Brittany Guitar Workshop 2020

It’s on! Next August 19-22, I’ll be returning to the beautiful French village on La Fontenelle for my annual four-day acoustic guitar workshop.

We’ll focus on various topics, including:

  • Celtic fingerstyle
  • Arranging songs for solo guitar
  • Open and altered tunings
  • Useful associated theory and techniques

Whilst the course caters for various abilities, it’s recommended that participants have a good grasp of the basics (e.g. standard chord shapes, some fingerpicking etc.) to gain the maximum benefit.

Spaces are limited to just 8 participants so it’s well-worth booking early to avoid disappointment. More details at: www.brittanymusicworkshops.co.uk


Will I be seeing you in sunny France in August?

Halsway Manor Guitar Week 2020

That’s right, folks – we’re doing it all again next year!

In fact, we were having so much fun at this year’s event, that we agreed dates for 2020 whilst still in the thick of it all!

It’s a brilliant week, immersive and intense (in a good way!), allowing people to fully indulge their passion for the acoustic guitar (secretly, the tutors feel exactly the same in that regard) whilst learning tunes and techniques to take away and work on. It’s a shot-in-the-arm for guitarists wanting to boost their skills and maybe push themselves out of the comfort zone a little. No pressure, though – the main thing is enjoyment.

2020’s event will feature three tutors; regulars, Kevin Dempsey and me, plus the amazing guitarist/songwriter Vera Van Heeringen who steps in for Charlotte Carrivick who’s unable to make it next year due to touring commitments.

Oh, and did I mention Halwsay Manor is located in a truly beautiful part of the country? If you’re quick, you can climb to the top of the Quantock Hills in the lunch break and see the sea in two different directions!

You can read more here: https://halswaymanor.org.uk/event/guitar-week/

What’s stopping you?!

Tutor-and-class mega-selfie. (Left to right: The Venerable Kevin Dempsey; yours truly; Queen of the Flatpick Charlotte Carrivick)
Student concert. Lots of wonderful performances from our participants.

The North American Guitar

I was recently invited to do a recording session for the North American Guitar in Islington, London to showcase a pretty amazing selection of their super-high-end stock of boutique acoustics from some of the finest luthiers in North America, as well as a guitar maker from this side of the pond, Rosie Heydenrych of Turnstone Guitars who is now being represented by TNAG. Great to see a UK artisan in the mix!

Anyway, here’s a couple of the videos we shot, starting off with this REALLY expensive Greenfield G4 Fan Fret. It’s a beast:
Turnstone TG: I loved this thing – quirky design (almost Art Deco to my eyes, at least), and amazing craftsmenship. I think I enjoyed playing this one the most on the day:
Maingard GC: Incredible neck, as I remember – really fast and playable:

Autumn update!

Hello! I’ve been rather quiet on here of late, which just won’t do, so I thought I’d better some news since I haven’t actually been idle!

Brittany Guitar Workshops 2019

So, as usual for the Bank Holiday week/weekend in August, I held my annual acoustic guitar workshop in La Fontenelle, Brittany which was attended by some of the die-hard regulars and a couple of very welcome newbies. We worked on a few pieces in CGDGCD tuning, including some traditional tunes and a couple of contemporary arrangements.

Evening are usually a chance to go to a restaurant or jam or some such shenanigans: On the second evening this time around we were treated to a whisky tasting experience which was an unusual but excellent way to round off a day playing the guitar!

Our last evening was the usual soiree with some invited locals listening to the guys’ hard work in the student concert – very enjoyable, and thanks to our wonderful host, Brenda for the translation!

We’re working on dates for next year, so what this space.

Here we are at our favourite restaurant in Cancale, awaiting beaucoup de shellfish…

And here are some the guys concentrating…

The North American Guitar Session

On Saturday, Sept 14, I was at The North American Guitar in Islington, London, demoing some amazing guitars for sale on their website. They’re a super-high-end dealership who import and sell unique and beautiful guitars from across the pond, and let’s just say it’s pretty nerve-racking yet a great privilege to be entrusted to make them sound nice on camera for their website! I’ll post links soon, when they’ve uploaded the videos we shot.


Halsway Manor Guitar Week

From Sept 30 – Oct 4, Halsway Manor in Somerset will be hosting the annual Guitar Week, with Charlotte Carrivick, Kevin Dempsey and me. Here’s some blurb from their website about the event:

“Following an extremely well-received inaugural course last year, we’re delighted to welcome back Kevin Dempsey, Tristan Seume, and Charlotte Carrivick for our second Guitar Workshop Week. The week is an intensive but enjoyable guitar-school week for steel-string acoustic guitarists, led by three fantastic tutors!

The week will help you to develop your skills and confidence, with options to explore finger style, flat-picking, alternative and open tunings, arranging tunes and song accompaniment, chord vocabulary, and useful theory too. Whole group, smaller group and one-to-one teaching, to leave you enthused and inspired! There will be down-time too, for you to practise, jam, socialise and spend quality time with your instrument. For those who want to, there’s also the opportunity to join the tutors in concert on the Thursday evening.
The tutor team bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience embracing a variety of styles. The programme for the week will be tailored to the experience and needs of the group. An outline of what each tutor plans to offer is below:
Kevin will be covering the basic fingerstyle patterns, plus variations. Introducing percussive elements. Chord construction, introducing extensions and increasing chord vocabulary. Learning a couple of complete pieces for solo guitar. Looking at chord/scale relationships.
Tristanspecialises in fingerstyle guitar, arranging traditional tunes and accompanying songs predominantly using CGDGCD tuning. This beautiful and versatile modal tuning remains curiously overlooked in favour of more commonly explored DADGAD, open D and open G tunings. Tristan will explore the tuning’s potential from the ground up whilst referencing and relating to other, more familiar tunings. We will work through the fundamentals, beginning with useful, go-to chord shapes and patterns and progress through developing left- and right-hand techniques, incorporating open strings, drones and harmony within the context of traditional repertoire.
Charlottewill cover the basics of flatpicking for both lead and rhythm playing, working up towards creating more intricate solos and interesting backup. We will be learning how to make fiddle tunes sound great on the guitar and how to make them your own. As a style with a big focus on improvisation, we’ll be looking at ways to expand your knowledge of the fretboard and open up different pathways on the guitar. (For guitar in standard tuning, this course requires a plectrum).”

New video with Daria Kulesh

Daria and I recently recorded this video to show what we’ve been working on. In Daria’s words: “[the story is] based on a poem by by Alexander Pushkin. Rusalka is a playful and exquisite supernatural tale of temptation and seduction, set in the remote Russian North”. I hope you like it.

Brittany Guitar Workshop 2018 – STOP PRESS!

Hi folks!

I’m delighted to announce that next August 22-25, 2018, I will be returning to the beautiful village of La Fontenelle in Brittany to host my annual acoustic guitar workshop.

The general format is that we look at guitar techniques and study pieces during the daytimes and go to the local restaurant in the evenings, or drive out to Cancale for seafood and chilled vin blanc! We usually finish the four-day course with an informal soiree on the final evening.

It’s a lot of fun, but places are limited to just eight participants, however guests are welcome to bring non-participating partners if they wish. Please visit the logistics page of the Brittany Music Workshops website for more details such as accommodation and travel.

For the past two years, my good friend, Will McNicol has been leading these residential workshops in my stead as other commitments prevented me from being there. I want to thank Will sincerely for holding the fort (and also for giving me his blessing to resume the mantle – honestly, I thought I was going to have wrestle him for it back!).

Anyway, stay tuned for updates and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

Daria Kulesh

Feeling like it was about time I explored new musical projects and through a fortuitous set of circumstances, I recently started working with renowned Russian folk singer, Daria Kulesh as her accompanist. Daria is a rare talent as a singer, songwriter, artist and interpreter of traditional material which draws on her Russian and Ingush roots. She has enjoyed a fair bit of airplay by the likes of Mike Harding and Mark Radcliffe. Tonight is our first gig as a duo – we’re playing at The Mermaid in St. Albans as a kind of warm-up to future shows. Click here to jump to Daria’s website

The Morgan Rattler

I recently asked the online community to suggest cool tunes to arrange, and this was suggested so I set to it – quite pleased with the results. It’s a lovely 48 bar jig that I want to play again and again.

Brittany Guitar Workshop 2015

This August 19-22, I’ll be hosting my annual acoustic guitar workshop in La Fontenelle, Brittany.

I’ll be looking at Celtic, blues and fingerstyle techniques and tunes in the wonderful French countryside. We normal head out for nice food and a glass of three of vin rouge in the evenings, and have a great time making music, which culminates in a wee gig for the locals at the end of the week. It’s low pressure, though, I promise!

The course It caters for a variety of abilities, but to get the most out of the experience, I recommend you have a sound grasp of the basics.

More details including accommodation and logistics are to be found at the Brittany Music Workshops website.

Is it really October already???

Can’t believe it’s already October and the Autumn seems to have arrived all at once. It’s high time I updated my rather neglected blog with some news. It’s not as if I’ve been lazy – quite the opposite – much has happened since the last posting.

Firstly, back in August I ran the first of my Brittany Guitar Workshops residencies, which was a joyous experience, with a lovely group of students who’d made the trip over from England to stay in the lovely village of La Fontenelle, Brittany. It was hosted by Brenda Dean of Brittany Music Workshops, who looked after us beautifully, and even sang a song with us at the end-of-week concert.

We worked on a variety of pieces from blues to Celtic to pop arrangements, leading up to the aforementioned concert, which was attended by about 30 of the locals. Thanks to Brenda for translating all the stage gossip!

I must give a special plug to the hugely talented Kitty Macfarlane, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, who was one of my students. She bewitched the lot of us with her voice, guitar playing and all round charm.

Anyway, we’re already planning next year’s workshop and the dates are looking like August 13-16 inclusive, so if you’re interested in coming, put those in the diary!

Secondly, I’ve just received the new Abi Moore record, Amoeba & Stone. Abi is a dear friend of mine, and this record has been a long time in the making, so I’m really chuffed it’s finally out there. There are a few session contributions from me on there, too.

Finally, I’ve just returned from the 14th Ullapool Guitar Festival in the northwest Highlands of Scotland. This festival has gained a legendary status as the one everyone wants to play at, such is the quality and atmosphere on show. It’s quite simply THE place to be for guitar enthusiasts in early October. I feel blessed to have now played at 10 of the last 11 festivals, and I’m already counting down until the 15th festival in 2014.

Highlights included jamming with Clive Carroll and John Smith, playing an epic pool tournament with friends, and of course, performing and teaching!

At one point I found myself playing a brief private banjo recital to Elliott Randall from Steely Dan, Carl Verheyen from Supertramp and Jerry Donahue of, well, everyone. Surreal. Here’s Mr. Verheyen having a play on my guitar:

Oh, and speaking of banjos, upon arriving at the festival, Roger Bucknall of Fylde Guitars presented me with my brand new open backed frailing banjo. The hoop is made from 48 separate blocks of Claro Walnut and capped on either side with African Blackwood. It sounds amazing and I’m totally delighted with it:

Well, that brings us more or less up to date, so I’ll sign off for now, and promise not to leave it too long before the next installment!