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BACK TO THE FUTURAMA
On a recent visit to Cornwall, I took the opportunity to visit Guy McKenzie (www.the guitarcollection.org.uk) and his fantastic guitar collection. I particularly like one of his guitars; it’s called a Futurama Coronado Automatic. My mother died in 1962 and in 1963 when I was 15 my father decided to buy me this guitar; I suppose to cheer me up. At the time it was unique and still looks so cool, so I am now on a mission to obtain this model again – I foolishly sold it for guitar lessons (well I was only 18). If there is anybody out there who could help me track one down I would be over the moon to own one again, as it’s a tangible connection to my past.
That’s a romantic story, George. Perhaps our hawk-eyed readers will be able to help – I don’t know of any Coronado Automatics that are available out there. But I too got my first ‘decent’ guitar back (or one like it); a Hofner Club 40 that my first guitar-playing mate had; he lent it to me for months and I sort of came to treat it as my own! Good luck in tracking yours down – it will indeed be a lovely reminder of old times and absent ‘friends’.
THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES
First of all I would like to congratulate you and your team on producing such a wonderful publication – but there is a glaring omission that I can no longer keep silent about! Where are all the female guitar players? Looking back at your past three issues (#255-#257), there is a grand total of one female guitarist included (Emily Remler, #256). I have a feeling that this may actually be more than your average!
This is just not good enough. Surely there must be numerous female guitarists out there that deserve a bit of column space. I am not going to list names, simply because I do not know that many. But there have been countless male guitarists that I have not been aware of until I read about them in your magazine and followed up by listening to them. So I believe it is incumbent on you to make more of an effort to showcase female guitar talent that is out there and provide them with greater exposure so that some of your readers, like myself, may take the time to give them a listen. After all you have the wonderful Bridget Mermikides on your team: there must be more of them out there!
GT Production Editor Katie Nicholls replies: Thanks for your letter, Ali – this is a topic that’s well worth exploring! Undoubtedly, the majority of players that feature in GT are male (although we have had some wonderful female players recently: Eva Cassidy and Joni Mitchell and, as you mention, Emily Remler). I think the lack of female players is reflective of a wider, societal problem whereby girls aren’t encouraged at a young age to become guitarists, drummers or bass players but rather stick with being the vocalist. I wrote a feature on this issue for the Musicians’ Union and it’s certainly an issue that needs to be addressed by schools and teachers. To some extent, GT is reflecting what is a bigger issue. It’s just a real shame that we don’t have more female guitarists to feature!
I’ve been a player for over 40 years, but recently I had the most depressing accident and cut off the first finger of my fretting hand. It has been sewn back on but the middle knuckle is fused so the finger is ‘set’ straight. Now all I can use it for is the soft pad at the root of the finger to fret first and sometimes second strings for something like a first position Bm chord (I also cut through the tendons in the ring finger but this has been repaired and, though stiff, I can use it).
I am slowly teaching myself to play again, using the remaining three fingers, and thanks to my style which was mainly fingerpicking and ragtime (ish) my pinky is used to doing something so it’s not a complete new beginning. However, here is my problem: I’m struggling to find good sounding replacements for chords that are now impossible for me to fret, like a simple C or F chord. I can’t play barre chords shapes any more (unless I mute the low strings because I can’t reach to fret them, so I end up playing partial chords or open major 7ths and the like, which are great sounding chords when you want a major 7th, but awful when you don’t. I am beginning to develop a new style which is almost chordless, but sometimes you just want to ‘bash-out’ an old song and it’s very frustrating. Can you or the readers offer any advice on maybe long forgotten chord shapes or any other tips? Maybe a feature of simple three-fingered alternatives that might be useful to any player. And please don’t anyone suggest I take up the banjo!
PS. I have kept a diary of the recovery and story of my relearning so far, so if any readers suffer a similar fate and would like support or advice I’m happy for you to give them my contact details!
What a terrible story, Dave. Three things spring to mind: open tunings, slide guitar, and ‘thumb over the top’ playing. Look at Derek Trucks and Sonny Landreth; both play slide almost exclusively, so perhaps a slight musical career change is a possibility. And check out the awesome Joey Landreth (no relation) who plays regular guitar and slide interchangeably, so wears a tube on his finger almost all the time – of necessity limiting the number of fingers available. He plays simply, but amazingly!
Many open tunings rely on having open strings ringing into chords, and often use two or three-finger shapes. So that’s another thought – although it doesn’t address your ‘bashing out a tune’ question. And many players – from Hendrix to Pat Metheny to Richie Havens – use the thumb-over technique to play bass strings, thus ‘sort of’ replacing the first finger on things like barre chords.
In a way your playing problem is a bit like when we fortunate all-finger players put a barre down and then try to play regular chords –C, G and D are all tricky – on top. So it looks like that’s your basic option; simply to reconfigure those shapes. As weird coincidence would have it, in the next issue we are running a feature on ‘avoiding the first finger’. It’s in Charlie’s Woodshed article and so is more to do with lead than rhythm, but it is sure to offer something. I do hope some readers can come up with ideas that might help. In the meantime we all wish you all the very best!
I BELIEVE IT IS INCUMBENT On YOU TO MAKE MORE OF An EFFORT TO SHOWCASE FEMALE GUITAR TALENT
Joey Landreth: wears a slide
George Stapley: on the hunt for his old guitar