My latest podcasts

I have added a load of new podcasts to the podcast page:


Please listen, enjoy and give me your feedback!

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Modulation podcast

Here is my latest music podcast about modulations. Where and when to use them and how to create convincing key changes.
The Modulation

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First music podcast

Here is the first podcast in a series I am going to produce. It is an excerpt of a larger show that explores how music is constructed, starting with the basic tones of consonance and dissonance, and exploring how these notes work in chords, how chords fit together, and how chord progressions have been used to create music across all genres. I will be taking the show on the road soon so stay posted to find out where and when.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this, the first podcast, about the perfect cadence. Your feedback would be much appreciated.

The perfect cadence

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First podcast ready.

This is the very first podcast about musical comedy improvisation that I have done with Heather, my musical improv partner in crime. Please listen and let us know what you think.
Also watch this space for my how music works podcast coming soon…

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South Side Story

Just returned from an amazing break in Madeira with the family, both old and young.  We were fortunate enough to take a trip around the island on a day where there was cloud cover.  I have not spent much time in mountainous places so have never witnessed the incredible feeling of looking down on clouds.  I have increased the speed of these clips by 800%.

I am planning on putting together a montage and perhaps writing some music to go with it.  I know that has already been done to incredible effect in Koyanisqaatsi, but I will give it a go!

Maydays show on Saturday was fantastic.  Our new Saturday night slot at the Komedia is working very well, and we can finally stop beating ourselves up about not generating an audience, we were sold out by Tuesday.  Here is a wee clip…

If you want to see and hear more, I have posted a slightly more detailed blog at

Finally, West Side Story at the secondary school I teach at this week.  The only consolation I can give myself at this stage is that this is exactly what I felt like before doing Les Mis with them last year.  Utter hopelessness!  Les Mis was a huge success and I can only assume that we will pull this one out of the bag as well.  The only terrifying thing is that I have to play the piano part all the way through, and if the orchestra gets lost, then it is my job to keep the music going.  All very well, but I think I might need to actually practise some of it at some stage before we open on Wednesday.  Damn that Mr Bernstein.

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Maydays take off at Komedia


Last night’s Maydays show at the Komedia was a fine example of how an audience can make a show take off.  The studio bar was bulging not only with people, but with a warm excitement, a radiant benevolence for the show they were about to witness.  30 paying customers were turned away at the door and it was standing room only for those lucky enough to get in at the last minute.

With the help of Adam Kidd’s booming voice over, and my typically over the top musical entrance music, The Maydays arrived on stage in a storm of almost American style applause and whooping.  I am very happy to say that the show lived up to its reception as the Maydays took articles from The Argus (Brighton’s local newspaper) and transformed them into  magical, comical and downright surreal scenes (I still don’t know what an “ash-pumper” is!).

The second half flew past in a flurry of articles, quick-fire gags and longer, 5-person scenes (examples of both on the videos).  The descent into crudity as we reached the climax of the show was fortunately approved by the audience and we ended on the line, “So you found the cream then?”.  If you were not there…use your imagination!

It was gratifying to live up to the Saturday night slot we have managed to fill at the Komedia Studio Bar, and I am sure that this contributed to the large amount of people that were coming to see us for the first time.  It really does feel like the wave of improvisation is building, and that I for one feel very excited and privileged to be paddling on my surfboard ready to catch it.

To come and see us in action, check out the Maydays website.

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Giant Steps analysed with SeeChord.

Hello all,

Here is a look at the ubiquitous “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane.  It is one of the first pieces of music I ever analysed using SeeChord and I can safely say I have never seen another chart like it!  Enjoy.

giant steps with commentary

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Mayday, Music Box and The Miller.

It’s been a fantastic run of gigs and general improv life this week.  Maydays were at the Miller (pub near London Bridge that is fast becoming the London home of improv) on Tuesday, trying out our new Confessions! Show.  The idea is to get down and dirty with the audience and extract some juicy anecdotes about love, life, triumph and despair.  Then we turn these into magical improv scenes before their very eyes.  A disappointing turnout at the Miller, but disheartened we were not, and gave one of our best shows so far this year. 

Highlights?  Probably the surgeon who had to sing in order to keep a steady hand, and the finest example of a “push the button” scene I have ever witnessed.  A “push the button” scene is where  you find something funny in a scene and you just keep doing it!  In this case it was simply that Katie was to do a marathon tomorrow, but Steve was trying to point out that you have to do some training.  After about 20 repetitions of, “You have to train to do a marathon”, “Yes but it’s tomorrow”, and various elaborations on this theme, my jaw ached from laughing and the audience were beyond salvation.

Last night I did a Music Box gig also at the Miller.  The room was packed with people which was very gratifying and Fat Kitten improv supplied a riotous first half of Victorian short form.  In the second half, Music box improvised an entire musical from a location, an object and a song title.  Last night we were on the ski slopes with aubergines, reminded that “What goes up, must come down”.  From a musical director point of view, this is very liberating to be in charge of the entire music that runs through a show.  I find that I am beginning to ascribe musical themes to different characters so that when they come on, I can give a little musical ident. 

<WARNING-the following paragraph contains strongly pseudo-intellectual and slightly patronising language>

I believe that Wagner (not X-factor but Richard) was the prime extemporiser of the leitmotif in opera.  In his famous ring cycle he repeatedly used musical themes to represent the different characters, weaving the themes together as the characters interact on stage.

All in all, it was improv that won in the end.  I was not quite sure if the characters had realised their dreams, requited their love, or acted out their epiphanies, but the journey was thrilling and magical.  Long live improv. Amen

Joe Samuel.

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Stairway to heaven climbed!

Here is my analysis of the chord progressions in “Stairway to Heaven”.  Let me know if you have learnt anything!

Stairway to Heaven analyzed by Joe Samuel

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Bohemian rhapsody exposed!

It is arguably the most popular song of all time, appearing in the top 10 of almost every top 10 song list ever.  Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen needs no introduction.  However, it does need analysing.  How do those crazy chord progressions work?  Does it obey the normal rules of songwriting?  Was it ground breaking?

I hope I can answer all of those questions now I have looked at Bohemian Rhapsody through the eyes of SeeChord.  I have made a little video of the results.  Enjoy and let me know if you are now enlightened!

Bohemain Rhapsody analysed with SeeChord

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