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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Play The Guitar, Naturally

An attitude of mind from the very beginning


Playing a musical instrument demands the activation and control of hundreds, thousands of nerve endings and muscles, all of them coordinating left and right hand fingers in a seamless display which should attract no attention to the inherent difficulties. It is not surprising that theories, dogmas and schools of thought exist claiming to be the most efficient way forward for developing technique. Careful reading and adherence may convince the student of this. I don´t dispute that some are very good and have been evolved by extremely clever and analytically minded musicians, providing excellent methods. It is very important to understand how to develop a technique in a structured and progressive manner.

As an instrumentalist practices away, hour after hour, there is little more gratifying than to feel that he or she is improving steadily. He can feel rightly proud of his determination and discipline. After all, it takes great patience to do so. And maybe it is all thanks to a particular method.

In the process of practice he sets himself targets for improvement. I have advocated these myself many times. The combination of a deeply determined player, a technical methodology, and musical aspirations is surely indispensable to becoming an accomplished player. As the player improves complexities increase, and so do the expectations the player has of himself. The technique continues to push at the boundaries, ever more so.

In all this storm of activity it becomes more likely, rather than less, that the player begins not to notice pains and discomforts. Worse, he may notice them but feel they are a necessary part of self-improvement. As we know, they can lead to many problems for the player, and in extreme cases to irreversible damage. The trouble starts not at the advanced stage of playing but with an attitude of mind from the very beginning.

Fingers and hands can achieve dexterity without tension

The attitude goes something like this: "it is very demanding to become a player with a really good technique. It takes years. The fingers and hands have to be coaxed to do difficult and convoluted movements. But with sufficient practice, following certain principles, they can be made to do so".

Now, I agree with almost everything but don’t like the sound of the last few words: can be made to do so. Nowhere is there any suggestion that the fingers and hands can achieve dexterity without tension nor that instruments, including the guitar, have evolved in their design to suit effortless playing, for the spacing of frets and strings are suited to the great majority of adult hands.

When we say about a player “he is a natural” we are expressing admiration about how easy he makes it look. We are also saying it looks so natural. Maybe this is a case of the chicken and the egg: because he is relaxed and natural in his approach is why he is so good. Making the best use of the natural inclinations and disposition of the fingers and hands is a sure way forward.

Try this as an experiment:
- Close your fist gently
- Hold the hand in front of you, palm upwards
- Open your hand slowly until you can see all the palm of your hand but not yet the beginning of the fingers
- Now without changing your half open hand incline your wrist towards you

Do you notice your left hand is now in an almost perfect position for playing the fretboard and completely relaxed?
Now repeat the same thing with the right hand. At the very end rotate your arm so the half open hand is facing downwards. Do you notice your right hand is now in an almost perfect position for playing the strings and completely relaxed?

Within five minutes, you can get almost everybody to understand these positions and repeat them effortlessly, poised at the guitar ready to play, even complete beginners…and they make it look natural too!

To sum up
Be natural by following basic principles of movement = Relaxed technique = Faster improvements = Effortless playing

If only our deeply determined instrumentalist reminded himself of these simple basics as he earnestly follows complex manuals of advice while rattling through endless scales and arpeggios he would be more likely one day to hear those wonderful words ringing in his ears: “he’a a natural”.

Read more:
Hard to find, but well worth the effort:
Lee F. Ryan: The Natural Classical Guitar: The Principles of Effortless Playing (1981)

Mexico, February 2012

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=1033 .
© 2017.

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