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Artist Spotlight: Charles Roper

Today we will be talking about Mr Charles Roper - a young guitarist from Devon in the south of the United Kingdom. Picture the scene - apple orchards for as far as the eye can see and a million notes floating on the wind, it can only be one person and that person is Charles. Think of him like Michael Angelo Batio cosplaying as an apple farmer, though with nicer melodies and keys to a combine harvester instead of a Lamborghini. 


He describes himself as an “Instrumental Rock/Fusion Guitarist and Educator” - a formidable combination if done correctly… which it is. Let us get to know him a bit better!



Biography


Charles began playing the guitar at roughly 14 years of age as a result of a school project that thrust a guitar into his hands. Similar to myself, he was inspired even more so by the Guitar Hero 3 game, but wanted the whole process to be more ‘real’. I had BB King to really give me the kick I needed to take it seriously, but Charles got that from Paul Gilbert by way of the song ‘Technical Difficulties’ - I guess it was a sign of things to come!


After taking lessons for a short while, practicing as much as possible and being self-taught for a few years, Charles moved on to higher education at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, UK. This opened his eyes to a broader perspective of music; topics such as phrasing, theory and performing with others suddenly became as important to him as the technique that had been his sole focus up to this point. 


His influences include Paul Gilbert as already mentioned, the enviable Guthrie Govan (we are not worthy!) and Joe Bonamassa. The latter influence was important in developing his own signature style, Gilbert and Govan had initially been about the speed, but Bonamassa’s music is a masterclass in bending and incorporating the technique effectively. 


What Kind of Music Do You Not Like?


Charles' answer to this question was in part the same as everyone else’s, he tries to see something good in everything he listens to. I had to push him really hard to open up here, but eventually I got an answer: Jump Up.


Jump Up is an off-shoot of drum and bass, and similarly features many samples and repetitive sounds. However, his observations center around a lack of consistent harmony and a feeling of being put together with no actual thought. After listening to a selection of songs from this subgenre, I can see what he means. However, perhaps it is the lack of structure and coherency that allows people to feel free and simply relax; not having something solid to hold on to could potentially make it easier to let go of.


Working as a Musician


A few short years after graduating from the Academy of Contemporary Music, he was invited back to be a lecturer - the youngest lecturer in the history of the establishment. So as far as education is concerned, Charles has the upper hand on many teachers, having taught at all levels. Additionally, Twitch has been an interesting outlet, having streamed on the platform for a number of years. For those unaware, Twitch can be used to stream pretty much anything, and Charles used the platform to showcase his practice as well as behind the scenes footage of him recording his first album (more on that later!), the occasional lesson and even some gaming. 


Having played in many different scenarios over his career so far, the ability to adapt quickly is something that is learned and not necessarily taught (this is the same for me also). If a certain style comes along and it is not in the typical remit for yourself as a musician, you must be able to adapt. Charles and I experienced this together when we played acoustic guitar together for an electronic dance artist many years ago. 


Equipment


Sometimes people just know what they like, and they stick with it. Charles uses a Vigier Excalibur, a high-end guitar made in France and associated with guitarists like Gary Moore, Bumblefoot (Ron Thal) and Shawn Lane. The only other addition to his signal chain is the HX Stomp XL from Line 6 - that is very simplistic even by the most bare-bones of standards! To me this shows that his focus is more on the playing rather than having many different tonal options, not that that isn’t possible with the Helix family of products. 



Has Your Playing Ever Been Judged Prematurely?


Charles has a lot to say here, and rightly so. Guthrie Govan, despite being one of the best guitarists to have ever lived, is often lambasted and labeled as inferior because he can play extremely quickly. He has always said that he plays the music that is in his head, and it just so happens that sometimes it is fast. Charles has also faced this, something we’ll break down now. 


Whilst teaching a masterclass, a member of the audience that was clearly spoiling for a fight decided to ask the following question:


“Do you find the speed at which you play is detrimental to the melody? Why don't you play slower?”


The response that was given, truncated and paraphrased by Charles, was as follows:


“You cannot compare fast and slow playing as they serve different sound purposes, but they can co-exist and many players do this incredibly well”


Not only do many players have the ability to be able to expertly mix fast and slow playing together, their decision to do so is based on one thing - serving the song! There are many layers to this and, whilst there is an element of subjectivity, common sense definitely plays a part. If you are playing a slow blues, ‘slow’ being the key word here, then it would simply not work if you decided to shred through a blistering solo, regardless if all of the notes were musical coherent. 


From the response Charles gave to this question, and it is something we discussed at length, here is the most poignant quote that I think is worth sharing by itself:


“ - there is no need for this divide between 'Shredders' and the 'Blues Vanguard'. It's just music”


I could not agree with this statement more - when all is said and done, it is just music. A point we both agree on is that questions such as these seem to undermine faster playing, labeling it as worse when the argument is unsubstantiated. Too often people blur the lines of subjectivity and objectivity, believing something as fact when it is their opinion. 


From an aesthetic standpoint, Charles always dresses smartly in a shirt and shoes (as well as other clothes, I hasten to add!), sometimes even a flat cap (not that I can figure out why!?). You would assume based on appearances that he may play some form of jazz, or perhaps something a bit more folk inspired, something he can definitely do if required but quite far removed from the music he writes of his own accord. 


Advice for Beginners


I have graciously been furnished with a number of points, each of which is great advice for both beginners and musicians in general. 


  • Get a teacher - the best teachers can not only back up what they teach with their own playing, but you have to get on with them too (those the American Guitar Academy are amongst the best in Japan!),

  • Listen to lots of music - open your ears to as much as possible,

  • Get into a musical ecosystem - go to jam nights/open mic events, start or join a band. Maybe even join an online community.

  • Have fun and do not compare your progress to someone else’s - echoing the words of the great Tomo Fujita, we are all on our own path so just enjoy the ride.


“Your musical journey is as unique as you are”



What is New?

Charles has just finished releasing his first solo album, featuring mixing/mastering by Marco Meniconi and a solid rhythm section. ‘Desiderium’ was released near the beginning of May 2024, and is available on all popular streaming platforms as well as YouTube.


I have witnessed the album come to life over the past couple of years, and even have a hand-written chart for the title tune in my studio. However, I can honestly say that I enjoy listening to this album as much as I would that from a bigger name in the industry, and I would recommend it to anyone that likes lots of notes, catchy melodies and all round great songwriting. 


Here are some links you can use to keep up with what Charles is doing:


Alex

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