02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Feature

Finding the right teacher is so very important.  You might like your teacher because they are in a cool rock band, or you get along really well and you enjoy the lessons.  That is fine for in a social or hobby perspective, you are learning some, but you really enjoy the time spent and that’s what’s important for you.

If however, your goal is to learn to play classical guitar, you have to ask seriously ask yourself and your teacher a couple questions.  First, can they play classical guitar?  Do they really know the material and especially, the technique?  Second, can they teach the technique and material?

The classical guitar technique books are awesome, no doubt about that, but to understand the technique goes beyond a picture and couple paragraphs in a book.  Can your teacher sit down and explain the fundamental techniques to you, and adjust your lessons to your individual needs.  It’s more than just telling you to curve your fingers, straighten your wrist, your teacher needs to be able to help you understand the form and develop practices that will focus on improving your fundamental technique.

After a few lessons, your teacher should have a small checklist of things specific for you to check when you are at home practicing on your own that will help reinforce your technique, and you will not be able to find that specific checklist in any book.  They are specific to you.  This short checklist will change as you progress, and they will begin to focus more on refinement as opposed to generalizations.

To choose the right teacher you have to know what are your own personal goals.  What objectives do you wish to achieve?  Are you interested in only playing a few easy pieces for your own enjoyment, are seriously looking at advancing in ability, perhaps maybe to proceed to college or university?   Your goals my change over time.  What may have been a casual interest for you in time may blossom into a passion for greater things.

So the final thing to consider for your teacher is what are their goals for you?  Are you just a regular paycheque for them?  How far are they willing to take you with their lessons?  What is their plan for you to help you move on to bigger and better things, are they willing to let you go to explore elsewhere, and if you do, are you welcome to come back?

With 8va Classical Guitar Studio, I strive to provide for the needs of my students.  I am constantly looking for ways to improve both my teaching skills and to address the many unique needs of my students as everyone has their own special circumstances in regards to lessons.

As well as lessons, I work at developing the market in Regina for classical guitar.  Connecting with as many resources and venues as possible.  This will provide opportunities for my students to explore beyond the confines of my studio.   It is my desire to provide opportunities for my students to connect with higher learning for music.  Collaborating with other musicians and teachers as well as having opportunities to perform.

Registering with 8va Classical Guitar Studio is your key to an open door of music learning.  One where the student and learning is the most important.  Policies are a formality while learning is the reality.  If you are interested in learning classical guitar, ask to find out how lessons with 8va Classical Guitar Studio would work for you.  If you want to know more about classical guitar, feel free to inquire with me as I am more than happy to discuss all aspects of classical guitar and activities related to classical guitar in Regina.

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!

23. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Feature

Going through the registration process for my children’s yearly activities, I made the mistake of analyzing the costs and fees that were associated with their activity.  I was shocked at the cost associated with the registration, the supplies required and the monthly fees.  I almost dropped my pencil and thought, enough is enough.  In that moment, my children’s dance careers almost came to an end.  We had a family discussion and determined that they loved dance too much.  With all the shortcomings and difficulties of dance, it was in their blood and they shouldn’t be deprived.

This process made me reflect on my own business with 8va Classical Guitar Studio.  When the pinch is on every dollar, arts programs suffer first.  Can passion and desire alone justify the spending of hard earned cash for an activity that in all likely hood not produce a financial return?  Likewise, how could a fringe art like classical guitar compete with other mainstream activities, such as sports, drawing and painting classes, all of which are offered in the community or through a child’s school.

There is no doubt that a musical education is strongly beneficial to healthy development in kids resulting in higher grades and improved self esteem. If you have any doubts or questions about this, a little research in the matter from people better educated in the matter than myself will reveal reports and articles on the matter.  So music is good for you, however, it is very hard on the wallet.

Monthly fees, registration costs, books, and instrument purchase or rental all add up.  For a parent with a child interested in music, you have some heavy choices to make.  The ultimate goal is to try to find the best value for the cost.

At 8va Classical Guitar Studio, I can appreciate this financial crunch and have many options to facilitate music education.  First, I offer flexibility.  By having control over when and how often you take classes, this lets you take control back of your time.  Although kids have a Monday to Friday type of scheduling, often times parents don’t, especially shift workers.  So to maintain a regular weekly schedule may be either out of the questions or it may put undue stress on a parent trying to make each and every class.

Using a onetime registration fee is designed to provide all the services of 8va Classical Guitar Studio for every student without additional ongoing charges each year.  The registration fee covers all photocopying expenses, periodic study workshops free for all students and the maintenance of a professional environment conducive to the study of classical guitar.

I also offer extra-curricular course activity which is covered by the registration fee.  This is extra material and direction that is handled outside of class time to aid and direct each students individual progress.

Using a structured well designed curriculum following the Royal Conservatory of Music Syllabus ensures that each student is on track with a defined and proven learning program.  This gives each student secure knowledge that they are progressing in a methodical process comparable with their musical peers across Canada as well as alongside practitioners of other musical disciplines pursuing their education via the RCM.  This is what separates the study of classical guitar from all other guitar programs.

Studying with 8va Classical Guitar Studio, you are issued a studio receipt for both your registration fee and for your tuition fees for the Canadian Children’s Art Tax Credit.  Parents can claim up to $500 in eligible fees for enrolling a child under 16 at the beginning of the year in an eligible arts program.  Please note, only the regular weekly classes are eligible for the Canadian Children’s Art Tax Credit.

Enhance your child’s education by earning high school credit through Royal Conservatory of Music Exams.  Achievement in RCM Examinations is recognized for credit toward secondary school graduation.  Completing grade 6 in classical guitar with intermediate rudiments ( music theory ) with the RCM exams, a student will receive a grade 10 credit high school credit.  Achieving Grade 7 classical guitar with advanced rudiments results in a grade 11 high school credit.  Grade 8 classical guitar with advanced rudiments awards the student a grade 12 credit.  Studying classical guitar and testing only makes sense for your child’s education!

Extracurricular learning with 8va Classical Guitar Studio is designed to maximise learning without the sacrifice of precious in studio time.  This allows more time to be spent on technique and guitar performance without neglecting other aspects of theory and music background.  The amount of extracurricular study material is totally dependent on the ability and desire of each student.

Finally, and most importantly, the greatest strategy in saving parents and students money, to aid in musical study and pursuit of classical guitar, I offer free introductory lessons for every first time student with 8va Classical Guitar Studio!  Often times, parents wish their children to learn to play guitar, except they don’t have a classical guitar.  Often times, they have already invested in a steel string or electric guitar.  By offering free introductory classes, students are able to use money they would normally pay for lessons to be applied toward the purchase a quality musical instrument.

Regardless of whether you are studying with me at 8va Classical Guitar Studio, or pursuing your study at another facility or in another style of guitar, the ultimate factor is practice.  The amount of practice will determine the students progress.  More practice, more progress, more value for your lesson fees.  It is however, not fair to judge your involvement solely on the amount of practice time you have to commit to playing classical guitar.  If you are a music  enthusiast, or have always wanted to learn to play a guitar, then study with classical guitar is priceless!  There is no minimum amount of time you must practice to study at 8va Classical Guitar Studio.  There is also no push to learn pieces quickly or demand that students must perform recitals and festivals.  For the casual learner and enthusiast, 8va Classical Guitar has a course option just for you.  One that saves you money, and alleviates any perceived pressure to perform.  Through our flexible class option, you take your classes at your rate, when you are ready for each step.


Airlines scare me with the thought of having to travel with my guitar. Not that this has been an issue for me yet. Here is an article regarding cello travel, some good tips included which would be well suited for guitarists.

( No intent on copyright infringement )
by Michael Bersin


At some time in your career as a cellist, you will findourself booked on a commercial airline flight, needing to get to your ultimate destination with your cello intact. In this era of airline deregulation and the preponderance of airport “hubs,” unless you live in a major city, you will not find a direct flight. If you check your cello as baggage, it will travel long distances outside, sometimes in extreme weather, and probably under the significant weight of other travelers’ luggage. We all know, either first hand, or from friends or acquaintances, of horror stories about cellos checked as baggage. Despite advertisements for indestructible cello cases, a cello which can successfully survive that kind of abuse (and sound like something more than expensive firewood with a nice varnish) has yet to be invented. The cases survive, but the cellos don’t.

The only option then, for those of us who are faint of heart, is to try to book a seat for the cello. Never mind the expense and the inquisitive looks from airport security; it can be done. The main problem is that the people you will have to deal with are not always aware of the various airlines’ policies on booking a seat for your cello, nor, for the most part are they aware of what a cello is. It then becomes incumbent upon you to know the airlines’ policies, the configuration possibilities for the aircraft you fly on, and the regulations governing flying with a musical instrument.

These include the “Special Federal Air Regulations ” (SFAR), also known as “Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations,” and the tariffs, which are the charges and policies of the airlines under various circumstances, also known as “Domestic General Rules,” or DGR-1. The airlines have further documents, some of which are proprietary, which outline policies for cabin seat baggage. These can include ticket agent and gate agent manuals, aircraft operations manuals, cabin crew manuals, and flight crew manuals, as well as the certification for the aircraft filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

You can find a copy of Title 14, Parts 1-1199 in public or academic libraries, usually in the “Government Documents” section. You can purchase a copy from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20401, (202) 783-3238. The “Domestic General Rules” are available from the Airline Tariff Publishing Company, Dulles International Airport, Box 17415, Washington, D.C. 20041, (701) 471-7510. A yearly subscription (with biweekly interleaf updates) can cost several hundred dollars. If you are associated with an educational institution, you can acquire a one time copy for $15. Armed with these documents, you will know these regulations better than the people who have a say over whether or not you get on the flight.

The FAA considers your cello a piece of cargo. The rules and procedures are covered in the section entitled “Carriage of cargo in passenger compartments” (14 CFR 121.285), and read as follows: “(c) Cargo may be carried aft of a bulkhead or divider in any passenger compartment provided the cargo is restrained to the load factors in 25.561 (b) (3) and is loaded as follows: (1) It is properly secured by a safety belt or other tiedown having enough strength to eliminate the possibility of shifting under all normally anticipated flight and ground conditions. (2) It is packaged or covered in a manner to avoid possible injury to passengers and passenger compartment occupants. (3) It does not impose any load on seats or the floor structure that exceeds the load limitation for those components. (4) Its location does not restrict access to or use of any required emergency or regular exit, or of the aisle in the passenger compartment. (5) Its location does not obscure any passenger’s view of the ‘seat belt’ sign, ‘no smoking’ sign, or required exit sign, unless an auxiliary sign or other approved means for proper notification of the passenger is provided.” (Doc. No. 6258, 29 FR 19202, Dec 31, 1964, as amended by Amdt. 121-179, 47 FR 33390, Aug. 2, 1982)

Practically speaking, this means your cello must be set in a bulkhead window seat which does not have an emergency exit, and that it will have to be strapped in. It is important that you ask the airline to provide a compatible seat belt extension; they will place a special record on your reservation at your request. Some airlines will provide cargo straps, if you so request. You cannot provide your own “tiedowns,” since the airline has to certify to the FAA that the tiedown meets the load specifications in the regulations. The easiest way to strap in your cello is to place the cello between the armrests, with the back of the case toward the seat. The seat belt and extension should go through a case handle (or two, depending on the case) and over the top of the case. The seat belts should be cinched snugly.

There is a wide latitude in interpretation of the regulations from airline to airline and in crew interpretation of those regulations. It would be too much to hope for some sort of universal policy, considering the many different aircraft, different configurations of aircraft (even in the same fleet), and different seat widths.

All airlines have weight restrictions (which a cello easily meets), and some have maximum dimension limitations, which a cello cannot always meet. The final authority for what can and cannot strapped into a seat is the captain or “pilot in command.”

Most airlines charge 75% of the full fare for a cello, but a few charge 50%. If you book well in advance (and save money on your fare), the cost for you and your cello can be identical. Some airlines charge the cello a cargo tax, which is less than the regular passenger tax.

My own experiences while flying with my cello led me to become an expert on this subject. The definitive trip included mixed up seat assignments, irritation of fellow passengers (directed at me), numerous long distance phone calls with airline representatives, miscommunication, and that fateful notation, written with a green felt tip pen on my ticket, “Involuntary Refund.” Seven hours and one rented car later, I made it back home.

I then called a representative of the offending airline. She informed me that the airlines in general were moving away from allowing musical instruments in the passenger compartment; she felt they would soon be forbidden by regulations (this was at a time when the FAA and airlines were concerned about excess carry-on baggage).

I did what any self-respecting cellist would do: I organized a letter writing campaign with the help of a considerable number of local musicians. The vice president for marketing for the offending airline was deluged with letters bemoaning the situation.

A month later, I was informed by the airline that they had received FAA approval for “cabin seat baggage” on their jet aircraft. I anticipated many happy and hassle-free flights. Wrong. On one subsequent trip, a cabin crew member firmly stated, “You can’t bring that on board.” I answered, “Yes I can.” This was a big mistake. She retorted, “Don’t argue with me.” While we went through the routine and I showed her my ticket, she called the gate agent and the first officer, who then called the captain, while someone else called a ground supervisor. While they waited and scratched their heads, the rest of the passengers gave me dirty looks for causing problems which were delaying the flight. The supervisor then showed up and stated, “Yeah, its all right. You can do that.” As we were taxiing, the cabin crew member pointed to my boarding pass and stated, “All you had to do was show me that, and there wouldn’t have been any problem.” I apologized with the explanation that I thought I had. A passenger seated behind me said, in a very loud voice, “You shouldn’t apologize, I saw you show that to her earlier.”

There are a few basic rules for successfully flying with your instrument. The most important is to have a travel agent. The second most important is not to believe them when they say, “You can do it with a 30 minute layover.” I stopped believing that the first time I went through Minneapolis/St. Paul. I live in a town half the size of the terminal building.

Always check in early – on occasion, some airlines toss your prebooked seating assignments to the winds. If you are first in line, you’ve got first dibs on the bulkhead seats. Since they are the only ones you can occupy with your cello, it’s a good idea never to violate this rule.

Know the type of aircraft you will be flying on. If your commuter flight is on a small aircraft without a bulkhead, you’re out of luck. And as a cost-conscious traveler, you need to know that on certain wide body jets, the only bulkhead window seats not on an emergency exit are in first class. Most airlines’ policies are: “Where your cello goes, you go.” So you could have to pay for two first class tickets.

This brings us to another important rule. Cultivate a relationship with a car rental firm. Major credit cards help, too, when you are stuck in a bind. I’ve logged many bonus car rental miles on my frequent flier cards because, “I’m sorry sir, we cannot accommodate a musical instrument on our aircraft.”

You my have noticed that I referred to frequent flier cards in the plural. Not only one for each airline, but one for your cello on each airline, too. My cello has a card embossed with “Cello Dbags Bersin,” as it would appear on the ticket issued for the cello. (Dbags is the record flag which warns the airline there is trouble in the offing). The value of this, when you are flying with your cello, is that it can cash in on those Hawaiian vacations with you. In addition, it is a matter of great joy in my household when the cello receives its junk mail addressed to “Mr. Cello Dbags Bersin.” This also causes amusement and functions as an icebreaker at the check-in counter when the ticket agent, looking at the reservation computer, says to everyone within earshot, “Look, it even has its own frequent flyer card!”

One interesting survival tool, which I have never used, is to have some sort of scam. I know of a harpist who, while touring, needed to check her harp as baggage. Harps aren’t charged by weight (less expensive), but by volume (very expensive). So, she carted the instrument to the air freight terminal and played an impromptu concert for the baggage crew. There was, shall we say, a successful outcome to the story. I would not recommend that a cellist play in the terminal building. In most airports that will get you arrested, if you don’t have the requisite permits.

For those with strong constitutions and guile who like to live with risk, there is always the bald-faced lie. “No, it’s a viola, and if you look it up, your rules say I can carry it on board with me.” I have heard of one rather tall cellist, with an ultralight thin case, who hides it under his coat and puts it in the overhead bin. (But this only works on a 767.)

The danger of trying to pull a scam is that you could get caught. When you do get caught you only have two options – spend money, or check the instrument as baggage. In the first option, if you are lucky enough to be on a flight that was not overbooked, you might note that a ticket purchased 20 seconds before pushback from the gate is considerably more expensive than one purchased two weeks in advance.

Inevitably, carefully laid travel plans can get side tracked. On checking in recently, I found the airline had “changed equipment” – a euphemism for “you’re on a different aircraft and your bulkhead seat assignment doesn’t mean diddly.”

It is important to remain calm, cheerful, and understanding with airline personnel. Remember key phrases such as: “May I have your name, please,” and “I want to speak with your supervisor.” Always carry the toll-free reservation numbers for the airlines you are traveling on. If your flight is cancelled or delayed, the wait on the phone is much shorter than the wait behind 150 irate fellow travelers. Besides, bulkhead seats are at a premium, and the phone reservations people can deal with it easily. It brightens their day to speak with someone with a peculiar problem. “That’s very interesting sir, does it travel often!”

all rights reserved, Written by:
Michael Bersin
Department of Music
Central Missouri State University

Reprinted in TUTTI CELLI by the permission of STRINGS magazine.
The article appeared in the July/August issue of STRINGS

Considering the rarity of wood, the craftsmanship that goes into them it is very important to understand how to care for your instrument.

Understanding Humidity Part 1

Understanding Humidity Part 2 – 1

Understanding Humidity Part 2 – 2

Humidity Part 3

I was amazed 13 years ago when I found that a piece of solid wood furniture wasn’t solid.  There were connecting joints between one section of wood to the next.  It was explained that is just the way it is now, large pieces of wood don’t exist so much anymore.  Here are a couple videos in regards to the wood used in guitars.

State of Ebony with Taylor Guitars

Taylor Guitars on Spruce Wood

Taylor Guitars – Sourcing Spruce

When an electric guitarist wants to get a different tone or different sound, they plug into effects units like a flanger or chorus pedal.  For a classical guitarist, to change our sound, we plug into an orchestra!  Ok, that’s a joke, but not completely.  Andrés Segovia was a master at tone, and he said that inside the guitar there was an orchestra, but on a smaller scale.  So in a way, classical guitarists do tap into this mini-orchestra to develop their sound. To understand the dynamics of that sound, it serves us very well to look into what happens in, and goes on with an orchestra.  Also, we gain further insight into the music that we love and gain a deeper appreciation for the art of making music.  Enjoy!