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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

The Wide-Awake Daytime Dream of Perfect Guitar Playing

- You can make it happen -

Now that we are close to October and the summer holidays are fast receding into the realms of a dream world, I ask myself did they really happen? Did I really see the Olympic torch paraded through the London streets? Did I really stumble by chance upon the triathlon race in Hyde Park as I emerged from a dentist’s appointment nearby? Did I really spend a week in Madrid during a heat-wave with winds from the Sahara desert pushing the temperature up to 43 degrees? And while there did I really play a few notes on a guitar at Juan Menduiña’s workshop and immediately realize here was something special? This last is quite vivid, since I left Spain clutching the guitar and still have it close by as I write. What’s more I played it both in Derry and in Lima, so I am pretty sure I am not trapped in a dream world of my own making!

Dreams and reality: some say dreams are but a night-time rehash of our daily lives, concerns and relationships. I certainly have great fun interpreting my own and my friends’ dreams. I am an amateur at this but there are people who earn a living by doing so. They are called psychoanalysts. Wide-awake daytime dreams are another matter. They are all about our secret and not-so-secret thoughts and ambitions spurring us on into action. Wide-awake dreams occupy two thirds of our lives, the night time rehash one third. I am going to write about the wide-awake part.

So what have the wide-awake daytime dreams got to do with guitar playing? The answer is everything. I sit down to play. I am having a wide-awake daytime dream (no, I am not mad). In it I imagine how wonderful the music in hand should sound. I can hear myself play it flawlessly, expressively, with a beautiful tone. It is so good that it is perfect in conception and perfect in execution. All this happens as my hands are poised over the strings in the instant before I start playing. Without having such thoughts and visions I would just be playing a sequence of notes. And so would you. You may think I am over-ambitious. Maybe I am. Sooner or later I may have to face a reality some way short of my wide-awake daytime dream - and it might be the same for you too. But until that moment why don´t we both give it our best shot? Why not try to make the dream real?

Now comes the hard part: never losing sight of the ideal conception of the music as you labour to get the notes under your fingers. This means nailing down (pardon the pun) all the difficult passages until they flow seamlessly as in your wide-awake daytime dream. Your fingers may protest mightily at this imposition from on high. They need encouragement and to gain the confidence through repeated slow playing, which confirms perfect passage work at a slow speed. As minutes, hours, days and weeks pass by you increase the tempo. Like old friends you urge the fingers to return to the task with enthusiasm and familiarity until one day, yes, it sounds perfect – or nearly perfect, anyway.

The mind has no limits but is easily misled by our diminutive bullying fingers

But, if you gradually allow the fingers to dictate terms and affect negatively your wide-awake daytime dream conception then you are in trouble. For a start the change as you practice over time is so gradual that you are in danger of not noticing it. And what could be worse than confusing your wide-awake daytime dream (that is, your musical conception) with the insistent requirements of bumbling fingers whose pea-sized brains are squeezed into the tiny extremity of each of your digits? Your wide-awake daytime dream is contained in the larger space upstairs, in your mind. It has no limits that humans have yet reached. But it is easily misled and confused by all manner of things, including by our diminutive bullying fingers.

As long as I remember this I should be OK: that in my wide-awake daytime dream I imagine how wonderful the music in hand should sound. I can hear myself playing it flawlessly, expressively, with a beautiful tone. It is so good that it is perfect in conception and perfect in execution. The fingers can have their say in the proceedings, and it is an important say. Not listening to them contributes to the sort of problem I have described. Listening to them and incorporating their wishes into the larger scheme of things is a very good idea. Allowing them to dictate terms is not.

So, what is real and what is not? Playing music where you think you are fulfilling your wide-awake daytime dream conception but in reality have compromised; or when your dream is vividly in control, although mindful that your fingers may still need to catch up? Call me an optimist, but I would rather go with the second choice. And so probably would you if you have read this far!

One day next summer you may play one of your pieces fulfilling your wide-awake daytime musical dream conception, with your fingers nearly with you at all times. By the following month you may ask yourself did I really play it that well, or am I imagining it? Pressing together the tips of your thumb and index finger you might say to anyone listening “it was that close.”

Your wide-awake daytime dream could become real. Some may call you mad, but you know better.

Mexico, 22 September 2012

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=1629 .
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