Thursday, October 14, 2010
As I've said, to play classical guitar well you must also understand classical music. This course is specifically designed for classical guitarists and is interactive - you can ask questions and get answers about the material much like a "real" class. If you don't know theory and are interested, this can be an excellent course to get you started.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
It always bothered me that I didn't know most of the great masterpieces from Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, etc. If we are classical musicians, then we should be interested in all great art music - not just art music played on the guitar.
Lately my obsession has been Felix Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 which I've been listening to and studying daily. It was composed in the autumn of 1825, when he was just 16. There's something remarkable about the feelings conveyed in this music - it's full of hope, optimism, and drama - typical of a 16 year old. At the same time, the craftsmanship is stunningly mature. If I had heard this when I was 13, I may have taken up the violin.
There's a digital copy of the manuscript online here.
Here is a playlist to the full piece -
Friday, April 9, 2010
I know this blog is mainly for classical guitar, but for those who might also be interested in electric guitar and contemporary music, I'll be putting all my old home recording tracks up at www.youtube.com/avantpopmusic over the next few weeks.
Monday, March 29, 2010
There's a number of masterclasses by Bream on youtube. I love them. Of course, it's no surprise that Bream always talks about musical ideas and listening, but even more important is the kind of energy he emits. That seems to be the greater, unspoken lesson.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
This is a recording of Glenn Gould, a pianist I greatly admire playing Orlando Gibbon's glorious Allemande (an Italian Ground). I was mentioning to a few students this week how important instrumental resonance is in playing. In other words, how an instrument "rings" a certain way when it's pushed nicely with natural power, but not brute force. With command, but not with over control. Listening to Gould play demonstrates that well. The whole piano rings with clarity and resonance no matter what the dynamic.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The underlying feeling when practicing should be one of play - experimenting, being creative, being spontaneous, enjoyment of the present. This is how we learn things best and easiest. When the mind is playing and enjoying the process without judgment, it becomes inspired - we get wonderful ideas, feelings, intuitions. This guides us towards right action.
Even when a technique is particularly challenging, we can still retain the attitude of play. I remember in the Fall, sitting in a park and watching a few skateboarders honing their craft. One boy was trying to do a trick where he would lift the skateboard while he jumped onto a bench, and then land back down onto the ground cleanly. He tried and tried, but wasn't getting it. However, he wasn't getting upset - he was playing with the technique. Through playing and experimenting, his mind/body were open to solutions. When he would fail, he just learned a little from it, moved on, and went on to the next try. His mind was not on judgment - which drains us of energy and inspiration. He was just feeling the sensations for each jump with a sort of intense curiosity. Of course he wanted it to be right each time, but he didn't mind that it wasn't. Failing was just a way to understand his instrument better (body and board)- it wasn't something to get upset about or to take personally. He did nail a few jumps towards the end, and although he didn't become fluid at the technique, it was obvious to me that he was going to get it with this kind of practice.
Play doesn't require perfection in every moment. Do we enjoy games only when we win? Of course not. Why should practice be any different? Think of it as a sort of game. Watch yourself and be careful not to fall into harsh criticism of your self or your work. Be interested in the failures as well as the successes - learn from both and stay open to the ideas that come from both. Some of your best ideas will come from failing - if you are open to learning from it.
The attitude of play is one of the key factors in mastering any endeavor. If you read about anyone who is outstanding in their field, you find over and over again that they enjoy their work immensley. They don't do it for the money or fame. Their work is a sort of play for them. Enjoy each step and you'll see that things get easier - as you become easier on yourself. If you have an attitude of play while you work, in many ways you have already succeeded.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Here he plays Chopin's famous Nocturne in F# Major Op.15 No.2 (recorded in 1927).
Here is a link to the score - notice how incredibly imaginative he is with the phrasing and rubato.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Having stated that, the guitar has always been in the service of studying music. When I played rock guitar as a kid, instinctively I knew that I had to study rock music in order to excel - how it was written, what is commonly used in the style, how to improvise, how to write songs. When I studied Jazz music it was the same - we didn't talk much about how to play the guitar, but how to use the guitar to play Jazz music fluidly.
As students of the classical guitar, we don't necessarily have to know anything about the music we play. We see the notes on the page, and often the editors make sure that most (if not all) of the fingering is added into the score. The only knowledge that is needed to play even the greatest masterpiece is 1. where to put the fingers and 2. what rhythms are being used. This sort of "notational tablature" is one of the biggest problems I see in students.
We cannot excel at any style of music by simply putting our fingers in the correct place at the correct time. There are no excellent jazz guitarists that I know of who don't have an understanding of jazz music. There are no great pop guitarists who don't have an understanding of pop music. And consequently, there are no great classical guitarists who don't understand how classical music is written on the guitar. Often, I think that students forget that they are studying classical music on the guitar - as if the classical guitar is more about the technique than the music. Let me be clear - if you are studying this style, you are studying classical music on the guitar.
If we look at Fernando Sor's Guitar Method we can see clearly that he is instructing the student primarily in the language of classical music - what is commonly used, what chords, what intervals, what each key contains, etc. and THEN - how it is found on the guitar. Sor emphasized learning classical music through the guitar - not learning guitar technique through classical music - which is so often the case in modern methods.
Sor was correct - if you understand classical music and how it is applied on the guitar, you will learn the music faster, sight read better, memorize easier, improve your ear, interpret music more confidently, become technically more fluid, etc. etc. Everything about your playing will improve.
Please also check out Christopher Davis' excellent post on Sor's method of learning notes on the guitar - http://www.classicalguitarblog.net/2010/01/fernando-sor-advice-for-learning-notes/