06. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

It is very important to expose yourself to as much music as you can.  Studies, etudes, and smaller pieces.  This is also very important for sight reading.  As Jason Vieaux teaches, your sight reading shouldn’t be more than 2 grades below your playing ability.  For most that I talk with, that is an area that needs further development, and is another topic all together.  The goal for any guitarist is to learn more pieces, and to play them well.  For the beginning guitarist, this may seem an extremely difficult task, with all the effort of learning technique, learning to read music and to try to learn a new piece may be enough to discourage one with a casual interest.  For an enthusiast, this is just the start.

To help a student through the initial difficulties of learning new pieces, it helps to keep everything in perspective.  Lets compare learning music to another task, say writing a book.  Using a reference that most people will understand due to it’s popularity, we will look at Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  The book is 309 pages, with 17 chapters.  It took 5 years to write.  Mind you, the author claimed that in this time she was planning out later books.  We can compare this extra time to additional work that a guitarist must make in practice.  So 5 years works out to be 60 months.  With 17 chapters it works out to about 3 months per chapter.  This time to write one chapter of a book works out to be about the same time to learn a new piece, 3 months!  Mind you, some pieces, like some chapters in a book, may be larger or more complicated and take more time to learn.

Now, once a chapter in a book is written, it’s done and off to the publisher.  Not so with classical guitar.  With music, once you’ve learned a piece, you have to maintain it.  Keep it in shape to prevent errors from creeping in and to keep it in ones memory.  For a given author, once the chapter is written and in the book, they can sign it, give it out, read it aloud to their audience easily word for word.  The written story is available any time for any member in the public to access.  For the musician however, although we don’t have to go through the whole process of crafting the story each time a piece is played, you essentially have to ‘type’ out the manuscript fresh, word for word for the listening audience.

When you look at learning a piece in this fashion, you can appreciate the time that it takes to properly learn a piece.  Remember though, that as you are learning one piece, keep practicing your sight reading by continually playing other pieces that are new to you.  In this way, you will build your repertoire and garner a deeper understanding of your instrument and music.  You may also find other pieces that you will wish to commit to the full learning process and add to your repertoire.  But most importantly, have fun, enjoy and don’t give up!  The worst piece in your repertoire are is the one not played!

06. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Feature

As we start learning to play music, it is imperative to learn proper rhythm to not only know the timing of notes inside and out, but how to count them!  New students for classical guitar focus so much on the notes and trying to get a piece down, and play it from start to finish, they tend to sacrifice the rhythm and lose track of the count.  This is especially true if the student comes from another instrument or guitar style that didn’t focus so much on timing, but rather intuitive feel of the music.  A more relaxed go with the flow approach.  As a beginner, you start with simpler rhythms, you understand the concepts of timing and simple counting which are easily applied to beginner pieces.  With this perceived ease of music that is presented early on, the student just goes for it without focusing on counting.  This is especially true with younger kids, but not necessarily limited to age.  Without the careful discipline from the beginning, dotted rhythms, or more complicated rhythm patterns, triplets and such will become barriers to playing beautiful music.

Any respectable teacher will tell their students to count the notes, but not many will go through phrases of music with the student, counting the music out away from the instrument.  Unless the student is taught how to do this, to feel comfortable how to do this properly, there is no way that they will be able to implement an accurate count of the rhythm when they practice.  They will go by memory from their class work, and get the feel.  More times than not, their feel will be off and it will lead to timing errors.

Many of my teachers tell their students to slow down the practice, or as Jason Vieaux adds, ‘pare down’ the size of work you are practicing, usually, we assume it’s to facilitate the technical fingerings.  We must also do this with our counting.  Pare down the sections and count them out slowly so as to understand the timings properly.  When a section is pared down and slowed down enough, you will be able to focus on the timing without compromising your technique.  Then you can build up your speed with technique with a solid foundation of the rhythm and play your music expressively and in time with good technique and relaxation.  Take some time away from your instrument, clap the rhythm slowly, sing or voice the rhythm as you go before you even start to practice the piece on your instrument.  Remember, reading music, playing and counting at the same time is difficult!  Especially when there are mixed note values, complicated rhythms with dotted notes, arpeggios and fast scale passages.  When a student is having troubles playing a piece, to make it easier, they will usually forgo the counting to focus on the playing.  The modus operandi for this situation, “Pare Down, Slow Down and Count!”   If you can’t count it, you are either doing too much at once, or going too fast.  Once you can count it carefully, and you begin to speed up and maintain the rhythm with counting, then you can internalize the piece and fully express the pulse and flow of the music, but never lose site of the rhythm or get too far removed from the counting!

03. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

The school year has started, lunches are packed and kids are hard at work with their studies.  This also starts a fresh new year for myself as a teacher, and for 8va Classical Guitar Studio.

There is so much work to be done above and beyond the regular practice and study I need to do each day.  In addition to the administration I do for my studio, and the RCGS, I am also embarking on a great new music program teaching classical guitar at St. Augustine School!  I am really looking forward to expanding classical guitar in Regina to a new, eager group of kids, who are the future of classical guitar in Regina.

Keep your eyes peeled for postings of recitals and performances with the new classical guitar class.  I can’t wait for both our solo and ensemble performances.  Music has never been so exciting!!