For Neil, Music is everything...
“Not a day goes by without me at least doing something musical, whether that's playing live, composing or teaching. It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of doing, and I’m really lucky that I can do it as my job”.
In his early life, Neil was exposed to what he recalls as his ‘first love’: heavy driven guitar music. The influences of bands such as Guns n’ Roses, Oasis, and Bon Jovi inspired Neil to first pick up the guitar at the age of 14. It also paved the way for his singing, which is notable in his voice today. From there, he delved into the Progressive and Shred Guitar genre with bands and players such as Dream Theater, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai.
It was also around this time he began taking guitar lessons with Mr. Dave Bridge (a well-known Classical Guitarist and Tutor). With Dave, he studied the Electric Guitar and passed exams according to the RockSchool syllabus. He also studied Classical Guitar, and by doing so immersed himself into understanding the inner-workings of music. Learning pieces by Bach, Mozart, Scarlatti, Tarrega, Debussy, Fernando Sor, and Beethoven inspired Neil to listen and decipher various types of instruments and scores. This later developed his skills in arranging and composition. His biggest inspirations from the Classical world are Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy, Philip Glass, Arvo Part, John Adams, John Williams, Howard Shore, Schoenberg and Bach.
After a few years with his tutor and with continued support, Neil started to study music at Liverpool Community College. The course introduced Neil to many different and new styles of music, one of which being jazz, which later went on to become a great influence to Neil.
“With many of the teachers being Jazzier's, it was hard not to get involved, but I’m so glad I did as it’s been a big part of my playing and teaching methods to date”.
Neil then went on to study a B.A. Honours in Music at Salford University, continuing his studies into both Classical and Jazz Harmony. It was around this time that he became intrigued by another form of music; the art of Song Writing. Listening to many styles, Neil describes the best songwriters to be those who can write catchy melodies whilst also creating something different from the norm. These include artists such as Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Tim Minchin, Raghu Dixit, Sia, Lydia Paek, Robert Miles, Guy Chambers, Henry Krieger, together with bands such as Alter Bridge, Evanescence, and the Beatles being among his favourites. Neil’s decision to study at Salford is owed to the excellent one-to-one tuition that was offered there. This pushed Neil's guitar playing to the next level, with help from a teacher from the modern world of Guitar Playing. The teacher’s last name is unknown, but was fondly known as Paul.
Whilst at University, Neil played guitar for a Progressive Rock band. The band was also in dire need of a vocalist to complete the line-up, so Neil took on this challenge even though he had never sang in public before. He had always strived to improve his singing having had various lessons in College, but he studied mostly from books and videos. The most notable resources used were the ‘Raise Your Voice’ books by Jaime Vendera and online videos from Justin Stoney of New York Vocal Coaching, as well as other various books on vocal anatomy. Neil still uses these resources to teach today. Neil admires the individual singing styles of many artists (Axl Rose, Myles Kennedy, James Taylor, Marvin Gaye, Ragu Dixit, Adele, Sia, CL, M. Shadows, Jennifer Hudson, Rag ’n’ Bone man, Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga and Scot Hoying to name a few). Neil firmly believes:
“everybody is born with their own unique voice and in teaching, it’s my job to bring it out”.
Neil's lecturer (Joe Thomas), was surprised to learn that Neil had decided to take the mic, yet after hearing him sing he expressed some kind and encouraging words that have always remained poignant in Neil’s memory:
“Where the hell did that voice come from?! I was worried about this band, and then you come out with that! I’ve never heard a more perfect voice for this style of music - what a belter!”.
Neil fondly remembers this as the moment that gave him the huge boost to pursue his singing more. He believes that moments and comments such as these can effect a person strongly, even as far as their career path. This taught him to always be kind, positive and encouraging wherever possible, a value which he expresses in day to day life as well as in his teaching. With the aim of developing a better understanding of the anatomy of the voice, Neil has also attended a Voice Workshop. He believes the more you know about the inner workings of the voice the better you know your voice as a whole.
“I see it time and time again with students, if you know what’s going on inside, you can better bring the desired sound you are looking for out. This stuff really works!”
For the duration of Neil’s time studying at College and University, he always taught music to friends and other fellow students, and after leaving University he aspired to become a musician or songwriter, alongside teaching music professionally. He undertook all the necessary exam precautions in Guitar, Singing, Bass and Theory and uses tried and tested methods to help his students become the musicians they want to be. After starting from the very bottom with only one student, word soon got around about the quality of Neil’s teaching expertise. Subsequently his student list quickly grew all the way to forty students per week. He started his teaching business in the summer of 2013 and it continues to grow to this day and exceed all of his expectations. The astounding success led Neil to audition for the best Music School in the NorthWest, Presto Music. He impressed over all other candidates, and was offered the job. He still teaches at Presto today, alongside his private tuition.
In 2015 Neil witnessed the birth of a new style of guitar playing known as Percussion Guitar. Maestros such as Mike Dawes, Andy Mckee and Jon Gomm are at the forefront, and after attending one of Jon’s Master Classes, this new style of playing had a profound effect on Neil resulting in him learning a little and introducing it subtly into his own playing as well as teaching people about it.
Forever eager to learn new styles and continuously striving to improve his playing, Neil acquired a new love, this time for Flamenco Guitar. So much so, in 2018 he travelled to the home of this style of music, to Seville Spain and took an intense course with professional flamenco guitar player, Señor Michele Iaccarino.
“I do believe the best teachers are the ones still learning themselves, so I’m always looking to learn new things. My teacher in Spain was an absolute animal on the guitar, I could feel his passion for flamenco through his enthusiasm. I learnt so much in a short period of time, it gave my playing a new lease of life. One day I’m looking to do more flamenco guitar work”.
Neil endeavours to travel as far as India over the next few years, with the next stop planned on being New York to study under Justin Stoney of New York Vocal Coaching, who he holds as one of the best Vocal Coaches in the world.
Early 2017 saw Neil hit the stage a lot more frequently earning a living not only from teaching, but also playing cover music live.
"I have to admit, a lot of late nights and early morning practices went into playing these covers how I wanted them, not only with my baritone voice making it so I had to change nearly every key *laughs*, but I wanted to be able to make it a little more unique by adding a sense of percussion with my guitar and vocal harmonies, which are achieved by playing and recording them all live.”
Later that year, Neil gained the backing of two separate agents and is playing around the North West solo as well as in two separate duos.
Over the years Neil has played in several bands, lending his playing and singing to numerous styles. With various bands he has extensively toured the U.K. playing gigs and functions up and down the country. Neil has also done some session work, complimenting his guitar and vocal abilities. He also finds time to write his own music which is a broad scope of Progressive, Jazz, Classical, Fusion, R&B and Acoustic Music. From songs, to scores, he is constantly writing and refining his art. To date, Neil is exploring a new passion for Indian music, with its microtonal sounds and rich Eastern harmonies. He hopes one day to study more of it and further broaden his musical horizons. Neil describes his music as a cauldron pot of what he’s learnt over the years. He strives to create a kind of music that resonates but also has something unique and different about it.
“As hey, who remembers what comes after the first? As I recall someone once said”.
In writing my biography, the chronological order reflects my influences over the years, so that people and prospective students can understand what my music and teaching is all about - as you’ve probably realised from reading it, I’m quite the nerd when it comes to all aspects of music! However my number one favourite thing is playing live music. It makes me truly happy and my aim is for my playing to make everyone around me smile too. If my passion and enthusiasm can make other people do the same thing by teaching them, then what a way to spend a life. Lastly to quote Mr. Ludwig Van Beethoven,
"Music is the incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend".
Written in 2014 updated in 2018
Learn more about Lessons and Shows:
www.musicteachers.co.uk (Private Lessons)
www.firsttutors.com/uk/music/teacher/neil.guitar.bass-guitar.singing.music-theory (Private Lessons)
www.facebook.com/musiclessonsliverpool (Private Lessons)
www.prestomusicschool.co.uk (School only)