27 August 2008

Blues in Chédigny

Today I want to share my recent experience in the blues improvisation workshop at the Blues in Chédigny festival. I learned of this festival by chance when I recently went on holiday near to the tiny French village of Chédigny where it is held.

Such a great festival in this tiny village 150 miles south-west of Paris is a tribute to its 445 inhabitants. Now in its 11th edition, the festival attracted 6000 spectators last year.

Blues Festival Origins

The festival started in 1998. A few years earlier group of people from the village created a historical show as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the French revolution of 1789. Their show won a competition that earned them a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, in the USA where they met blues legend Big Joe Turner.

Big Joe Turner later came to live in Chédigny for a while and the festival was born. The first edition in 1998 attracted 1200 spectators. The festival has a great friendly atmosphere and a large number of the village's inhabitants participate in its organization.

Artists and visitors stay in village houses and village grandmothers prepare the thousands of daily meals that are served to artists and visitors alike. Their home-made pancakes have earned an international reputation.


This year's 3 day festival in August featured US blues stars such as John Primer, Guitar Shorty, and Sunpie Barnes as well as European acts such as Be Soul and Slawek. The festival also includes a day dedicated to the music of Cuba.

Blues Improvisation Workshop

On the second day of the festival I participated in a blues improvisation workshop with local guitarist and teacher Yann Beaujouan. The workshop left me with some great tips to work on and happy memories of the warm and friendly atmosphere.

A big thanks to Yann, Mario, Patrick and the other workshop participants for making it an enjoyable and useful experience.

For more info and photos of this years festival visit the site at http://www.blues-in-chedigny.com. I'll be sharing a few of the lessons I learned during the workshop, so sign up for free updates by email or to your RSS reader so you don't miss them.


Kelly said...

Hey Gary!

Thanks so much for you blogs--they're GREAT, and I have learned a lot!

I have another question for you regarding the guitar itself.

My guitar was a cheap one to begin with, and I know you get what you pay for. Well, now the seam heading towards the neck of the guitar (sounds like it's only about 3/4 of an inch in length)is splitting, and there's a terrible buzz. Time for an upgrade. Which leads me to my query...

How would you suggest going about purchasing a good guitar? I am still a novice, so I'm not looking to break the bank on one, but I'd like a guitar with good tone, quality manufacturing, and stability in holding on to pitch. Any suggestions?

Thanks Again,
Kelly Hoss.

Gary Fletcher said...

Hi Kelly,

Many thanks for reading the blog, glad to hear you enjoy it. I'll answer your question in two parts.

Firstly, how to go about purchasing a guitar. I suggest that you decide what your budget is and then visit some reputable guitar shops in your area. If you're not sure what reputable shops are just visit, you'll soon know if the shop's reputable or not when you're in there ;-)

Once in the shop play as many models in your price range as you can and pay careful attention to the feel, sound and build quality. Ask someone to play models you like for you, you'll get a different perspective on the sound when you're opposite the guitar while someone else plays rather than sat behind it. Take along a guitar player friend or ask the shop staff to play for you.

Eliminate guitars that you don't like and gradually home in on the one you want. Take your time with this, I suggest making several visits. Don't be pressured into a quick sale or special offer.

Secondly, you mentioned good tone, quality manufacturing and stable pitch. The answer to this one is partly in your question, "you get what you pay for". I don't know what your budget is, but buy the best guitar you can afford. You'll enjoy it more and it will last you longer.

A couple of other things to look out for (note, I'm assuming acoustic here):

* A solid wood table. This will give better sound that improves with age.

* Correct intonation. You can learn about guitar intonation via Google, but it can get terribly technical. As a simple test, check that the harmonic at the 12th fret is the same pitch as the note when fretted at the same place. Reject any guitar where this is not the case.

* I'm not saying that guitars from other manufacturers aren't good, but in my experience Yamaha guitars are excellent value. Good sound and very solidly built, I have a CPX-8 and have played several other models that were all very good. I've also got a Norman B20 which is a very good solid top acoustic that's not too expensive (sells for about 400 euros here in Europe, that's about US $600).

I think you might also find some relevant tips in the Guitar Buying category (you can find the link under the Archives heading in the column on the left).

Well, I hope that helps. If you want an opinion on any more specific questions, models, etc. please feel free to email me, gary at writescribe.com.


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