How to play fast passages without tension

Interesting article in The Strad by cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi.
Although aimed mainly at bowed instrument players, a lot will apply to guitarists as well.

Everyone has the ability to play quickly, but it must be discovered and developed. It is not only a matter of moving quickly, but also of forming a sense of anticipation and the ability to think quickly.

More at The Strad

8 things top practisers do differently

This article in Creativity Post comes up with some surprising and useful results for all who play an instrument.

The research led by Robert Duke at the University of Texas, Austin was done on pianists, but would equally apply to guitarists.

The researchers note that the most striking difference between the top three pianists and the rest, was how they handled mistakes. It’s not that the top pianists made fewer mistakes in the beginning and simply had an easier time learning the passage. The top pianists made mistakes too, but they managed to correct their errors in such a way that helped them avoid making the same mistakes over and over, leading to a higher proportion of correct trials overall. And one to rule them all The top performers utilized a variety of error-correction methods, such as playing with one hand alone, or playing just part of the excerpt, but there was one strategy that seemed to be the most impactful. Strategically slowing things down. After making a mistake, the top performers would play the passage again, but slow down or hesitate – without stopping – right before the place where they made a mistake the previous time. This seemed to allow them to play the challenging section more accurately, and presumably coordinate the correct motor movements at a tempo they could handle, rather than continuing to make mistakes and failing to identify the precise nature of the mistake, the underlying technical problem, and what they ought to do differently in the next trial. The one-sentence summary “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” -George Bernard Shaw

– See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/8_things_top_practicers_do_differently#sthash.6IBDmP3Y.dpuf

Classical Guitar Beats


You may have read my interviews and posts with the extraordinary guitarist and enquiring mind, Jorge Caballero.

He and his wife Maggie have started a new project – Classical Guitar Beats – here is the intro

Welcome to Guitar Beats! This site is dedicated to the study of Classical Guitar, using advanced and innovative methodology. Our approach is innovative in that  total exploration of the psyche (mind, body) is employed to achieve mastery of the guitar. This pedagogical method is universal: its methods can be directly transferred and applied to other instruments and disciplines. Simply stated, our goal is to provide all levels of music students the tools to learn and progress.

 

The site provides fascinating insights into such vexing subjects as the collapsible joint rest stroke, semi-rest-stroke free stroke and the downward push free stroke,
Find out more by visiting the site which has a monthly feature.
Here are also my interviews in Iserlohn with Jorge.

Slow down! Rachmaninoff’s Way

I have recently rediscovered the importance of having the right hand returning to a relaxed neutral position after each effort and also picked up Pepe Romero’s tips on playing picado, tremolo and rasgueado.
Very important information presented in a concise manner. (He is also sporting rather fetching shorts)





The following article in Practising the Piano really brings these ideas home. Extremely important for recovering focal dystonics who are retraining their hands!

If you’re serious about playing the piano, there’s no getting away from slow practice. It is a cornerstone of our work from the beginner stages right through to the advanced level, and a practice tool also used by professional pianists and seasoned virtuosos all the time. In this post, I aim to help you not only realise the importance of careful, accurate slow work but also to enjoy it fully!

I have noticed some folk think they should be beyond slow practice – that’s only something beginners do. Far from it! In Abram Chasins’ wonderful book Speaking of Pianists, the author describes a time he showed up for a lesson with Rachmaninov and overhead him practising – but so slowly that he didn’t recognise the piece at first. I know I have used this quotation before, but I am going to use it again because it speaks volumes about how a great pianist used ultra-slow practice for a work he was maintaining (not learning) to keep it spick and span:

Rachmaninov was a dedicated and driven perfectionist. He worked incessantly, with infinite patience. Once I had an appointment to spend an afternoon with him in Hollywood. Arriving at the designated hour of twelve, I heard an occasional piano sound as I approached the cottage. I stood outside the door, unable to believe my ears. Rachmaninov was practising Chopin’s etude in thirds, but at such a snail’s pace that it took me a while to recognise it be- cause so much time elapsed between one finger stroke and the next. Fascinated, I clocked this re- markable exhibition: twenty seconds per bar was his pace for almost an hour while I waited riveted to the spot, quite unable to ring the bell. Perhaps this way of developing and maintaining an unerring mechanism accounted for his bitter sarcasm toward colleagues who practised their programmes ‘once over lightly’ between concerts. (Chasins, Abram. 1967. Speaking of Pianists. New York: Knopf, 44.)”

Continue reading here….

Jorge Caballero on mistakes and interpretation Interview 3


When I was at the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium this summer, I was happy to see Jorge Caballero again, and managed to spend some time picking his incredible brain on subjects such as technique, learning, focal dystonia and why he chose to transcribe a very difficult Mozart Sonata for solo guitar. The interview is in three parts, but unfortunately the camera ran out of steam during the third part, so this ends with Jorge playing “Malaga” from Iberia by Albeniz. This is from his stunning concert at the Goldsaal Schauburg, Iserlohn this year.

Jorge Caballero on Focal Dystonia Interview 2

Jorge CaballeroWhen I was at the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium this summer, I was happy to see Jorge Caballero again, and managed to spend some time picking his incredible brain on subjects such as technique, learning, focal dystonia and why he chose to transcribe a very difficult Mozart Sonata for solo guitar. The interview is in three parts, but unfortunately the camera ran out of steam during the third part. However, what there is is still fascinating and gives an insight into the mind and method  of one of the great guitarists and musical thinkers of the 21st century.

Jorge Caballero on technique Interview 1

Jorge Caballero

When I was at the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium this summer, I was happy to see Jorge Caballero again, and managed to spend some time picking his incredible brain on subjects such as technique, learning, focal dystonia and why he chose to transcribe a very difficult Mozart Sonata for solo guitar. The interview is in three parts, but unfortunately the camera ran out of steam during the third part. However, what there is is still fascinating and gives an insight into the mind and method  of one of the great guitarists and musical thinkers of the 21st century.

Jorge Caballero – Warming up Part 3

Concluding Jorge’s warming up advice from his occasional series on technique.
These three lessons need to be carefully absorbed to get the essence of his message.

See also part 1 and part 2.

Some examples of that technique at work

Reflexive Speed – Jorge Caballero

At last, some hints from Jorge, whose ease of execution and acute analytical mind I have always admired. Quite difficult to understand this concept intellectually, but you will get it if you try it.
This has been around for a little while now and I am hoping for a new lesson soon!
Thank you Jorge.

In the meantime, there is an interesting excerpt here.

Continue reading