Saturday, February 28, 2009

Forest Roots

We went along to Forest Roots last night, since they've moved to a new venue which is convenient at the Forest Gate Hotel, Godwin Road, Forest Gate. Just around the block so to speak.

The guest artists were Adam Beattie and Oliver Talkes.

Forest Roots is an acoustic music club based in Forest Gate, East London self styled Country, Folk, Blues and Beyond.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chinese Lute at Havering Folk Club

I took my Chinese Lute or Ruan along to Havering Folk club this week for a change, as you may have guessed from yesterday's post about it. I had some trouble fitting it into the guitar bag, but managed to improvise with the zip.

I thought it as a particularly good night last night. There were some new performers to me, and I also noticed that several of the regulars had noticeably come on in and demonstrated considerable improvement. It must be the accumulated effect of weekly providing an attentive audience for each other. All levels are appreciated, but I think the overall level had gone up a notch or two. Well that's how it seemed to me anyway.

I played a tune that I always play on the chinese lute and now it has a name "Yangtse Gorges". There's a video of me playing it in the back garden a few years ago somewhere, I'll have to root around on various old computers.

Then I did Dead Skunk by Loudon Wainwright, an old singalong favourite recently mentioned by Karyn. Linda was sitting near the front so we have an instant video take:

Andy Roberts plays Dead Skunk at Havering Folk Club

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Originally uploaded by Andyrob
Here's a scan of my Whirle ukulele I bought in a music shop in East Ham. I can't get it to play in tune so I don't use it and Linda says that's just as well!

Chinese Lute or Ruan

The Ruan is a moon shaped short necked lute, related to the Pipa.

It was once called the qin pipa, dating from the Qin dynasty between 221-207 BC or the yueqin which means a moon shaped short necked lute. The name is a shortened form of Ruan Xian, a musician and one of the "seven Sages of Bamboo Grove" of the 3rd century from the Six Dynasties. Pictorial evidence, excavated from a tomb of his time in Nanjing, depicting Ruan Xian's performance of this instrument, confirms that its construction was roughly the same as that of today.

The ruan is a Chinese plucked string instrument. It is a lute with a fretted neck, a circular body, and four strings. Its strings were formerly made of silk but since the 20th century they have been made of steel (flatwound for the lower strings). The modern ruan has 24 frets with 12 semitones on each string, which has greatly expanded its range from a previous 13 frets. The frets are commonly made of ivory. Or in recent times, metal mounted on wood. The metal frets produce a brighter tone as compared to the ivory frets.

The ruan is now constructed as a family of soprano, alto, tenor and bass, a development intended to increases its range and effectiveness in the modern Chinese orchestra. The alto and the tenor are commonly used. A plectrum is needed in performance. Mellow in tone quality, it is often seen in ensembles or in accompaniments, and as a solo instrument in recent years.

Zhong ruan (alto) tuning: A-d-a-d1 or G-d-a-e1 Range: A-a2
Daruan (tenor) tuning: D-A-d-a or C-G-d-a Range: D-e1

So anyway, I have one of these instruments that I brought back from China.

I made a Flash widget thingy that has sound, you can listen to here:

and even have a go at playing it for yourself.

More about the Ruan

The ruan is sometimes described as the Chinese "mandolin". It comes in several sizes, but only the zhongruan (alto) and daruan (tenor) are commonly used in orchestras.

The body of the ruan is made from 2 round pieces of soft wood of about 30 cm diameter for front and back, with a shallow rim of hardwood around them. The neck with a raised fretboard is joined to the body. Usually there are two soundholes (round or other shape) on the front.

The peghead is sickle shaped and ends in a curl to the front, with a special Chinese type of decoration, made of different woods. The frets are small strips of bamboo (or plastic), glued on the neck, in a normal western scale (12 frets to an octave).

The 4 long (grooved) friction pegs are with two on each side of the open pegbox. They have an invisible mechanisme inside the peghead, which turns the peg on the front of the closed peghead.
The 4 metal strings run over a loose bamboo bridge to a wooden stringholder at the bottom of the body. Tuning could be G d a e' (soprano) or C G d a (tenor).

The ruan is played with a plectrum. With sizes ranging from large, medium to small, the modern ruan is capable of producing a variety of tones that range from rich to delicate. It is often used in orchestral performances, as well as for accompaniment of folk operas.

The machine heads are inside the closed peghead, with large wooden or porcelain traditional looking pegs

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mazet - Havering Folk Club

This is the shoot from the hip video which Linda made at Havering Folk Club last week where I performed "Mazet".

Note the episode where the shoulder strap comes off my guitar and I have to hop about on one foot while dragging a chair closer with the other, so I can put one leg up to form a rest for the untethered guitar, without stopping playing :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Birthday Party at Havering Folk Club

Surprise parties can have a habit of not going exactly to plan but Sarah's 18th at Havering Folk Club hit the spot.

Amidst the chocolate cake, popcorn and pringles there was some music making as well, with plenty of new faces in the audience which needed to extend sideways out the back. I don't know how many of then we'll see again though.

I took my chinese guitar for the first time, it's nice and light to carry being only half the depth of a full jumbo dreadnought acoustic, but the sound produced is correspondingly less voluminous, so no good for quiet finger picking unamplified at a crowded venue. Good enough to strum with a flat pick though, just about.

I played an old song of mine I've been revisiting recently, called Mazet with the last verse in French.

Also two Bob Dylan songs, One Too Many Mornings and I shall Be Released

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wizz Jones at Walthamstow Folk Club

It all happened very quickly yesterday, as I was listening to a Steve Tilston track, Linda Carter mentioned that he was playing Walthamstow Folk Club on the 1st March. Checking the forthcoming gigs I noticed that the legendary Wizz Jones was playing last night and resolved to get to that one if at all possible. It turned out to be not so difficult at all using the W19 bus route so this brings another folk club into range but what was it like?

Well it's a nice enough pub, Walthamstow Folk Club is at The Plough Inn, 173 Wood Street, Walthamstow, London E17 3NU where there are other genres of live music on different nights of the week and the Fullers beer was good. They used to have bottled Dunkertons cider as well but we didn't get around to checking that last night.

I had a feeling I'd bump into somebody I knew, but didn't guess that it would be our friends from Havering Folk Club, Foxen as from last Wednesdays Foxen Night, so that made us feel welcome straight away. The venue is on the ground floor, seperated from the main bar area and although smallish, uses a PA and microphone system with mixing desk. The audience sits in rows of chairs and behaves appropriately without much disturbance from either the bar extension or the rowdy saloon next door.

Wizz Jones himself of course is just a blues guitar playing legend, and played most of my old favourites including Deep River Blues, Nobody knows you when you're down and out and Anji as a tribute to Davy Graham.

Here's that video clip of Wizz Jones with the beatniks in Newquay in Cornwall from 1960

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Foxen Night at Havering Folk Club

Last Night was the turn of Havering Folk Club regulars Foxen also known as John and Margaret to take the stage for the members special night. This was the event postponed from last week because of a flooded cellar at the Golden Lion, Romford where Havering Folk Club meets every Wednesday at Eight.

The first thing to notice was the large array of assorted instruments they brought with them to accompany their polished duets. John's hand made six string guitar sounded particularly fine, and he also treated us to 12string guitar, mandolin, banjo and concertina while Margaret made beautiful sounds from a hammer dulcimer, bowed psaltery, autoharp and percussion. The choice of songs was spot on with many own compositions and one or two traditional tunes added into the mix.

I think there were also 16 floor spots altogether so in preparation for my own Andy Roberts Night on April 1st, I was taking notes of the evenings timing to give me a rough idea of what to expect. I think they ended up doing 35 minutes in the first half and ended up with a 40 minutes set after the break, which sounds like a long time but even after carefully planning and timing each song they still had to drop one or two from the setlist.

Floor singers obviously only had time for one song each so I played Waiting on the 12 string.

Grab Andy Roberts Widgets


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Highway Blues - Snow in London

Highway Blues - Snow in London on PhotoPeach

Photopeach is a mashup taking my pictures of Snow in London from Flickr and the soundtrack of the Andy Roberts video of Highway Blues at Havering Folk club from youTube.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Postcards From Scarborough - Havering Folk Club

This is a song by Michael Chapman which was very popular with floor sport performers at folk clubs so I thought I'd revive it at Havering Folk Club

Andy Roberts - When The Waters Rise - Havering Folk Club

Last week's songs were recorded by Linda on a little Canon ixus stills camera, from the audience which captures a different kind of atmosphere. This song is "When The Waters Rise", a second attempt. Not available on yet

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