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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

The Virtuous Guitarist

An alternative development plan that does not include virtuosity

'Tis a pity that playing the guitar requires practise. When I think of the hours I have spent at it in order to get my fingers sufficiently nimble I wonder what other useful activity I might have pursued instead. You may think I speak in jest but I do not. In an ideal world of my design we would all be able to slap our fingers onto the fret board and will them to do as we please with the minimum of fuss and preparation.

So it is entirely reasonable that many aspirant players give up when they see the horizon of accomplishment never draw any closer. Why give up all that time to chasing an elusive goal when you could profitably spend it achieving other realisable aims?

Those players who do not fall at this particular hurdle may persevere to gain a technique sufficient to meet the demands of some, although not all of the repertoire. The path to ultimate virtuosity is strewn with frustration and longing, with the desire for making music undimmed, but the means not quite up to the task.

Anyone reading this who is not a player may think there is no point in playing unless you are a virtuoso. And they are right if the purpose of playing the guitar or any other instrument is just that.

But maybe there are other things you can do with the guitar. You could become an all-round musician without reaching dazzling heights as a player. The skills you could develop might include:

1. arranging
2. composing
3. improving your sight-reading
4. improving your knowledge of harmony and chords
5. playing chamber music
6. improvising

With enthusiasm and in a spirit of discovery you could undertake a fascinating journey which incorporates not just one but all six points above. One day you might pick up the guitar and play your own arrangement made to measure, of one of your favourite pieces. To the admiring listener you would explain the harmonies by improvising a sequence using a similar chord structure. Naturally you would be asked whether you compose and you could reply in the affirmative with suitable and sincere modesty, and proceed to play one of your compositions. The listener - who would now reveal himself or herself as a flute player - would just happen to have a bag-load of flute and guitar music in the other room.
"Oh, great, let's play some" you would say, confident that the hours spent developing your prowess at sight-reading would stand you in good stead. And so it would.

And so you would be able to tick off all six points of the alternative development path, with deserved satisfaction. Only then would you notice the virtuoso at the back of the room who might stroll up to you sheepishly and not without embarrassment say:
"I can play most guitar music but I can't do what you can, and I wish I could..."

Maybe such honed skills would give you great happiness. You would have developed confidence and fluency with the instrument. You would roam confidently in the small but respected realm of the virtuous guitarist. And maybe, just maybe, to your surprise, without planning it, you might find yourself only a few steps short of virtuosity itself.

August 2011

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=684 .
© 2019.

1 Comment   »

  • Anton Emery says:

    Hello Carlos,

    A friend pointed me towards your blog and this series of posts. This great information and you communicate it well. As someone who is not destined to be virtuoso performer it is motivating to read about these other aspects of playing and musicianship. I am looking forward to reading your other blog posts.


    Anton Emery


  1. It is never too late to become a virtuous guitarist – Carlos Bonell

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