A Short Musical History

I thought I’d share a brief history of my musical background. So why not get comfortable and listen to my instrumental keyboard piece, “A Trip to Nowhere” while reading?

At junior school, we pretty much all learned to play the recorder. I was always much more interested in figuring out the tunes on the piano that accompanied our tooting and blowing, but I picked up quite a few tunes and learned to read music via the Dolmetsch recorder book. By the time I was ten, I was keen to move on to the piano or organ, and I began popular music lessons on my father’s Hammond C3 (pictured top right) followed by classical piano lessons up until age 16.

By that time at school – around about when Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album was released – everyone wanted to play guitar, including me. So I got an electric guitar for my birthday and a bit later my Mum managed to get hold of a Spanish style classical guitar for me. The chord theory I had learned in organ lessons held me in good stead to pick up the guitar quickly, and by the time I left for university I was playing Hendrix, Nirvana and Clapton on the guitar, as well as Billy Joel and Elton John on the piano.

Pianos and organs are not the most portable of instruments, and I didn’t own a keyboard anyway. So I went to university with my electric guitar and met Paul, who I’m still in touch with and is a member of the band The Rosco. Back then as a student holidays were plentiful and we spent quite a bit of time messing around in my parent’s garage, where my Dad had an 8 track home studio setup : a 1/4″ reel-to-reel 8-track tape recorder and a big 12-8-2 mixing desk. I have a lot of recordings preserved from around that time, but the quality of some isn’t too hot. For example the track “A Trip to Nowhere” that I’m featuring here only exists on regular cassette tape (the original 1/4″ tape being lost or recorded over) and has been captured back onto my PC via Goldwave, a highly recommended and inexpensive audio editing program.

I’m still playing guitar and keyboard, and when Nathan gets a bit older I hope to get back into recording. In the meantime I’ve got a lot of stuff available, so I can come back and write some more soon. I hope you enjoy listening to the track. All feedback is most welcome and much appreciated.

A Trip to Nowhere

I don’t remember exactly when this was written and recorded, but it was around 1995. The entire track is just me (bar the sample of Richard Burton from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at the start), a keyboard, a guitar, and some drum programming. Even at the time, a couple of the synths used were pretty vintage (a Krumar Performer and a Yamaha DX7S) but I love their nostalgic sound. I really wanted to play with the idea of creating a simple musical structure on which to overlay different sounds and effects, and I was actually very pleased with the results. Click to hear

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“A Trip to Nowhere” © Simon White. Feel free to share the original file only.

12 Responses to “A Short Musical History”

  1. Aidan Says:

    Sounds good…
    Am sadly another one who started off with the recorder, only to be stuck with the damn thing through primary school while classmates were confidently picking their new niches in brass/woodwind/strings sections (I had a brief go at playing the violin, but thankfully hung up my bow before the UN brought in an anti-torture convention specifically aimed at my unique sound…)
    Briefly tried to become a bass player, during secondary school and my short-lived band called Plectrum Heaven. As embarrassing as it sounds. Before sticking to acoustic strumming, occasional harmonica-ing, and even more occasional ukulele-ing under the duo moniker Autopilot. Sadly dormant for too many of the last few years.
    Good luck with the Rosco, though – what age are you planning to teach Nathan his first bar chord, then? ;)

  2. Simon Says:

    Plectrum Heaven. Sounds more like a guitar shop, but with a bit of a twist and heavy chords, Plectrum Hell might just get away with being the next big thing :mrgreen:.

    The Rosco is pretty much dormant since the drummer has gone on to a new job and travels too much to be committed to the band. Maybe a new drummer will surface, but with little Nathan I’m not pushing too hard to get back into it.

    As for bar chords… well I’ll have to find a quarter scale guitar or something, because on a real guitar I’ll have to wait until he’s about 14 before he can even think about being able to play bar chords…

    -Fruey

  3. RC Says:

    Hey, great little story.

    I had a question, you might be able to answer…I heard that electric guitar sales because really popular in the 1960s (especially in ’64 w/ the Beatles playing Fenders)

    Do you have any idea where I could find a year by year list of sale of electric guitars in the 60s.

    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  4. Simon Says:

    Hi RC,

    I don’t specifically recall the Beatles using Fender guitars. In fact, I think they used mainly Gretsch (George) and Rickenbacker (John) guitars, and Paul played a Hofner bass. John also played Vox guitars. I believe that it is rather guitarists like Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler who made the Fender famous. However, according to this page they did pick up a Fender stratocaster or two for recording of Help! which was around 1965.

    I am afraid I have no idea how you would find year-by-year sales figures for guitar brands.

    -Fruey

  5. RC Says:

    Thanks for your info…appreciate your help.

    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  6. Marinade Dave Says:

    Very nice song, Simon. You should definitely keep up with your music. Your talent is a gift, and you could end up on a trip to somewhere.

  7. Simon Says:

    Dave,

    Thanks for the nice comment about the song. It’s a while since I’ve been able to have enough time to build up a piece like that, because it’s layered together and mixed over a two or three day period, 8 hours each day. I’d love to find time to get back into that kind of stuff, and I have a setup that would make the sound quality way more professional too!

    I’m not sure I should give up the day job though :-).

    -Fruey

  8. RC Says:

    Part of the reason I ask my question is because a friend of mine is working on a documentary and he wants to link some trends between electric guitar popularity and the music popularity…easy enough, everyone knows electric guitars became popular when more of the popular music had that type of thing going on…but the search for a hardcore percentage or figure is a huge challenge!

  9. Simon Says:

    Hi RC,

    I’m a bit of a Beatles fan, so the info was pretty much in my head. I did look around for general guitar sales / popularity figures but I don’t know that this kind of info exists. It would certainly be interesting to compare the popularity of different brands of guitar over the years.

    -Fruey

  10. Simon Says:

    Hi RC,

    That is indeed quite a tough question. Each individual manufacturer’s site includes some historical information and key musicians that have used their guitars, but no historical sales figures. Comparing one with another might be difficult, but I daresay that the different companies’ PR departments would be quite pleased to give ballpark figures on volumes of guitars shipped.

    -Fruey

  11. Anna Park Says:

    Re: trying Nathan on bar chords – we’ve tried Eve (5 months) on the Ukelele to much amusement (ours, rather than hers) and she’s already a dab hand with the maracas and the tambourine. We’ll have her busking to earn her keep before she knows it.
    A xx

  12. Simon Says:

    Anna! Great to see you here!

    I reckon with Eve on the uke, and Nathan gurgling 3 note melodies, we could launch a baby band. What do you reckon?

    Talking of busking brings back memories of cold street corners near markets and ten franc pieces.

    -Fruey