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Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Month, New Piece

Last week’s video was instructive, if not musically inspired. What encourages me is the first run through the first variation. The tempo is pretty much what I want, and the execution is better than anything I’ve done with rest stroke alternation before I began this project. The rough spots in other parts of the video don’t worry me. I know their causes, and I know how to overcome them. Progress is there—it’s damn slow, but it’s there.

I’m putting Guardame on the back burner. Next up is Alonso de Mudarra’s Galliard, which has three short scale bursts and one longer passage. I’m also tagging on the end a brief flourish, serving the dual purpose of creating more scale work and bringing the piece to a flashy close. My target tempo for Galliard is 92. I doubt if I’ll get there by the end of August. But I certainly hope to have it up to tempo by the end of September. So that’s my target date for a video performance at tempo.

Over the past two weeks interesting comments have come in. I’d like to address some of them:
After viewing your recent video, I wonder if you've read Hector Quine’s ‘Guitar Technique’, esp pp 10-11. A useful little book.
from Quine’s “Guitar Technique”
I read this some years ago. Parts I like, other parts I don’t. I don’t agree with Quine’s proscription on relaxing the tip joint when plucking a string. His opinion contradicts Pepe Romero, who I believe has credibility on this particular issue because he can play, to put it mildly. I also think Quine’s warning against looking at the left hand is overdone. (I suspect this is what you’re referring to in pages 10-11.) Curiously, his illustration of correct right hand position is pretty much how I play. I find this amusing, as I’ve been criticized a number of times for my right hand position. One man’s model is another’s faux pas, I suppose.
Hey, have you considered getting yourself some private lessons? I know you already have a degree and all, but I don't see anything written about you consulting with another guitarist at or above your level to see if he can diagnose you better than you can diagnose yourself.
Also, have you considered a comprehensive strength training program which includes hand strength training on Captains of Crush (or similar high-quality grippers)?
I think the role of domain-specific physical strength is often overlooked for musicians.
Actually, I have consulted another guitarist considerably more skilled than me. Nonetheless, I have another iron in the fire regarding this. More anon. Regarding strength training: finger sweeps, rasgueado, and finger push-ups are still part of my daily regimen. I’m on it.
On the point about a seamless transition between two states, you may find benefit in thinking about overlap between two distinct modes of operation instead of a fixed point of transition. For example, a man can sing a melody in his normal or in falsetto, but in practice chooses one or the other depending on the musical line that is to be taken. The same idea could apply to the right hand across a range of tempi: choose the mode that fits the line.
You may be right, but for my own playing I hope not. I’d like to develop a seamless transition—it would seem that a gradual accelerando requires it.
One doesn't accelerate the growth of a tree by tugging at its branches. I think the speed bursts are not helping you at this point. They may later, but for now I think you need weeks away from speed work, and rather just concentrate on ease and mechanical fluency.
While my scale speed is not in the GFA winner category, when I work at it, I can play 16ths in the 140-150 range. I had a hard ceiling of 120 for years, and it only went away when I stopped working for speed, and concentrated instead on simplicity in movement and proprioception, eliminating all extra tension. ALSO, when I first found I had speed I didn't have before, I could only play things fast that musically required it. Scale runs in Invocation and Dance and the Aranjuez come to mind. This being said, I wonder if your very analytic approach needs some tempering with some meter, agogic and musical inflection. Perhaps some of the Tarrega single line studies?
—Steve Bondy
More or less, we’re in agreement. I’ve soured a bit on speed bursts, though I think they still have value for testing the limits of speed. Over the last week, I’ve pinned down at what speed the trouble starts for my right hand. Up to 60 (four notes per click), my i and m rest stroke alternation works fine. Toward the mid-60s, my inactive fingers (a and c) begin to tense. Past the mid-70s, forget it. So I begin a tad below 60 and work my way up. If my inactive fingers begin to lock up, I back off the tempo and emphasize an easy movement. Then I tweak the tempo up again. I view the mid-60s as a sort of no-man’s land, across which is the enemy territory I’m trying to conquer. Occasionally I’ll lob in a faster tempo, playing very lightly with an almost wispy sound to see if I can stake a flag, however tentatively, in enemy territory. But for the most part it’s a gradual process of de-tensification—I’m not sure that’s a word, but it’s what I’m doing.

By the way, Steve, out of curiousity I googled your name. Enjoyed your web site. I also enjoyed hearing the sound samples of your young students. Teachers who showcase their students strike a chord with me. It’s one mark of a good teacher.

——[My next update will be August 14, 2011]—— 

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