Ensemble, and before that in Nikolai Medvedeff's Balalaika Orchestra in the 1950s and '60s. The LBE had an album out on Deram in 1967.

My Balalaika is a Russian made, pre-1917 instrument - called "The Popular", as apparently they were very popular until anti-Russian sentiment took the place of common sense.

On a visit (our third) to Hong Kong in 2005, I saw a Gu Zheng in a music shop on the Peak, as we were coming down from our last look at the City from up there. I sat on the lovely carved barrel-shaped stool, and started to pick out a tune - the Gu Zheng is tuned to a pentatonic scale, so I could find some simple melodies.

The girl in the shop was at first amazed that I could play anything, but then she proceeded to amaze me with some beautiful playing of Chinese classical music. She taped small picks to her right-hand fingers and thumb, and used her left hand to get that instantly recognisable sound of bends and vibrato common in Chinese music. The sound is very full and rich, harp-like but bigger as the sound-box is almost the entire length of the instrument.

Needless to say, I was in love by now - with the Gu Zheng! The problem of how to get it home was a minor consideration - I had to have it. We made all sorts of elaborate plans to get it back to England - the box is about 170cm (5ft 7in) long.

Gu Zheng
Gu Zheng picture
courtesy Hobgoblin Music
The girl who brought it to HK Airport Express was about 30 cm shorter. But as it turned out, we had no problem; they took good care of it, and it's now safe in my music room. I'm making progress slowly - if anyone knows a Gu Zheng teacher in the South Midlands of England I'd be grateful!

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