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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Questions, Questions, Questions!

The Hidden Clues to Better Guitar Playing Are All Here

I have arrived back in London on Friday, since which time it has scarcely stopped raining. The temperature has dropped by about ten degrees since I was last here. Worst of all, the days are getting shorter, and a dismal greyness hangs over the city as prelude to the long interminable autumn and winter ahead. Yes, it is enough to make me want to leave again but for one thing - and that is to get on with some “proper” playing, regardless of the elements.

When I say proper playing I mean an all-in, not-overlooking-any-detail, let’s-nail-this-once-and-for-all-type approach. Received wisdom, much of it (not all) founded on sound principles is full of reference to scales, arpeggios, studies, slow practice, don’t move on till you get that bit right bla bla bla….and that is all very well and good as far as it goes. But there are a whole series of things and aspects of playing which are too easily overlooked but which are greatly entertaining and beneficial if you apply yourself to them.

Here is a list of some which will greatly improve your playing if only you can apply yourself to them. Speaking for myself, they provide a constant reference, not that I am always as diligent as I should be in following what I preach:

Tone and sound quality
Question: do you really work at this? Do you listen enough? Do you experiment with changes of angle to improve this aspect?

To get rid, or not, of those bass squeaks!
Question: do you think they are avoidable? Do you think they add to the charm of the classical guitar?

Structure and harmony
Question: when are you going to be able to name all the chords and understand the structure and harmonic shape of the piece? Do you need to do a special course on this or could you make a start right now?

Change fingerings to improve phrasing and ease of playing
Question: are there passages which you have been meaning to change but never get round to doing so? Do you think it is more a matter of improving your technique rather than a change of fingering?

Background knowledge including musical, social and historical
Question: can finding these things out make a difference to your playing? Is your time better spent practicing rather than reading books and articles?

Reliable memorisation
Question: how reliable is your memory? Is a good memory something you are born with or something you can refine? How well do you know your pieces? Can you recall the musical score, the fingering patterns, the harmonic sequences and other matters which help shore up your memory’s building blocks?

You may have noticed that many of my questions are loaded. Some of them are trick questions. In some of them I play devil’s advocate. One final question about my questions: are you sure can you tell the difference!?

Here are some qualities you could apply to your playing with enthusiasm (I hope) and in a spirit of enquiry. The answers are neither easy nor obvious, but by simply considering the questions you will be starting an interesting journey of discovery, and what’s more self-discovery too.

14th September 2013, London

For a complete index to my blogs This entry was posted on 14/09/2013 (Saturday) at 6:35 pm and is filed under Tips and advice: playing the guitar, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=2735 .
© 2019.


  • Colin James says:

    This is very sound information which, I will apply to my own practice. Practice has to have structure and discipline and an understanding of what you are trying to achieve. I realised that for many years I was getting very good at practising my 'mistakes' It is also very easy to concentrate on a particular passage as it pleasing on the ear as in Isaac Albeniz' Granada with the first modulation at measure 41 which of course I play beautifully over and over again, shame about the rest! One solution I came up with was to learn a piece 'backwards' so rather than playing the opening bars of Asturias over and over again start learning passages from the end working to the beginning. I would appreciate your comments on this as a learning technique.

    • Carlos says:

      Thank you, Colin, for your reply. Good luck with your playing! Carlos

    • Carlos says:

      Learning pieces "backwards" is not strictly a correct description. Imagine the A-Z of learning a pieces in sequences. I would describe it as A-B, B-C, C-D and then when you reach D from C it becomes B - D and A - D and so it goes on. Hope that makes sense!

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