Saturday, February 13, 2010

Being Open


I made a decision three days ago to learn the Etude no 7 in A minor, by Matteo Carcassi that has been transcribed to the Guitar Craft Standard Tuning by Bert Lams of the California Guitar Trio. I took classical guitar lessons for two years prior to my taking my first Guitar Craft course where work with a plectrum is the standard. I stayed with the plectrum for the first 16 years or so, but at the time when I began playing solo work during The Field DC workshops I returned to fingerpicking.

An occasional lesson with Tony Geballe on right hand (RH) technique from a fingerstyle perspective has been useful, but I have not undertaken a regular study of the right hand from this perspective. As  pieces that I have written have required specific techniques or right hand combinations I have addressed there in isolation. I have adapted some of the GC exercises for the RH to my fingerstyle approach and also adapted some of the Guliani exercises for the RH.

Back to my study of the Etude. I am learning this etude as an exercise for my right hand not so much as learning a piece to perform at some point. I told myself that I will take it slow and learn 4 bars over the course of 3 days. If this occurs faster it is fine but I am setting this up for success without overwhelming my limited practice time. Many nights it is difficult for me have a good focused hour of practice on working nights. I want to keep up certain pieces of my own and always want to be able to respond to any creative promptings that may arise. Last evening was such a case. I spent ten minutes with the 4 bars and moved on to working on Stepping Stones. After a short break I began exploring chord forms in the tuning used for Stepping Stones and I continued this exploration for the remainder of my time.

I worked with the Etude for 10 minutes this morning along with some other guitar work and then had to address other areas of my life. While resting this afternoon I visualized the four bars I am working on and later when  I returned for another practice session I decided it was time to apply the metronome to my work. I determined a setting of 48 bpm to be the tempo to work at and began my review.

Last weekend while participating on a Guitar Craft Course,  Sandra Bain Cushman, an Alexander Technician, was working with me on being open while playing. I focused on being "forward and up" on my stool, gently allowing myself to return to this sense when I noticed myself collapsing. I have a tendency to hold my breath and to collapse my upper body when learning and making mistakes. I approached these 4 bars with care and attention, watching my mind wanting to jump in and criticize, pausing, breathing and letting go when this happened. Finding my hands and then resuming, taking a small break to check in after each four bar effort. Slowly I quieted down and began to get this section into my hands. I stopped looking at the score and the second time through after this I played the section well. I stopped to allow the muscle memory to take in this information and to write.

So the theme for this Etude for me is being open to my right hand technique, in my posture, and in my method of learning. To observe how I learn a piece and to be open to the interferences that arise mentally, physically, and in my spirit. During a discussion with my wife I realized I could also be open to the struggles of certain people in my life. They too are learning the piece of music that is their life and if I as an audient can remain open, perhaps they can learn their part. At the very least I might learn mine.

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