Posts Tagged ‘classical guitar’

Practicing on a Regular Basis

March 18, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

As busy as I’m sure most of you are (I know I sure am) fitting in consistent practice times can be such a pain. I definitely can sympathize with other practice procrastinators. All throughout high school I’d come home from a two hour swim practice or a six hour shift at work and think “Do I really want to practice now?” And even now, I’ll come home from a night of working at The Lesson Studio and think to myself, “Do I want to walk to the practice rooms or crawl into bed and watch an episode of American Dad?” Especially when it’s snowing, the motivation to walk outside in the cold dwindles even more than usual.

Though this may be true, you have to rise above and really when you practice procrastinate, you end up practicing in bigger chunks than normal. Maybe even needing more time to practice than if you had just practiced all week instead. If you plan out a consistent practice routine, that may mean only twenty minutes a day, depending on how much you’re working on. Sometimes you have to approach practicing like going to the gym. You’re not going to get anywhere working out to your complete max three days in a row. You’d accomplish more going every other day, allowing time for your muscles to rebuild and relax. Practicing is the same way. If you practice two hour for three days in a row and then don’t practice for four days, once you return to what you’re working on, it may be familiar in the way you and your second cousin who lives in a different state and you only see every other year at the good ol’ family reunion are familiar (that might be a slight exaggeration) but definitely not familiar the way you and your best friend are familiar.

Finding time during the day can be easier than you think, but sticking to it can be harder than you think. The most effective way, in my opinion, is scheduling it into your planner. Literally writing down exactly when you’re going to practice makes it harder to get out of doing it. Now with little kids, they don’t exactly have that trusty iPhone that they keep all their play dates and snack times scheduled, but consistency can help them get used to practicing routinely. Practicing right after a food event like lunch or an afternoon snack can be a great time. Practicing right after eating can help them to focus longer. Also sitting down and making it a team effort can help a lot. It helps them stay focused and thinking about what they’re doing and it can also make it more fun.

So now, get out that pen and find some practice times that you can really STICK to whether it’ll be twenty minutes twice a day or an hour every afternoon. If you do it could maximize your lesson time and help your musical growth develop at an even greater rate than before!

Can You See What You’re Playing? And I’m not talking about the notes on the page.

March 9, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

You know you’re a true music nerd when you start finding all the similarities between everything you do or see and how it could relate to music. And you know you’re especially bad when you just see something and bam! Now that you watched that special on the Discovery channel about outer space, you know how you can explain vibrato to the twelve year old. But really, finding those parallels between, let’s just call it this for fun, the “real world” and the “music world” can help you understand exactly what you’re doing even more than before.

Imagery is such a staple part in music, at least for me. Hearing a piece of music that really attaches itself to me makes me feel in colors, imagine stories and truly understand the emotion that the composer or performer was trying to convey. Part of me thinks that as a musician that is your true purpose in life is to tell the story, show the audience what is happening, even if you don’t know, you need to show that you do. Sometimes doing crazy things like pulling out your box of 64 Crayola crayons that you haven’t used since the fourth grade and literally coloring your music the color that you thinks conveys each part of your piece can do wonders. Even making up words to go along with what you’re playing or seeing a story that can play out in your head can get the emotional and expressive side to connect with the technical of your playing.

One of my favorite topics to bring up to students is the Olympics. I’ve probably been driving my students crazy trying to convince them to watch everything from figure skating to the super-g to curling. The parallels between musicians and athletes are really interesting to me. How much work each party puts into perfecting their own craft is mind blowing: hours in practice versus hours on the ice or snow. You can find so many similarities. Figure skating spins and trills is one of my own teacher’s favorite analogies. You can also think of the idea of balancing between technique and musicality as the way a speed skater like Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski balance around their turns with speed skating. So go out and try to find those parallels and start imagining them will you play. It might just help even more than you’d think!

Tab vs. Music and Sight Reading for Guitarists

March 4, 2010

By Adam Bauer, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Adam Bauer

Adam Bauer

How do you make an electric guitarist turn his volume down? … You put sheet music in front of them.  Ha! I remember hearing this joke a while back and wondering why guitarists are notorious for being bad sight readers.  Most instrumentalists are expected to be proficient readers of the standard system of music notation.  Why would the expectation be different for guitarist?  Is it our attachment to reading tab?  Is it the mechanics of the instrument?  Is it our training?  Our ability to read rhythms?  Or are we spending too much time in front of the mirror practicing our bend-the-high-notes facial expressions?  In my opinion, it is all of the above.

Some guitarist do begin their studies by reading music and this can be very advantages.  They establish a sense of precise rhythm and the confidence of playing a song exactly like it’s written on the page.  The songs they begin learning are very simple.  Great sight readers can play the the correct fingerings, pitches, rhythms, and style instantly.  Because some notes (ex. our middle C) can be found in as many as 5 to 6 places on the neck we can find ourselves with too many options to choose from. With sight reading you need to make quick decisions.  Fortunately, most notation for guitar contains left hand finger markings which tell you exactly which fingers to use and where.

On the other, tab ONLY tells you where to place your fingers and never which fingers to use.  Tab is easy to learn and a great way to learn the pitches contained in songs.  However, rhythm and style must be learned by listening to a recording of the song.  Proper fingering will also need to be decided from the tab.  This can be very difficult for students without guitar teachers.  Furthermore, for some people working on correct fingerings, pitches, rhythms, and style through tab could take just as long as learning to read music when all is said and done.  Guitarists and guitar-like instruments have read tab for centuries and there have always been a lot of successful beginning level players who use it.  For more serious musicians, I believe having some notation reading skills is essential.

Reading music in an ensemble or band is a great way to improve sight reading abilities.  Unfortunately, guitarist don’t always have this opportunity.  Besides, we can play a lot of fun things as solo guitarists.  One thing that has helped me greatly is reading by myself from methods, anthologies, fake books, and real books with a metronome. It’s fun!  Seriously.  Find something that you can read easily, at a slow and steady tempo, with the metronome. Your instructor can help you find things to look for in the music before you attempt to play it.  Play it 2 or 3 times without stopping until you reach the end.  This is sight reading.  If it is still too difficult, start with a beginning guitar method (without any tab!).  The many great method books used by the lesson studio guitar teachers are listed with the instructor bios.

Guitarists who can read are in demand for school jazz bands, chamber music groups, Musical pit orchestras, jam sessions, and solo guitar gigs.  Learning to read music on guitar is hard work, but is certainly worth the effort.  Get some sheet music, get a metronome and turn up your volume!

Classical Guitar – Guitars Unsung Hero

March 2, 2010

By Daniel Ondaro

Daniel Ondaro

Daniel Ondaro

Classical guitar is truly the unsung hero of guitar styles. While not nearly given as much praise as other styles, it still provides some of the guitars most complex and fascinating music. Tending to be overshadowed by louder, more in your face music, the classical guitar is constantly shrouded in misconceptions and stereotypes in many realms of music and musicians. The style however, moves on. Expanding the techniques and literature of guitar music in many interesting and organic ways through the ingenious work of excellent composers and performers of many different genres. By conducting a brief survey of the classical guitar’s instrumental, literary, and stylistic history one can gain an enhanced perspective on the guitars richest and oldest tradition while dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions commonly held about the style.

For thousands of years humans have been playing lute and other guitar like instruments but it wasn’t until the 15th century that the classical guitar as we know it started to take shape and gain popularity in Europe. Originally brought to Spain by the moors and redeveloped there, the early classical guitar like instruments attracted lots of attention in high courts and among the people. Early forms contained four of five sets of coursed strings (two strings for each pitch, usually in octaves) made from animal intestines. These instruments were much smaller than the modern classical guitar and were less potent in sound. As the centuries passed the instrument was able to grow larger (because of new technology to brace a large body), course strings were eliminated, nylon materials for strings were invented, and six non-coursed strings (three treble and three bass) became the norm.

As the instrument evolved so did the literature. As in other classical styles the classical guitars literature can be categorized into different periods of classical music history with each period growing out the old one, while reacting to it in different ways. These musical periods for the guitar include the Renaissance (in which early tab systems evolved and were unique to their European country of origin), Baroque (of which Bach was a large contributor to lute/guitar literature), Classical (a prolific time for guitar literature with works by Giuliani, Sor and others), Romantic, and 20th Century. It is however true that the literary evolution of classical guitar was indeed significantly later for each period compared to other western classical instruments and that as an instrument it enjoyed considerably less popularity in conservatories all over the world.

Many people theorize one of the contributing factors to its lack of popularity in classical circles and subsequent delay of stylistic evolution to be because of the public’s perception of the guitar in general as an instrument only used in folk styles. The more we study the stylistic elements of classical guitar, however, the more we can discover similarities to other classical styles and instruments in the western and world classical realms. Many classical guitarists place a great emphasis on tone, volume, etc. in hopes of achieving all the expressive possibilities capable of the instrument. Therefore much of the student’s time is devoted to practice of foundational and progressive exercises. Many methods have been created to build upon aspects of the classical guitar student’s physical and mental capabilities. Accordingly the student is expected to practice his or her skills for sight-reading, scales, and other elements essential to classical guitar playing in addition to repertoire. The apprentice style pedagogical approach remains at the heart of this tradition and is a fundamental aspect to the student’s progression. In general the stylistic and pedagogical approaches to classical guitar compare to many other styles of classical and non-classical music in that practice is done before hand in order to achieve great expressiveness and virtuosity in performance.

Today the style of classical guitar enjoys considerable popularity and recognition in many of the worlds leading conservatories and music programs. It is also being recognized in the public eye more and more by the incredible work of performers and composers such as Andres Segovia, Christopher Parkening, Joaquín Rodrigo and others. These people have indeed popularized the style of classical guitar in both the classical and popular realms and have helped dispel myths on both sides about the classical guitars capabilities and place within the world of music. Many players however still struggle to find a place in the classical realm and to be recognized by the general public. Because of this the style of classical guitar still remains the unsung hero of guitar music. One finds, however that through the historical and instrumental study of classical guitar one can gain an enriched perspective of the guitars evolution, literature and stylistic qualities as well as a deep interest in its oldest tradition.

Classical Guitar Ideas for the Rocker

December 1, 2009

The Lesson Studio guitar instructor Adam Buer by Adam Buer, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

There is a reason so many famous rock guitarists had some sort of background in classical guitar. Zappa, Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, and The Doors’ guitarists are just a few examples. I assume many of these players are so musically versatile because they have a variety of general musical skills. Classical guitar methods of teaching offer an organized development of these skills. Take arpeggios for example; practicing the notes of your chords individually with a steady hand position can prepare you for more advanced finger style work. Ever want to think outside the pentatonic scale box? Then consider fingering some of these left hand arpeggio patterns as solo lines to spice up your lead guitar parts. A guitar instructor can help you find a specific fingering that works for you. Or try learning an excerpt of Bach, the Toccata in D minor, for example. Once you’ve mastered this on your electric guitar, try it with your distortion cranked up to 11. Not only will you sound like a fret-board shredder, but you’ll also be playing what some people call Bach Rock.

Classical guitarists also spend a great deal of time thinking about proper hand technique, which is very beneficial to any rock/shredder who plans to put in a lot of hours on their instrument without developing a hand injury. The famous guitar teacher, Aaron Shearer, promoted “proper” technique with his four principles of effective muscle movement. They are: uniform direction of joint movement, muscular alignment, midrange function of joints, and follow through. I would summarize two of these principles with the following activity: let your hands fall loosely at your sides and walk around the room paying no attention to them. Then, stop and notice the relaxed position they are in. They are not in a fist, but they are also not fully extended or flat (midrange function of joints). Also, your wrist is relatively straight (muscular alignment). Maintaining this type of relaxed hand position when you pick up your instrument is key, and with guitar lessons these concepts can be reinforced and refined. The more effective your technique and practice habits, the more you can learn. The more you can learn, the more you can shred, dazzle, inspire, or just have fun.

For more information, or to schedule a lesson with Adam, please visit,  e-mail: or call 303-543-3777.