05. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog Post

           

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and have exciting plans for the brand new year ahead.  I had a wonderful time with my family, despite a run of the flu and the extreme cold weather.  The last couple months I have been distracted from my usual focus, and this is where I make my New Year’s resolve.  I’m going to be a bit selfish and work on more ‘me’ time.  That is, more professional musical development and less busy work in other musical activities.  I also will be working on my quest for sleep and improving my own general health to further support my musical activities.  Rest, health and music when combined with family make for a great quality of life.

My musical focus will be spent on a focus for my advanced repertoire study, development of my musical understanding and more recordings.  My goal for this year will be on performance, both live and recorded.

A special thanks to Cobb Swanson Music for their great $2 boxing day sale!  I was able to pick up several great theory books that I will be distributing to my students.  Sure, they are old, but theory doesn’t change, and for $2, that’s a nice bit of change in return.  The books that we will be using are the “Lawless Theory Course Preliminary Rudiments” 2nd Edition.  I studied from the “Lawless Total Theory” for my RCM theory exam.  All the information I needed for the exam were contained in that one book.  This is the first portion of the book that I used which will get my students started in an sound understanding of music theory. 

The next book is “Keyboard Theory – Intermediate Rudiments” by Grace Vandendool.  Don’t be confused by the keyboard theory portion of the title.  If you are going to pursue the RCM theory exam, you will be exposed to both treble and bass clefs and need to be familiar with reading and writing in both.

Another of my dreams is being fulfilled, one of our Christmas presents includes a 6″ reflecting telescope to arrive early this month.  Along with the telescope I have also subscribed for a family membership with the Royal Regina Astronomical Society.  I have always wanted to organize guitar outings, and now I may be able to combine them into a larger event that including musical BBQ and Star Party.  I will be posting updates as its progress as I go.

Warm up before practicing, keep warm by playing and before we know it, spring will be here!

23. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog Post

Rowers, kayakers, and canoers all have some things in common.  They utilize a conveyance on water, they mechanically propel themselves on the water, and wear life jackets.  Just as they all have similarities, they also have several differences.  They use different mechanisms to propel themselves, they sit different and execute different techniques to achieve their goal.  You can take a good canoeist, put them in a kayak and they may be able to move around, but not nearly as efficiently or cleanly as the kayaker.

The very same can be said of guitarists.  Every style of guitar has their unique differences, and it would be pretty extreme to expect any one style to pick up another and rock it.  This is one of the expectations that beginning classical guitarists have more often than not.  This is even more difficult if they are self taught in the other style of guitar.  Early on, I was told to be aware of the differences between classical and electric styles as it was more difficult as a guitarist to learn both.  Luckily, I had a teacher that played both, who learned from a teacher who played both, and they both did it extremely well.  I can’t say that I do the same, but I managed my lessons just fine transitioning between the two.  What I can say is there was a significant transition from one to the other.  The entire feel of the instrument was different and I had to make an effort to change technique from one to the other.  Beyond that though there are other significant factors that have to be taken into account.

1- Moving from a pick, to a classical right hand.  Pick playing utilizes short fast alternate picking with contact on either side of the plectrum over the strings.  For strumming rhythms, the whole hand and arm is utilized for the rhythm.  Often, the guitarists hand is very close to the strings and body of the guitar, and the palm is involved for additional muting effects.  For classical guitar, the right hand is more stable with minimal movement when playing.  The right hand is also held above the strings with no contact to the guitar body.  Instead of alternate picking, classical guitar uses alternate fingers, generally with more follow through than a pick, and also contact is made on the same side of the string, playing in one direction as opposed to the up / down playing of a pick over the string.

2- Left hand for many styles of guitar use a more laid back hand, with the knuckle of the first finger locked or resting on the neck of the guitar.  This facilitates a fulcrum point for initiating string bending.  Because the electric and steel string acoustic guitars usually have strings that are closer together, finger groupings are more smooshed together. This hand position easily facilitates this.  It was recently demonstrated to me by Dave Grandel of String Theory Guitar Academy how he used one finger to fret two notes by placing his finger straight down between the strings!  I was very impressed.  Classical guitar strings however, are spaced further apart, as are the frets due to the nature of nylon strings.  This allows the intricate left hand fingerings and movement in classical guitar.

3- Seating position for classical guitar is generally not comfortable for other style players.  Generally other styles will usually have the guitar resting on their right thigh while sitting back ( or forward ) when they play.  In this position, they can comfortably play sitting on couches, sides of beds, cross-legged on the floor, on a bench, or just about any where they would want to set and play.  Classical guitar requires a very formal position for proper execution which has the guitar resting on the left thigh which is elevated by a foot stool.  Sure you can play sitting on the edge of a couch, or on the side of a bed, but it’s not recommended, and without that leg raised up, it’s much more difficult.

Given these differences, as well as the differing techniques, if a student has experience in another style of guitar, they must take care and expect a transitional learning curve when they pick up a classical guitar.  Even though they may have a knowledge of the fret board and the notes on a guitar, they will have to take time to balance their left hand to the classical position.

Reading music is another issue.  Most guitarists from other styles are used to reading chord charts, and music written out in tablature.  A guitarist may know instantly how to play a C chord and recognize its variations from a chord chart, but when facing the same chord written on a staff, it will appear drastically different and take time to decipher.

These aspects of sight reading music, and adjusting to the position and techniques of classical guitar all take time to learn.  For the experience guitarist, it may feel like starting all over again.  The effort though is worth it if they stick to it. For once they begin to settle in to the classical technique, they will soon begin to become more comfortable and be able to apply their knowledge to their classical work.  The key then is to adopt the patience of a beginner, to harness the experience they have achieved from their previous guitar experience.

 

Watching a great musical performance one can be left in awe at the effortless mastery that is demonstrated.  That effortlessness is not there because of the Master title, but it is there because through hard work, and patient practice with attention to detail a performer has mastered the effort required to play their music.

The same is said for any movement with sports or artistic endeavor such as painting or drawing.  The effortless motion comes from muscles working together, coordinating without dysfunctional tension and a clear focused mind.  You feel this in golf or baseball when you hit that sweet spot without excess strength, or feel the power in motion with swimming, rowing or running.  If you read any books or listen to any music teacher, they will always talk about slow methodic practice.  Sometimes they may or may not say something very important to you.  They will tell you to “LISTEN”.  Not only is it important to put in the leg work and method into your practice, you must move beyond the mechanics and listen to the sounds that you are creating!  This is where the feel in the music comes.  Listen to how the tone and clarity of sound changes with your touch. Each person is different, with different build in their subset of muscular structures and body shapes.  Each person has different areas where they build up and focus their tensions.  We all breath, but at our own pace.  Therefore it’s not possible to express an all encompassing manual for effortlessness.  Teachers give you the absolute best advice and methodology to lead you toward the mastery of movement, and they can point out issues and direct exercises to help refine the technique, but ultimately it is up to the individual player to listen to the subtleties of their body and their interaction with the instrument to develop the proper touch and tone with effortless mastery.

Lots of books on the subject of mastery use such grand images of effortless mastery which is the goal for any top performer . Seriously though, for the amateur and casual player, this may seem to be  a very lofty ideal to chase after.  Most people hardly have the time to spend with their families, much less with their instrument.  So why bother?  Why does the golfer spend time on the driving range, or on the putting green on the odd weekend?  The answer is the same for guitar.  First it’s the enjoyment of doing an activity that makes you feel good.  Secondly, there is the challenge. For some it is to challenge yourself to be better at doing something that you enjoy that brings satisfaction.  There are also those golden moments where you hit that sweet spot, where you get that feel and touch the sweet spot where the music just sings and you truly find your expression in a single moment in time.   Finally and sadly the most under realized aspect of classical guitar playing is in sharing.

People regularly get together in groups on the golf course, or find a tennis or racquetball buddy that they get together with.  For classical guitar, this happens very little.  Most people isolate themselves either to their living room, bedroom or basement for practice.  I would suggest for any classical guitar player to look for any opportunity they can to share their music, especially with other classical guitarists, but also with non-classical guitarists.

One aspect of golf people talk about is getting out in the fresh air, walking down the greens with good friends.  Classical guitar needs this as well.  There’s nothing better than some fresh air, wonderful flowers, refreshing breeze in the air, and classical guitar.  Golfers have their golf club to retire to for a snack or a meal.  The same is there for classical guitar with a picnic or BBQ, except you don’t need to worry about membership fees!

 

 

There was a time when you could be a killer garage band guitar player and make a nice income teaching on the side based on your word of mouth reputation.  Another side was the music store teacher who had sufficient credibility to hold their own among their peers and teach under the banner of their patron musical merchant.

Often times if you were lucky, you’d have a musical friend who could teach you a few chords, progressions and licks for free which would satisfy your musical curiosity or would set you off on a new path of musical discovery.

The market today has significantly changed, from the orchestral level down to basement musician.  The demand on the dollar has put music on the back burner for the most part, and musicians, specifically guitarists have found a new venue for their art on the internet.

In the early days, you would have to learn your art starting from a method book, like Mel Bay, and then you would pick the rest up by ear.  Then came along publications like Guitar Player magazine which featured articles exercises from the pros, idols and rock gods of the industry, as well as full transcriptions to the hottest works in standard notation and easy to fathom tablature.

So instead of struggling to figure out a song by ear, or paying for lessons to be shown how to play a song, a person could sit down and work through with easier to read notation and get it on their own.

Now today, you have rocking guitarists giving out the meat for free on YouTube with  high quality video and production angles to show you every dynamic of a piece and in slow motion.   For the classical player, you now have accomplished instructors and music majors who are giving the ‘secrets’ of the art away for free.  Scores, methodologies, and detailed video tutorials.  To make matters worse, you are getting the top of the industry master performers and educators who normally charge $100 per hour ( No Joke either !! ) that will give video lessons at a greatly reduced rate, less than the cost of lessons with the kid down the street.

So what does that mean for the local musicians who make their living off of teaching?  What does this free and next to free lessons do for the established market?  Well, it knocks it on its ear, that’s what it does.   No longer can you expect to make a pocket full of money teaching to the absolute beginners, when they can get the same information for free.  Still though, there needs to be an establishment of foundation in technique.  This is where the fabric of teaching lies.

You must be able to instruct to a more advanced, or a more demanding student who will pay for your expertise as a musician.  They will pay for the intricate details that will enable them to advance to the next level.  Status quo isn’t good enough anymore.  If the student isn’t interested in excellence or detail, they will get their information for free one way or another.  There will be some will still prefer to pay to get the basics first hand, those who have no intention of really advancing at all, and they will be looking at music as a luxury or a hobby only.

 

As competition for every dollar in the musical market increases, people become more and more protective.  Every new teacher added becomes a threat to the existing market dollar.  This I believe is the wrong attitude to take.  The ultimate goal is to expand the market, to open up music education as an option to more people.

How would this be done?  First, I believe that it requires performance.  More performances both of the amateur level and of the professional level.  This needs to occur in a greater capacity than has been done in the past.  One must look past the paying gigs in bars, hotels and corporate functions.  While all these are great gigs, and pay well in some cases, they have a limited audience.    Performances have to reach into the community, to reach those that otherwise wouldn’t be found in the bars or corporate functions.  The performances have to be such that it will inspire lay person to consider music as an option and motivate the parent to inquire about the possibility of a musical education for their kids.

Secondly, a unification of the industry instead of fighting off the competition.  This happens when a given store or institution won’t allow the advertising of other teachers on their bulletin boards because it competes with their market.  I believe in an open industry where the potential client is given the best most complete information in regards to their options to suit their needs.  For myself, I find many students are interested in other styles of music, I’m happy to refer them to other teachers.  For other classical students, I refer them to all the options there are for them to pursue, with my own studio being one of those options.  My studio may not be the best fit for them, but I certainly hope that they find my services a valuable resource in connecting them to the best solution for them.  The ultimate goal is to get each potential student playing an instrument.

In the future, I hope we will see a more unified musical front, with workshops, festivals and summer camps of various styles supported by the diverse educators and institutions in the industry.

Commander Chris Hadfield has recently said in his promotion of music and music education, “Like space exploration, music is an amazing human adventure. Something that needs to be shared. It shouldn’t be kept to yourself.” I completely and whole heartedly share this philosophy.  This is why for a second summer  I will be offering  free classical guitar lessons to promote classical guitar and share the musical adventure to those who would otherwise be left out!

Nils Lofgren charges $20 for an hour music lesson for beginners.  Who is Nils Lofgren?  At age 17, Nils played with Neil Young and Crazy Horse.  The multi-instrumentalist had a successful solo career and later joined up with Mr. Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band beginning with the Born in the USA tour, and rejoined with Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt after the band broke up and reformed.  Nils mentioned that one of his lessons might be good for 2 weeks for some, or one week for another, when you are ready, you book your next lesson whenever.  Could you imagine having that opportunity to work with an artist like that.

There is a reason music teachers charge what they do for lessons, whether it’s $20 per hour, or half hour, or even free.  Sometimes, it’s to earn their living, other times they charge for their credentials and experience.  Generally, it’s a passion, and other times, it’s not about the money, but for the opportunity to share with their students the joy of making music.

At 8va Classical Guitar Studio, I believe in a balance.  I have qualifications and I like to earn a living.  That’s why I have established the programs and fee schedules that I have.  I’m not Nils Lofgren, but I do enjoy sharing the power of learning, and I believe that barriers of cost, time and ability should not restrict any person, youth or adult from the opportunity of learning to play an instrument.  Especially for classical guitar.  To get people started, I have free seasonal lessons to introduce classical guitar for the absolute beginner.  It’s for classical guitar only though, so please leave your steel string axe at home.  If you want some lessons on the steel string guitar, try Nils if you have the opportunity, or I could recommend a local guitarist that specializes in steel string acoustic guitars.

By the way, Nils also studied classical music as well as jazz and seriously learned accordion when he as young.  I’m sure for your $20, he could show you some pretty serious musicality, but since he’s teaching to beginners, you’ll probably learn G, C and D.  Once you have those down, who knows where he would take you! Boy what a lesson that would be.

My surgery went really well, and my recovery is progressing faster than I had expected. I have found during this time off, that guitar never sleeps, and after all this rest and limited mobility and pent up energy, I find I don’t either. Not very well at least. As for the guitar, there is so much happening to be excited about. Guitar conventions, camps and workshops are blooming everywhere, even though we are still covered in snow. Guitar recitals, and correspondence are ripe, as too are inquiries into the classical guitar programs here at home! It’s hard to settle a restless mind when there is such excitement and activity around!

The Regina Classical Guitar Society is starting back up for the spring community guitar class and preparations for that are underway. The CNIB guitar class will be starting up in the next few weeks, after I get settled into my regular day to day and other work routine. Until then, I will be working on audio lessons for the students to brush up and make ready for our heavy work load. I’m very impressed with that class, they don’t need any pushing or prodding, they work hard on their own credit and are an inspiration for me. I’m really looking forward to being back with the group, especially with the snow gone! Seeing that the CNIB is just a hop skip and a jump from the park, I’m thinking that over the summer, we may have a few BBQ / Picnic classes which will be very exciting. Tough to think about that when again, we are buried in snow.

Other exciting things to look forward to is the next RCGS board meeting. I had a short visit with some of our members this last week, and it sure is good to touch bases with these folks and to share some great music together. I’m currently working on the agenda for the meeting, and there are a lot of things to work through. Updates on programs, new logos, and the most exciting aspect is our participation with guitarcurriculum.com. This is a program developed by the Austin Classical Guitar Society and their Executive Director, Dr. Matthew Hinsley. This educational program delivers high quality education for classical guitar development in the classroom. It’s a spectacular program and the impact it will have on Regina will be phenomenal!

Remember, 8va Classical Guitar Studio and the Regina Classical Guitar Society are always looking for new ways to get guitars in kids hands and promote music. If you know of a group, organization, individual adult or youth that would benefit from classical guitar education, please contact us so we can make the necessary arrangements.

 

I am beginning to catch a glimpse of the difference between a professional musician and an amateur enthusiast musician. 

 Recently, I challenged myself to see how long it would take for me to work through, memorize and polish a piece to be ready for performance.  Not a small piece, but a bigger stage worthy piece.  That piece in choice was Classical Gas.  I was set on this, the thinking was that a professional musician will need to be able to pick up and perform a given piece in a set amount of time for some special occasion, usually, either a wedding or a guitar competition.

 Through this experiment, I also learned that the laws of physics also apply to music.  The harder I pushed at music, the harder life pushes back, and Classical Gas still sits on my music stand untouched.   

 As an enthusiast of music, there are countless demands on ones time that will distract you from your music job, family, and regular household chores, and for me the constant pursuit of sleep.  Music although an interest for most amateur players, does not factor high in the daily grind.  The demands of music are usually limited to the weekly class, an effort is made to review the previous lesson, practice some and get some work in on the current pieces or studies one has been assigned.  Each week a bit of progress is made on the given pieces, some clarifications and the student is sent back home to review the work again for the next week.

 Generally then for the amateur, there is no pressure for their guitar work.  For myself, I felt this strongly for my learning experiment.  My studies previously have been heavily focused on several aspects of my playing.  Usually a couple pieces at a time, scales and technical exercises.  This is a very comfortable and acceptable routine for me given my past experience in music.  Probably a heavier musical workload than most enthusiasts, but nothing compared to a professional studying music full time in an academic institution.  This is something that I realized, and of late I’ve been working on time management and goal setting for myself, hence another reason for the Classical Gas experiment.  Still, the pressure wasn’t there.

 I have now committed to a guitar project with Rob Reid who is working on his master’s degree.  I have been assigned a guitar duet piece which will be recorded and collaborated on over the internet.  Not a particularly long piece, but one that has its subtleties, but worse still, a deadline of a month.  Now there is some pressure.  Given private guitar lessons, one may take 3 weeks or so just working on a piece like this, along with a couple more pieces at the same time.  For this, I have that much time to learn the piece, polish it up and record it for video to a level that would be presentable and acceptable, leaving enough time for collaboration and changes that may be needed to facilitate the project.  With this time limit, combined with the demands of work and normal life, there is definitely some pressure now. 

 Now time management comes into play more urgently.  Likewise, all those memorization techniques that I’ve learned but never really implemented to their fullest step in.  One method is visualization of the piece when away from the guitar.  With the scale work I’ve been doing, I can now visualize the fret board clearly in my head, shifting my mental picture from neck position to neck position, hearing the notes as I walk through.  With this, and rhythm work, half of the battle is solved before I even sit down to my guitar.  I can now imagine what a full time professional student must face.  Trading in the house work for class time and homework, and perhaps an odd part time job to make ends meet.  Lack of sleep, I think may be something a full time student would face as well.  Add all this up, and then throw on several more guitar projects, and I can certainly appreciate the work that a full time student would need to accomplish, and I gain a new understanding of the importance of all the time management work we do.  Visualization, break downs, chaining, isolation of trouble areas, and to single out voicing’s one at a time.  I can still only imagine the opportunity a professional musician has of purely focusing on guitar work and to be able to delve into the depths of music and musicianship.

Mauro Giuliani’s 120 right hand studies are core for classical guitar.  So many times I hear about the horrors of such studies.  Specifically the monotony of the simple chord changes, C to G7.  I’m surprised by this, I’ve never been one to turn down an exercise, and perhaps I’ve focused too much on the technical aspect of exercises.  120 RH Studies are a fantastic workout and part of my daily warm up routine.  I was thinking about the latest comments I’ve read about them and how they are torture to the ear to listen to and it got me thinking, and I just wanted to share my vision of this great study.

I watched a video today of an 8 minute guitar performance, Napoléon Coste: Fantaisie Dramatique ‘Le Depart’, Op.31 performed by Tariq Harb.  There must have been so much discipline put into this one piece.  Just to think about all the technical aspects had been put into each section, then carefully worked together and mastered as a whole for performance.  If Mr. Harb were to have played the whole piece through 3 times in one sitting, that would probably be well over 30 minutes on one piece.  My thought on this is if a person should get bored with a simple exercise, how can you even expect to practically face a challenge such as Fantaisie Dramatique ‘Le Depart’?

Likewise, many accompaniment works have the guitar working continuous arpeggios and chord passages.  Yes, they are more complicated than the 120 RH Exercises, but they too would see to become a drag.

One other observation regarding the 120 RH studies, I recall from my early exposure to them.  As a new student of classical guitar, they seemed difficult and picky.  How can anyone expect you to be able to hit all those notes accurately going up and down repetitively over and over again?

So the 120 Right Hand Exercises are more than just a mechanical work out for the right hand.  It’s an exercise of the mind, to be able to focus concentration and maintain that discipline for the duration of their practice.  Many times teachers and educators will tell you to look for the musicality in your practice.  This means for this study, it may be of benefit to think of another instrument performing grand melodies overtop of the accompaniment you are playing.  From this, you can vary the dynamics of your playing, from piano, to forte, change the position of your playing, ponticello to tasto, the attack of your right hand to for a crisp thin to a full warm tone.  All the while with your practice, you will listen to the sound of what you are playing, even clear notes.  Hopefully, with the accompaniment of your ever trusty metronome!

The work you put in to Giuliani’s Right Hand Studies will forever serve your foundation in classical guitar, just as scales and other studies and exercises, and lend to the ability to play the larger works that we strive for.

Derek

 

Modes are something that are magical in music. They convey moods in a given context. However, they are often glossed over briefly in graded theory books without much detail. Back when I took my RCM theory, the book “Total Theory” by James Lawless, a fine theory resource that got me through my exam quite well, but sorely lacked content for modes, maybe half a page, and mostly it was a chart listing the modes. What I found also, was that the RCM theory exam didn’t really cover modes at all. In reviewing and brushing up my theory I have found that the “Elementary Rudiments” by mark Sarnecki is also a fine series of theory books. There are a few things that are expanded on or touch in with more details in this series of books. The biggest thing I’ve found so far is their coverage of modes. Instead of just half a page with a bit of descriptive text, we have 5 pages dedicated to the modes, with exercises following, with tips for analysis.

Now most guitarists from an electrical background will be familiar with modes from moveable scale patterns, they know the G Dorian mode, because they use the Dorian scale pattern, starting on G. Some guitarists will also develop a passion for a specific mode pattern and will use it to define their style. So for further understanding of modes for those that may be interested, I found the following web page.   www.masterthemodes.com 

Now to just sit down, work thorugh it and some exercises to put it all together!

Derek

Symphony Under the Sky draws music lovers to Wascana Park

Global News : Sunday, August 19, 2012 6:15 PM
 

 
 

Reginans gathered in Wascana Park Sunday for the Symphony Under the Sky music festival, put on by the Regina Symphony Orchestra. It’s an event that draws crowds every year, whether to have a bite at one of the many food vendors, take part in an art workshop, or even get a ten minute massage. But there’s one thing that keeps people coming back: the music. 

Sunday afternoon saw eight different bands play. Most of them were local artists from Regina. 

“I feel like we can bring people who don’t normally come to see our upbeat rock shows, and give them a taste of something different,” said Judd Stachoski, a member of the local band The Bystanders. 

This event was a chance for Stachoski and many others to get their names out, and at the same time, help draw in a crowd for the symphony orchestra, which was performing in the evening. After all, even though the RSO’s ricket sales are going strong, not everyone is into classical music. This event was the orchestra’s way of saying, ‘come give me a try.’ 

“Once people see what the orchestra can do… a lot of people do come out after that [to watch us],” said Colin Neufeld, who organized this event. 

It’s not only the RSO that benefits from this festival, either. 

“It exposes young people to classical music, and… we really appreciate that,” said Derek Arvidson from the Regina Classical Guitar Society. 

With over 70 volunteers on hand to keep things running, this festival was no easy task to plan and manage. But this year, it seemed to go off without a hitch.

Read it on Global News: Global Regina | Symphony Under the Sky draws music lovers to Wascana Park