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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Cannot, Must Not Practise Scales In Public

I have gained a new secret audience by doing so

You may not believe this when I tell you, but I find it hard to do any practice when I am on tour - that is, any practise at all. Why? Frankly, I cannot bring myself to play scales on my guitar in an aeroplane while fellow passengers around me are trying to sleep. It's the same with hotel rooms: I think twice before practising in them too, mindful of the numbing effect it would have on me if I were the occupant next door. And if I were to have my own tour bus, I couldn't possibly sit at the back and get on with it either.

You see, I regard scales and arpeggios and ligados and continuous slow repeats of passages as being a very private business. I don't want anyone to hear me. It's like the difference between getting dressed and going out all dressed up. Playing scales is getting dressed, playing music is going out all dressed up.

With my guitar leaning uneasily against the chair I could swear its one eye was pleading with me to have a strum

So how am I to resolve this problem? I would like to feel free to practise. I know it's good for me. I realise it's about time I worked out how to do so on tour without feeling self-conscious and shy about it.

Yesterday I was in my hotel lying down mulling over the matter, my guitar leaning uneasily against the chair. I could swear its one eye was pleading with me to have a strum. To please it I got up, perched on the edge of the bed, held the guitar to me, coaxed a sound or two out of it, and yes, gradually I saw the light. No, I don't want to take all the credit because it wouldn't be fair. It was my fingers rather, who stumbled upon a solution.

I sat there and found them searching for melodic variations within the scale patterns, rearranging the sequence of notes in a most pleasant manner. It felt as if my brain were not involved, they (the fingers) did it all themselves. On the other hand my mind completely directed the reshaping of the arpeggios. For a long time I have advocated 1, 1V, V, 1 sequences in a continuous rhythm as in my Technique Builder book. They sound good, both to player, and importantly, to the listener. What's more they are fun and beneficial to play. As for slurring exercises they are so quiet they cannot easily be heard from another room. They don't disturb anybody. It is a pity I can only keep them going for sixty seconds or so without my hand aching. I assume it is the same for you - sixty seconds and that's it, otherwise either I am seriously deficient or you are taking special finger steroids.

An agreeable limbering up in public places will keep me and any involuntary listeners relaxed

How about the slow repeats of phrases, is there a way around that to make them more listener-friendly? No, but yesterday I took particular care to play them musically and improve them with each repeat, all this not to annoy eavesdroppers trapped in the vicinity.

So there you have it, an end to practise as I know it, and from now on a new and altogether more agreeable limbering up in public places will keep me and any involuntary listeners relaxed. The only drawback is that I may acquire a whole new closet audience, hunched up on the other side of partitions, ears glued to the doors and walls, following my progress. This rather defeats the purpose since I still want to keep my practise to myself.

I know, I have just had an idea. I will hang up a notice on the outside of my hotel room door which reads:"if you like what you hear come to my concert tonight. Just slip $20 under the door and I will reserve you a ticket."

The sight of dollar bills gliding silently across my hotel room carpet will surely encourage me to play joyfully within the confines, and stimulate further creative thinking about how to transform my embarrassment into a tidy profit. As for private practise, that can always wait until I get home.

Read more:

Carlos Bonell: Technique Builder (1998)

Venice, Italy, 14 April 2012

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=1171 .
© 2019.

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