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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Long Haul

I need to rethink what I’m writing here. Too often I find myself with nothing more to report than that I’m still plugging away. In the long haul of improving one’s playing, it can’t be any other way. But it makes for uncompelling reading.

What bothers me is that there’s so little to see, hear, or read that seems apt to my situation. Much of the advice that’s been brought up is stuff I’ve seen and tried many times before. But I’m not convinced that there’s nothing out there. Rather, it’s simply that good information is drowned out by the noise. Guitar teaching is a small and fractious world in which the loudest and most self-serving often rise to the top. To be sure, a few good people get there too. But their example is lost in the din of those who continually thump their own tubs. (A good example is the concert artist who attaches registered trademarks to his teaching methods—this is someone who long ago lost touch with keeping the ego in check.)

Speaking of humility, nothing so sharpens it as very publicly announcing a goal and then very conspicuously falling short of it. Honestly, I really believed I’d have more to show after a year and five months of work. I’ve learned much, and I think I’m a better teacher for it. I’ve even thought of distilling this blog to the things I believe are essential to right hand speed. But I’m brought up short by the very pertinent fact that I’ve not yet succeeded. It seems premature to say that I’m sure of anything. Actually I am sure of some things, but without the goods, I’ve no authority on which to stand in saying it. Absent accomplishment, I’m just another guy talking who can’t back it up. We’ve enough of that in the guitar world.

Going forward, I want to find and identify those who really know what they’re doing. Then, in a nutshell, I want to describe the barrier I’m running into and see if they have anything good to tell me. In doing this, I want to avoid the usual suspects: those whose reputations are built on résumés and hot air.

Exactly how will I go about this? I’ve no idea. But embarking on a journey without a map seems to suit me.

•                                    •                                    •

Today I was reading an article about Julian Bream, who I regard as the finest concert guitarist of the 20th century. Talking about his retirement from concert life, he said the following:
“But I still have a daily routine—scales and arpeggios, a couple of Villa-Lobos studies and one or two of passages from the Concierto de Aranjuez or Britten’s Nocturnal—the ones that I never could play.”
It’s humbling to know that an artist of Bream’s caliber has things that elude his mastery. But I take inspiration from his determination to keep chipping away at his flaws.

——[My next update will be May 27, 2012]——

1 comment:

ronjazz said...

Have you investigated Aaron Shearer's "Learning the Classic Guitar"? I developed a focal dystonia in my right hand 10 years ago, losing most of my technique, and the Shearer method is the only one I'e found to be effective in retraining. If you are as frustrated as you sound, please go to Jerald Harscher's site "The Poised Guitarist". he teaches via Skype, and is one of the very best I've encountered in 40 years of high-level playing. I'd be willing to bet that he can help you over this "hump".