Gigs wanted

There has been some rescheduling. The proper album recording has been delayed until later in the year.

Before then I would like to get some informal pre-view gigs in – to thoroughly roadtest the songs – so that I am well honed and slick by the time the album is officially released.

I’ve done a fair few open mics but only a couple of single set gigs in the Small Symphonies format. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be giving my best in these preview gigs but there may be teething troubles. I’m hoping to have projected images in the background for some songs…never done that before. That said, anybody who has seen any of the other hundreds of gigs will know that I soldier on through adversity and  deliver the goods.

These pre-view gigs can be free of charge to any good cause;  private bookings  at a very preferential rate.

What is a good cause? Humanist, Environmental, Socialist. That sort of thing…I know, typical bloody Guardian Reader hippy.

A gig can be at a normal venue: club, pub or community centre; or at your home. I don’t take up very much room and I don’t have to be loud so even the smallest performance space could be viable.

To promote this phase of the project I’ve organised a Demo set of songs on my SoundCloud (see above ). These are Work in Progress recordings from last year – they’re not perfect. There is also a rough cut of a video which is in process of production by Welsh Icons. That should give you the flavour.

I would stress it is NOT EASY LISTENING. Lots of people have felt uplifted by my songs but party music it ain’t. There may be disturbing images in the back projections. Strike that – if Norris has anything to do with the visuals there will be disturbing images aplenty.

If you or your organisation are interested please Private Message me through Facebook.


far too easy 2010

Far Too Easy version #2.0 15/9/2010. (c) words and music 1993, 2009, 2010 Cameron Pyke. (c) recording 2010 Cameron Pyke, Small Symphonies & Ambisonix.  Recorded on the Calrec Soundfield Microphone by Ambisonix.

Please note that all recordings on this WordPress so far are work in progress, complete with mistakes and issues, recorded in one take, voice and guitar, no overdubs.  If you feel you can help me with a technical or artistic tip, you really love something, or really hate it, please leave a comment.  I may not agree with you but I’ll be very grateful for the participation. If you want to rant about a particular semi-quaver or glitch you could visit the small symphonies soundcloud and leave a timed comment right next it.

20/9/10  You may have heard this one before. If you haven’t, you might like to cast a lug at the 2009 version , and an eyeball at the words.  I listened to it a few minutes ago and was struck by just how much this song has changed.  Its whole feel and outlook has changed.  The 2009 recording is perhaps angry and desperate (and technically woeful).  Now it is sad and reflective (with the signature crystalline Ambisonix treatment). 

This is one of my more immediately accessible songs – it is strophic – has verses, a chorus and a middle eight. So this is a song that I trot out regularly at open mic evenings. The subject matter is unashamedly …depressing? Actually, it’s not. There is a small glimmer of hope embedded in it – which I didn’t realise until recently – I’m going to write some additional sleeve notes about this.  Anyway, despite the catchy chorus it’s uncompromising social / political comment. Entertainment it ain’t.

Given that at these open mics we’re sort of trying to have a good time I tend to send myself up a little.  As I see it, we can have a laugh at my expense between songs – it shouldn’t detract from the impact and the message of the song when it’s being sung.  I have been taken to task for this. A guy who had worked in radio commented that it was a powerful song and I shouldn’t do it down, sell it short.

This was recorded at the second Ambisonix session. I wasn’t as stressed out as the first time but I wasn’t properly in the zone either. I can do this more polished. In particular, the ‘guitar solo’ stumbles and needs to be less tentative, more assured.


latest version #2.1 10/09/2010
version #2.0 18/08/2010

(c) words and music  2009, 2010 Cameron Pyke, Small Symphonies. (c) recording 2010 Symphonies & Ambisonix

27/08/10. Finally I get round to posting something new. Except it’s not – this is a reworking of a song I have previously posted – ‘House of Hopes and Dreams’. This is not the final version – still very much work in progress – there are mistakes and issues.

20/9/10. Version #2.1 is not the final say on the matter either, but some of the issues have been addressed.

27/8/10  This was recorded by an old friend of mine – The Wookiemonstah – who has a wonderful and unique mic – the Calrec Soundfield microphone.  Briefly, whereas a stereo pair of mics would capture a crude stereo image on a horizontal plane, the Soundfield mic hears everything going on around it – left, right, front, back, up, down – from a single point.   It records the artist in the environment.

Much more than that,  the Wookie has the experience, judgement and artistic vision to make Soundfield recording work. It involves a paradigm shift away from conventional recording. The results are honest, beautiful and possibly disturbing – how much honesty can you take?  

 The Wookiemonstah’s WordPress is Ambisonix.

Several people have heard this recording and most agree that the percussive click on the backbeat has to be lost or very much attenuated. 

20/9/10  Was previously smacking the strings with the side of my RH thumb – and giving it some. Now I’m dropping all four RH fingers (curled, so that the nails strike first) gently onto the strings. 

27/8/10  The song fades after the last verse because I couldn’t get the outro right. It was improvised and a bit pointless. I have now written an outro which still has elements of improvisation but is far more deliberately integral with the whole piece.

20/9/10  OK, I now have a very clear idea of what the outro should sound like – and this definitely isn’t it – although hopefully some of the intention/idea comes across. It sounds disjointed. What I really want is the arpeggiation to flow seamlessly into the razzes (a corruption of ‘rasgueado’ which saves me having to apologise to Flamenco purists) and into the single noting.  Switching from razz to single line involves a repositioning of the hand – and at the moment, an unacceptably low success rate.

Another issue is that when I move to single noting it sounds a bit thin compared to the razzes and arps – in fact it sounds like the bottom has dropped out. I’ve got to thicken these lines up with some bass notes. There’s a bit of work to do yet – but at least I have a vision.

Nothing changes very fast with this song.  

27/08/10  I was extremely nervous whilst recording this in the Wookie’s front room. The transition between the verses and the middle eight completely eluded me. Whilst trying to get my unravelled threads back together I realised that the song morphs from 6/8 to 3/4 at this point.

20/9/10  Nerves are a real challenge for me. I’m getting better but it’s a two steps forward one step back situation. Have a look at nerves to see how I’m dealing with this.  Apparently, and this is not wholly welcome news, Segovia had the shakes to the extent that he always played his first few pieces badly, and then settled down for the rest of the concert.

27/8/10  Back at the barn a few nights later I’m still rehearsing the new instrumental outro and I find there’s bits of stray 3/4 (or can be) all the way through the piece – particularly on the dominant turnarounds.

I need to keep the improvisation feel and I’m not sure that actually being conscious of these subtleties actually helps.

There is also the ‘groove’ aspect – it’s supposed to drift in and out of groove naturally.  Again, the more I rehearse and the more aware I become, the harder to maintain spontaneity.

I’m on thin ice here: you can have too much tempo rubato (flexitime).   When it works it’s a tension and relaxation thing .  Joe Pass did it just great, sustaining long passages of flexible time so that when he did strike up a genuine foot tapping groove it didn’t half swing. 

If you’d like to comment about a particular note, chord, word or glitch you might like to visit the Small Symphonies Soundcloud.

Many thanks to the Wookiemonstah for his patience, hard work and inspiration.

the holy grail and recording with crap gear

I play a nylon strung guitar, one of the gentlest instruments known to man, but I want a sound a mile wide with the groans and grunts of tectonic plates grinding against each other in the subterranean depths and heavenly curtains of harmonics overhead, a Northern Lights in sound. 

Although it may be asking the physically impossible, I want to separate the registers. I’d like bass and treble parts to sound like they’re played on different instruments. At extremes, I want the bass delivered by a Rickenbacker with a Badass bridge and lead by Roy Buchanan’s crusty old Tele. Continue reading

a giglet, and reflections from the Land of Song

On the first Tuesday of September I got up and played at an open mic night – first time for about five years.

The Cynon Valley is well provided with open mic opportunities – there’s at least three per month in different venues. The one I played at was in the Coliseum,  Aberdare.

Just a bit of background. This is South Wales.  This is the “Land of Song”. Is it really? Well, yes it is. Why? Continue reading

Far Too Easy

 Far Too Easy Click to hear mp3. Copyright 2009 Small Symphonies, Cameron Pyke.
One voice, one guitar, nylon strings, fingers, no plectrums, no overdubs. far too easy: words

All the music you hear on this site is work in progress – with mistakes, production glitches or no production at all. For the thinking behind this please see  why publish work in progress?everything matters and gameplan. Any recordings you hear will/may be superseded as the pieces develop or I get better at playing and/or recording.