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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

A Virtuous Learning Approach Right from the Start

- My rough guide for putting it into practise
and how to develop from there -

Finally you have in front of you the music of the piece you so much wanted to learn. You take your guitar out of the case and tune it. You lean forward and open the music to page one. The music rings in your head but the dots are not what you expected, they are a lot more difficult to read. What to do now?

Finding the dots
You start with a big advantage, which is that you know how it is supposed to sound. If your reading abilities are not up to scratch you will find it a slow and difficult task to work your way through the piece, even knowing already how it is supposed to sound.

Advice for the present:
Take it a phrase at a time and repeat each phrase until almost memorised.

Long-term virtuous learning plan:
Improve your reading skills in these areas:
The fingerboard: name and play notes anywhere on the guitar fingerboard. Call out a note, any note, and play it on every string without hesitation.
The score: without playing the guitar visualise exactly where the notes are to be played and the fingering patterns.

Playing the first line
Now you have found the notes and have played through it various or many times you could move on to the next line. But before you do so try to make it sound like music, and not a sequence of notes.

Advice for the present:
As hard as it may be to do so while you are still not fluent with it and are not yet able to play it in time, try to think of dynamics, phrasing, and expression.

Long-term virtuous learning plan:
Once you have improved your reading skills take a more balanced approach to learning pieces with both technique and interpretation moving forward hand in hand.

Set realistic targets
By now you have realised the difficulty of the piece based on how long you have taken to learn the first few lines. Decide how you wish to proceed: will you learn just a couple of lines at a time, or will you try to improve the whole piece at every practise session?

Advice for the present:
Spend more time getting on top of one line at a time, and less on playing or staggering through all of it.

Long-term virtuous learning plan:
Once you have improved your reading skills you will be able to play through the piece with difficulty, but moderate fluency, almost from the first day. You will make a special note of where you make mistakes and home in on them. This is more fun and musical than learning one line at a time.

Getting to know the music
Treat the learning experience as a musical journey of discovery not just getting the notes under the fingers.
Ask yourself:
How does the composition develop?
What form does it take?
What is that chord (any chord you point to) in the piece?
What is the harmonic progression of the piece?
What are the expressive features I need to take into account?
Am I considering dynamics and tone among other expressive devices?

Advice for the present:
Look for simple over-arching answers. You may have no choice but to keep your answers basic at this stage, but at least your mind is exploring the artistic aspects of your learning.

Long-term virtuous learning plan:
Become more conversant with form, structure, harmony, and how expression is associated with them.

Back to fingering
Now you are more familiar with the piece ask yourself again whether your fingering patterns are both the easiest option and also the most effective musically.

Advice for the present:
Concentrate on easy fingering patterns which reduce the chances of a mistake.

Long-term virtuous learning plan:
Explore alternative fingering patterns which not only reduce mistakes but really help the musical flow. You will be able to do so quite quickly devising different patterns in the same location, and also exploring alternatives both in lower and higher positions.

If you want to catch up on my previous articles about the Virtuous Guitarist here are the links:
The Virtuous Guitarist 1: An Alternative Development plan that does not include virtuosity
2: More About The Development Plan
3: Getting started on the Alternative Development Plan
4: How the Alternative Development Plan is important for all classical guitar players
It is never too late to become a virtuous guitarist

There you have it, my rough guide to just a few aspects of how you can set out on the path to virtuous playing. You can make it make it a painless, enjoyable and learning experience, all at the same time. Have fun!

7 October 2012, London

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=1664 .
© 2019.

1 Comment   »

  • Neil says:

    Carlos, an excellent approach to absorbing a piece that the student is studying.
    Something I have found helpful too is to just familiarise the natural notes in the higher positions on each string (similar to the white keys on the piano) and then it does not seem such a daunting task to learn. Only a maximum of five notes on each string from fret five. Sharps and flats can be learnt from there. Keep up the excellent blogs Carlos, plenty to think about and discuss with students. Best wishes. Neil

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