Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Further thoughts on recording

Recording is like looking in the mirror. By simply looking (or in this case, listening) we can make instant adjustments and improvements. When I talk to students about recording, I encourage them to really experiment with how they feel. There are three basic mental states I like to play around with when the recording light is on - trying, carelessness, and relaxed observing.

Trying is what most people gravitate towards - especially when recording or performing. We try to control everything. When events don't go as we like, we try harder to control the outcome. This is a fearful and stressful way to play. Many teachers would tell you to avoid that, but my advice is to try as hard as you can for a few run throughs - really feel the trying and stress completely. Let yourself get upset. By embracing it and letting it be (as opposed to avoiding it), it will have less effect on us for the following run throughs.

The second way is the way most people are never told to play - carelessly. As you record, let yourself play as carelessly as possible. Make mistakes, move freely without a care in the world - really go for it and enjoy the feeling. Imagine that you are playing it perfectly. Remember being a kid and making a mess with joy? That's the state we want. Don't focus on the notes - focus on the feeling of total freedom of motion. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but doing this frees up the body and mind and reminds us how good it feels to simply move without judgement.

Finally, we've warmed up and you want to allow yourself to play with a state of relaxed observation. Move the hands as you want, but just observe and listen to the guitar. Remember the freedom of motion from your "careless" playing, but now aim for accuracy. If you miss, keep the mental state relaxed - like in the careless playing. Stay open. If you notice that you start to try hard again, that's fine - let yourself try - embrace it as before. Let the trying be there and then go back to relaxed, open observing. Keep observing your mental states as you do this and notice how your playing changes accordingly. Focus more on how you feel than on the notes. When you feel well, the notes will take care of themselves.

The most important thing I can say is to make friends with your enemies. In other words - let the trying and carelessness that you don't like be allowed. Don't fight them off. Welcome them and smile at them. As you let them be, you'll start to go beyond them. This is the joy of recording - we study how we feel as we play. When we feel well, we play well - as within, so without.

Recording Classical Guitar with the Edirol R-09HR

I wanted to make this video for those who would like to record but don't have a lot of money to spend on a recording project. As fearful as it might be, recording is probably one of the most important exercises a musician at any level can do. The beauty of the classical guitar is that we are able to record whenever we want. I hope this helps those who would like to record, but may have been thinking that it's too complicated or expensive to do. We are very lucky to be living in a time when it's not.

Please support this video by purchasing the Edirol R-09HR at Amazon - thank you

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Lady Hunssdon's Allemande (P.54) by John Dowland

recorded last night last night during the full moon....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Clever Salesman

This is a interesting topic, as my mind can trick me into focusing on what I don't want. Today, I realized that I fell into the same trap yet again. I had to laugh out loud when I saw it.

We want to focus on what we want. What do we want? To play faster, louder, more fluidly, more confidently, with more joy. What do we focus on? - not making mistakes, not getting tense, not cracking notes by playing too loudly. You cannot get what you want by focusing on what you don't want. It may seem to be a subtle difference in language, but in terms of results, the difference is tremendous.

Children don't seem to have these issues as much as adults. Many people think children pick up music quickly because of certain physical attributes, but I believe it's because most children have less critical minds. They make mistakes and it doesn't distract them from feeling good when they play. They don't take the mistakes personally, so they are not fearful of making mistakes while they go for what they want. This is incredibly important to understand.

We adults tend to think that we can have joy in playing only when we are playing well. This is the critical mind at work. The paradox is this - to play well we must feel well inside. If you want to play open and freely, you must feel that way inside. As my teacher has told me many times - go after what you want and feel well no matter what befalls you. How simple, and yet how easy it is to forget this.

The critical mind is a clever salesman, but for today, I will not buy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Video Interview

I was interviewed a few days ago for Chris Davis' excellent Classical Guitar Blog. We recorded our Skype video chat. the entire video playlist is here - Kevin Gallagher Interview on Youtube

Chris's Blog is highly recommended reading

Classical Guitar Blog

I'll be recording this weekend and hope to put up more videos soon.

have a great weekend,


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Beyond Labels

It's our job as story tellers to express what is happening in the music we play. I don't mean this in an analytical sort of way - i.e. "this is the major 7th chord", or "this is a polyrhythm". All theoretical knowledge is empowering, but at some point we really want to look past the labels and feel the music purely - without any definitions.

It's very easy for the mind to be attracted to labels. I remember being in school, delighted that I could label all the advanced harmonies that were presented to me. I was lucky to have teachers and friends who were fluent at music theory. It's extremely valuable to understand theory, but sometimes theory can become more important than listening. It can become a way of knowing music without really listening to it - like a scientist who studies an animal and knows everything about that particular species, but never takes the time to know each one uniquely.

Lately I've been playing through some very old pieces - I've played some of them for as long as I can remember. When I play them, I practice listening - to the sound of the guitar, the voices as they interact, the variety of intervals, the attacks, the silences, etc. Just listening carefully and discovering - looking it over like a fine jewel. The labels still pop up in my mind, but I'm not so interested in them.

It's very helpful to start your practice this way - just play a basic piece and listen to it from as many angles as you can. Listen to each voice, feel the rhythms fully, try different moods, listen to how the voices interact. Become very interested in all the sounds and silences which create the piece. You will see how much depth can be found in even the simplest forms of music. This awareness will carry over into everything you play or listen to.