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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stuck At 80

Today was a busy day, so this entry will be brief. I’m now pretty consistent with i and m alternation at any tempo below 80. Past 80, things get dicey. On various days, the Mudarra Galliard has gone okay at 84, and sometimes even 88. But I wouldn’t trust it in a performance situation. And above 90, it just ain’t there.

All of this is only after a warmup of about ten or fifteen minutes. Starting cold first thing in the morning, I begin at 50 and rapidly increase the tempo. I dislike that I must begin so slowly, but my hand just isn’t there from a cold start. So it is what it is. It may be that I’ll never be the player who can pull the guitar out of its box, tune up, and then immediately rip a scale at 160.

Running open position scales across six strings, I’ve found that I can hit 100 on occasion. That’s nothing to throw confetti over. But it’s something.

The more I work on this, the more obvious it becomes that a good part of the barrier between me and speed is psychological. Whenever I try the Galliard at 90 or above, my hand, arm, and both shoulders tighten up. This ingrained tension, I’m convinced, is deeply rooted in my personality.

This reminds me of something I’ve noticed about profession auto racers. Back in the 1970’s, I was assigned by my college newspaper to get a photo of Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500. To get a good action shot, I sat in the passenger seat as she drove through a slalom course. As the car was heaving from side to side, Guthrie was very cool and economical with her steering. Being relaxed behind the wheel is obviously a job requirement for a professional driver. Contrast this to a poor driver who freezes in a sudden emergency and careens off the road into a ditch.

People who freak out in dangerous situations make bad drivers. People who tense up when playing fast make bad guitar players. There’s no way around it. To become a better player, I must become a different person.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm an expert at tension Tom. I only have to merely touch a Guitar string and my whole body goes into a rigid state, head to toe!
I've recently started doing a little meditation just before playing. A quick 5 minutes of serenity seems to have improved my playing significantly. It just seems much less of a battle ground and for the cost it has to be worth a try.