The first guitar I got my hands on, as a three year old, was a typical 1970s EKO Ranger 12 string that was picking up dust in a corner of my family home. Over the next few years I managed to work out some simple tunes but only really started to dream bigger around my tenth birthday after teaching myself to play ‘Big Bill Broonzy’s Guitar Shuffle’. Unfortunately, growing up rurally in the 70s and 80s meant no access to a music tutor – the days before the internet! All I had was a tape recording and a book with something called ‘tab’. I eventually figured out for myself how it worked and will never forget that indescribable moment of total clarity and exhilaration nailing that Big Bill tune. There would be no looking back!
Ragtime, simple acoustic classical pieces, Beatles and Blues slide filled my next two years until I got my first electric guitar aged twelve. It was a ‘Top 20’, a truly hideous, unplayable monstrosity purchased from a mail order catalogue. Realising no one was going to offer me a decent instrument any time soon, I worked the local paper round for a year to save enough to buy my first acceptable electric, a second hand Gibson SG copy. It was made by a company called Saxon which (ironically), would later get upgraded with Dimarzio Paf pickups.
High school and charity concerts lead to my first paid gig which made me enough money to become the proud owner of a new Kramer Baretta. I also worked a day job as an apprentice mechanic from 1987-89 but had a clear plan to go to music college.
The audition for Perth College’s contemporary music course was a success and I was off to study music for two years. My parents didn’t take music as a serious career option so escaping that life to a place where I got the opportunity to practice 24/7 in a music centred environment was ideal. Throughout the college years I performed in a rock covers band playing weekend gigs before moving to Edinburgh to teach privately and concentrate on writing original material. In 1992 I was asked if I would be interested in moving to Eire to join ‘Bohinta’, an eclectic act fronted by Martin Furey (eldest son of Irish legend Finbar Furey). This would be the start of my ‘professional music career’.
As well as having a naturally empathic disposition, years of Martial training has taught Roy that the only person you need prove anything to is yourself. For over 30 years he has applied Chinese philosophy to his practice, playing and approach to musical endeavours. His legendary 20 hour practice sessions back in the 90s are not mythical – they really happened; regularly and often! It is clear to see how that level of absolute commitment and focus has paid off.
‘A teacher is never a giver of truth, he/she is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for themselves.’
For the first five years in Ireland I cut my teeth playing with countless musicians and acts, touring and recording hundreds of sessions. Many recordings were done in what is now ‘Pulse Recording Studio’, Windmill Lane. During the Dublin years I met RTE conductor Gearoid Grant and was offered the guitarist role in the theatre pit band for shows like Godspell, Rocky Horror and Jesus Christ Super Star. If my chart reading wasn’t honed to perfection already it would be after those few years in the pit! Between shows I worked in archaeology and met some great people there too. I left Dublin in 1997 to join Scottish contemporary traditional act ‘The Iron Horse’.
From 1997-2001 I recorded and toured with ‘The Iron Horse’ through Germany, Finland, Spain, France, Italy, Kazhakstan, Turkmenistan, Kurzhakstan, USA and the UK, culminating in what would be our last concert together in Uzbekistan with a 20 piece chamber Orchestra , ‘Sogdiana’ in 2002. A recording from my live televised session with that orchestra can be found on my YouTube channel – here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXG3prZWFlM. During this fantastic time of learning and growing musically I recorded on albums for celebrated Irish vocalist Aine Furey, innovative young band The Invisible Boss and when I could find time for my own projects, I began writing for my debut CD ‘Widowmakers Highway’.
“You are a mad man, it doesn’t seem real but I’ve seen you do it live so I know that it is!”
Instagram, Nov 2019
Lured by the possibility of learning Flamenco and experiencing a different culture I moved to Barcelona for 10 years (2001-2011). What transpired instead was a period of playing jazz standards and some interesting projects with a spoken word artist performing in various venues. The day jobs of archaeology, learning to restore buildings and become a skilled tiler have all proven useful since, though at the time I could only see it as a way of funding my own music and building my recording studio. At night I did learn to play some Flamenco and continued the recording of ‘Widowmakers Highway’ which was completed and released in 2005.
Regrettably the CD was not properly mixed and to add to the disappointment, after five years of recording, not to mention 15 plus years composing, the mastering was butchered in a rush to meet a deadline imposed by others. I discontinued it in 2008 and it’s no longer for sale. For the curious I think you can still hear some of the tracks for free on the usual outlets. After that learning curve, I have come to accept that it’s best to trust the direction you want to go in and as a result I have refused to sell out to the ideals of others or sell my music short of the mark in any way.
This might have meant fame and fortune has not been as forthcoming but neither has the unnecessary hassle and creative compromise that often attaches itself to that. If music, for me, had ever been about conventional ‘success’ I could have taken a number of opportunities but would have been creatively stifled and may never have become the authentic and accomplished musician I am today. Determinedly I continued recording ‘The Grand Design’ – ever focused to get the job done despite the daily challenges in my path. It was around this time I accepted the endorsement from DiMarzio and still use these pickups on most of my guitars.
Dweezil Zappa had seen my live footage around 2006. He and I decided we would like to meet at some point in the future. This was something I was looking forward to, having long been an admirer of both Frank’s and Dweezil’s music and philosophies. We would keep in touch and see where it led…In the meantime Dweezil tweeted – “Hello Everyone, I found myself listening with amazement to a guitarist by the name of Roy Marchbank. Check him out!” What a recommendation!
Back in the real world, my son was born (2007) and the financial crash hit Spain right around the time I graduated as an electrician (2008). Achieving that qualification was no mean feat given I studied in a second language and then was surprised by having to sit the exam in Catalan! The economic crash decimated the construction industry and made any work impossible to find, so despite continuing to progress my EP ‘The Grand Design’ I decided to return to Scotland. This worked out well for my elderly parents as their health was deteriorating. I agreed, somewhat naively in retrospect, to become their full-time Carer, a demanding role I coped with for the next six years. I have great admiration for all Carers, it has got to be the toughest gig going!
Between 2011-2017 I continued composing, recording and producing ‘The Grand Design’ EP with Atma Anur – Drums, Tommy Lockett – Bass, Tommy Keane – Low Flute, Uilleann Pipes and myself on Guitars. After great effort and sacrifice it was released in 2015 under my own label ‘Widowmaker Studios’.The same year I received a mail from Dweezil asking if I would like to join him on stage that October at The Royal Festival Hall, London for his ‘Zappa plays Zappa’ tour. Of course, I readily accepted and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Dweezil now has one of my Phat Bhoy Picks and I appreciate his continued support of my playing.
As a self-funded musician Roy has never succumbed to compromising his music in order to get ahead. This unique, diverse player has persisted for the sheer love of his instrument and in a bid to explore beyond the so called boundaries of his art. In years gone by, it is fair to say some tried to silence him. Even now after the release of his recent “Up Close Guitar Technique Series”, where his playing is presented live, clean and clear, some still bizarrely question its integrity. Through this official platform speculations and suppositions will be dispelled as well as providing more material you can see, hear and understand, clearly demonstrating his sought after technique he has defined as Hybrid Sarod.
Though I had escaped to play the gig with Dweezil, my years as an unpaid Carer to my parents severely impeded my ability to tour, yet I still managed to gig in Scotland providing backing requirements for a popular Ceilidh act. I also played occasional solo acoustic performances around South and Central Scotland and recorded local groups in my studio. My father passed away in 2016 and my mother followed a year later. The experience of being a Carer had brought me financially, physically and mentally to my knees, as it does to many who care. The love of music and a good woman, who was to become my wife, revived my spirit and the drive to continue with my next venture..
On marrying Jill in 2017 I moved to Glasgow where I recorded and co-produced my instrumental single ‘Well of Heads’ with Atma Anur (Drums) and Tony Franklin joining us on Bass. Finally, being in an urban environment, able to access all I had long needed, I finished developing my signature, multifaceted plectrum design the ‘Phat Bhoy Pick’. I recorded my ‘Up Close Guitar Technique Series’ (on YouTube) to better explain how my Hybrid Sarod technique works and how I use the Phat Bhoy Pick to enhance that.
Since its launch two years ago the Phat Bhoys have found homes in over 50 countries worldwide with Guitarists of all kinds, Bassists and players of other stringed instruments like Mandolin and Oud. In 2018 I launched ‘The Phat Bhoy Ice Pick’ to join the Classic Phat Bhoy and together with the new ‘Phat Bhoy Hydra’ they are making great progress rethinking alternate picking and alleviating wrist tension. Bringing us up to date, I now give online tuition via Skype, Facetime etc with excellent pupils as far away as India and Australia, America and Europe. Lessons are geared to what the player would like to learn from me, it’s important they get what they came for and feel a real benefit in their playing and musical understanding. See client feedback below.
Last year I travelled to Poland to finally meet and rehearse with my musical brother Atma Anur https://www.atmaanur.com. We decided to join forces and record our forthcoming Modern Orchestral Jazz fusion CD. So far we have recorded with an all-star line up of guest artists:
Keys (The Scientists)
Keys (Steve Smith, Neal Schon, Kitaro)
Violin (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, Jan Hammer)
Trumpet (revered Scottish Jazz session musician)
Keys (Eddi Reader, Billy Cobham)
Sax (Steve Smith, Zakir Hussain)
Various teasers have already been released on YouTube and Instagram as we complete the final two pieces for what promises to be the culmination of an epic musical journey. We are crafting this CD with the care, focus and passion of the time served musician. Introducing something new, vibrant and interesting we will tour the album when we’re ready to bring it, but bring it we shall – soon! Updates to follow, check out my blog.
I am delighted to conclude 2019 with the launch of my official Roy Marchbank website. It is the only place to come to purchase any of my Phat Bhoy Picks. You can also buy my music here, book lessons, find out about where to see me at or book me for a guitar clinic and get tickets for forthcoming gigs. Moreover, this platform is about sharing a true understanding of my music and technique. Check out the blog regularly for progress on the forthcoming Modern Orchestral Jazz Fusion CD, updates on my gear and how I put it to good use, watch my new live technique clips and much more. If you like what you see, spread the positive vibe, subscribe & follow on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook.
“EVERYTHING YOU SEE IS EXACTLY AS IT WAS PLAYED”
“I have sat with Roy Marchbank in my studio and in my home for months playing through our ideas for the upcoming CD and I can tell you that everything you see and hear is exactly as it was played… nothing is sped up, or slowed down for that matter.”
Atma Anur (2019)
The speed bevels make for an extremely easy pass over the strings without getting snagged. The grip concave keeps the pick held firmly even with a very loose grip. For years I had to deal with the inefficiencies of the Jazz III picks. Now I can say that I see very clear potential in my playing. This is how a guitar pick was meant to be! Thanks again Roy!”
Joshua Lum, U.S.A.
“I can definitely notice increase in speed and accuracy, it is pretty amazing actually! Due to the thickness the pick seems locked into the strings and due to the roundness, it slices like a hot knife in butter through the picking motions. Also there is much less room for string buzzing, which is an important feat as well. The good thing is that due to this I can focus much more on the speed/accuracy/coordination of the left hand as I have to be less worried about the picking hand, where the motion seems to be much more an automatic pilot 😉 Thanks again for this awesome pick, it is a great contribution to my playing and will absolutely inspire many new musical ideas!”
Sybren Boonstra, Holland
“Roy’s abilities on the guitar defy logic and transcend imagination and the methods to his madness are unquestionably unique. As a student of Roy, I’ve gained serious improvements in the areas of my playing of which I’ve sought improvement. There are so many unique strategies for fluidity on the instrument that I’d likely have never discovered without his insights. He can accommodate any guitarists’ desired goals with meticulous training regimens, concepts, and suggestions. Best of all, Roy is about as down-to-Earth as they come and extremely easy to work with. With all of that in mind, I highly recommend Roy Marchbank as an instructor.”
“I have tried various tutors over the years but find Roy to be, by far the more knowledgeable of them all. That said he is the most humble and has lots of patience and good humour to share along with the pleasure of witnessing his incomparable technique first hand. Roy has helped me to correct some of my technique and to develop a focused practice regime that’s not only enjoyable itself but is rewarding as I can feel and hear myself improving exponentially. I use the Classic Phat Bhoy and have a Hydra on order. He is in my opinion the most innovative guitarist of our time”.
“Roy’s vast musical knowledge, ability to play at an almost inhuman level and approach to breaking down complex musical topics & techniques makes tackling daunting new skills a breeze. Roy truly goes above and beyond to supply world class lessons, create phenomenal music and never ceases to be a source of inspiration!”
“I have to say, it’s one of the smoothest pick experiences I’ve ever had. Feels like playing with actual ice! At the beginning it was a bit awkward to come to grips with it but after a while I realized that this is probably one of the most ergonomic picks ever made. You sure did put a lot of thought into your picks Roy I’m really astonished.”
Jhojan Segura, USA
“This pick kickass and seems to actually reduce friction on the strings; it’s crazy just glides across”
“So happy with the Phat Bhoy Pick. I think that my picking speed roughly increased about 20% because of it, so not bad” 😉
Jupe Jalas- Finland