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Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4 Video Update

As promised, below is a performance of the Mudarra Galliard for my monthly video report. As you’ll see, it’s at a fairly slow tempo. But for now, I don’t feel comfortable with right hand alternation at anything above 80. My goal for the Galliard is 100. I’ve tried that a few times during my morning practice sessions. It’s just not there yet.

On the plus side, I’m pleased that I made this video in one take. I did a ten minute warmup session, and then turned on the camera, fully expecting my first take would be a disaster. Instead, I got what you’ll see. That’s encouraging, because throughout this project I’ve found that what I work on during my morning practice sessions seldom translates into something I can reliably do in normal playing. Mind you, I’m not dancing in the street over this—it’s a slow performance, only three-quarter speed of what I want this piece to be. Nonetheless, it’s nice to see all this work starting to yield some improvement when the pressure is on.

During my morning sessions, I’m starting to notice that string crossing is becoming more of an issue. For example, I now find that if I don’t precisely plan where my right hand thumb is during certain passages, then my alternation isn’t smooth and easy. For example:
At point A, my thumb rests on the fifth string, and this keeps my hand stable and relaxed as the scale stays on the first and second strings. At point B, however, my thumb between bass notes must float freely above the strings—if it doesn’t, my hand tightens up as I come to the one third string note in the scale.

Further, in this passage:
...I must cross from both the shoulder and elbow rather than the elbow alone. If not, my hand tightens as I cross to the third and fourth strings. So in any right hand alternation on more than one string, I’m being very careful to monitor anything that increases right hand tension.

•                              •                              •

Friday night I had the pleasure of hearing Matt Palmer in recital. He’s a young guitarist who’s been making a splash lately with the three finger approach to right hand alternation. He’s also written a method book on this, which I’ve mentioned in my blog. Unfortunately I had a gig that night, so I was only able to catch half of Palmer’s recital. But what I heard confirmed my favorable impression from his videos. He’s a very fine player, and his scale work is impeccable. Indeed, I think the right hand three finger approach to scales will become standard technique within the next generation of players. And I think Palmer’s example will do much to push this along. His scales are so clean and supple that any reservations about the three finger technique will melt away upon hearing him.

Palmer’s bio and interviews always seem to dwell on his early years as an electric guitar shredder. I find this unfortunate. It suggests that one should expect machine-gun scales and bad tone from Palmer. But this isn’t at all how Palmer sounds. Rather, he’s a tasteful player with an excellent ear for tone and color. I spoke to him briefly during the reception, and found him to be a thoughtful and down to earth person. If you have a chance to hear him, do so.

Palmer is a tough act to follow, but here’s my video anyway. Enjoy.

——[My next update will be December 12, 2011]——

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