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.


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!!

01. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Uncategorized

Had a great time performing with the Regina Classical Guitar Society for the Canada Day Celebration with the Lt. Governor’s Garden Party.

Here are a few pictures from the event.












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.


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.