Saturday, October 24, 2020

Which End

As I was getting ready to tune, I noticed my copy of the Seven Habits on the shelf and thought about “Begin with the end in mind.” How did I want to be or where by the end of this practice day? In a year?  What do I want/need to learn that will facilitate my next musical release?

Gently adjusting the tuning peg listening to the low C settling in. Noticing tension in my left shoulder I let go a bit. Could I keep both instruments, guitar and body, in tune for the next couple hours. With pausing this was possible and supported the progress I made with a few pieces.

In the afternoon we had a session of the Practice Consortium, a collection of fifty or os guitarists that have been come together again for 7 weeks. Different individuals guide the practice each week based on what they are exploring. Today we were playing with chord inversions across three strings at a time. This is the one time of the week when I use a pic, and am generally challenged as the tempo is increased. During this session, I was “trying too hard” to keep up and it took a toll on my body. After a 45 minutes session, I needed to do an Alexander Technique lie down to relax my back. After 10 minutes I did some gentle stretches. With my body in tune again, I enjoyed lunch outside with my wife, then prepped for and taught our Saturday Qi Gong class. Listening to works in progress as I write this.

Need to have a conversation with my friend who said he is exploring accelerated learning. As I have a lot of respect for him, I’d like to know what he is investigating. What are you investigating?

                                 Photo by Randy von Liski

Monday, October 19, 2020



Today I shared a story from my early days in Guitar Craft with some friends. There was talk of the courses ending for good. This fear of loosing this wonderful nourishing form led to a piece,Kicked Out of the Nest which Steve Geest and Peter Legowski added parts to and we performed and recorded this as oDD CamP along with Joan Bull. 

When i went to play guitar I wondered what would todays Kicked Out of the Nest be like? Improvising an idea arose. Then a different one which I danced with for a while. Hours to be exact. Working title is Nested. Somehow hearing some longer tones floating through, perhaps an oboe or other wind instrument; maybe even some sharp chirpy clusters too. But for now here we are.

Thoughts &  feedback are welcome.

Photo by Russ Seidel

Friday, October 16, 2020

A Question of Ease

Last night I participated in an Alexander Technique workshop given by my dear friend, guitarist and AT teacher Peter Legowski. 

The question we were working with is “*Where else might I be a bit easy*?”

Let go of letting go of tension.  Rather nourish and cultivate ease & freedom. Simple though not easy.

I began my guitar practice session going through Peter's recommended cycle.  I found my practice today to be full of questions.

When might I play with joy?

How simply can I break this line down to find ease in playing it?

Where is the wonder?

Where is my energy centered while learning?

How did this mistake become so insistingly ingrained?

How might I replace it?

What is/are the questions I need to further my development?

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


 Towards the end of my meditation this morning I worked with a relatively new Alexander Technique practice. Gently asking the question “where might I be a bit easy.” Sensing ease and observing it sometimes spreading. Refreshed I was ready to practice my guitar.

After around 45 minutes.I noticed I was tense while working on a difficult transition. Part of me wanted to persist. Fortunately the wiser part of me paused, put down the guitar, stretched, worked a couple minutes with visualizing the transition to see what I knew. Returning to the question I nurtured a sense of calm and ease. Then I began again. Pausing another time a couple minutes later, leaving the guitar on this time, but slowing down the impulse to plow through. This is fine motor training not digging a hole. (Actually having installed in-ground swimming pool in my youth, a pick is best used effortlessly but too many work too hard with that instrument also.)

This is still an ongoing lesson related to understanding the need for me to remember to introduce ease into my guitar practice. Sometimes trying too hard to “get it right” leads to tension which works against masterful playing. This then affects my thinking and occasionally my emotions.

I was ready to move onto to develop Exiled, but decided to improvise first. Need to balance my maintenance of known pieces/exercises with venturing into the unknown.

This letting go led to a new musical theme emerging. Until it didn’t. Needing to understand where the notes want to go next I took a short break. Returning to the guitar the theme moved along. Suddenly it was time for lunch and errands.

Photo by Bee Kim

Thursday, October 8, 2020



Lifes’ demands obscure.

Decades striving just to be.

Clarity comes; then goes.

When my wife told me she needed to focus on clarity today, I knew she was not alone. To foster this I began my morning guitar practice playing through my established repertoire. Felt right and good even fun sometimes. To just play my guitar. There was clarity with this action as I have an intention to perform a set online in the near future. While I need to iron out the logistics of this, I must be ready. With the creative outburst I’ve had during the past two months I’ve let go of regularly practicing my established repetroire. But no more.

At one point I found myself slumping over the guitar. Argh - lack of clarity of how I use my body - again. Despite decades of exposure and practice with the Alexander Technique, end-gaining is alive and well. I did notice though. Thus I paused. Introducing freedom through directing my thinking. Letting go of holding on. 

Realizing that I’ve neglected my work with getting comfortable with performing for a camera out came my phone. Not liking the quality of the sound the need for clarity arose again. Get out at least one of the new mics and experiment. Better quality, though the volume is a bit low. Progress not perfection.

Photo by: jrperes

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Slowing Down

Working on Exiled this morning I found myself rushing, which means my fingers are not learning how to play the piece but how to play mistakes.  Out came the metronome to establish the tempo of actual execution which helped. Especially when I slowed it down more.  As I continued practicing I was able to begin playing with the dynamics and was getting a overall feel for this section of the piece. After a break I noticed that one of the transitions was not working. When I was entering the notes into my scoring program I had gotten clever. While it sounded ok, as I played this it become obvious to me that I had disrupted the form too soon.

Experimenting I reverted to my original idea for these couple of bars. With more practice I realized I need to extend another idea a bit further.  Good, solid and necessary work. Easier to change the score in the Guitar Pro software then to have to rewrite it by hand.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Dance I Almost Missed

         Last night we were walking and as we turned east at the end of our block saw the Moon. No longer full but big and radiant nonetheless. Mars was very close. Upon awakening this morning I looked out the front door to see if the moon had set and Mars was still close by it. But last night Mars was to the left of the Moon and now to the right. A dance between them had been going on all night. And I almost missed it. I know their  will continue even when I no longer see them. How many processes go on below the level of my awareness all day long? This complex biochemical psycho-physical being, known as I, a speck in the Universe dancing with the rest of creation. Thoughts frequently introduce noise in the system; emotions push me about like strong ocean tides while my body moves about on automatic.  Until I bring some attention to what “I” am doing.  Then back in the dance, the small miracle of being alive in the moment arrives. Awe, wonder and curiosity arise augmented by being here and now. Tension in the body is eased, thoughts slow and the whispers of the Universe take the form of notes.

Reflection begins my day followed by Qi Gong and Sitting Meditation laying the foundation for the arch of freedom. As I eat my breakfast, sweep the kitchen floor or open my guitar case I might pause and briefly nourish returning to this moment easing my dance with distraction. When I am present and play a note, a subtle energy infuses the music. This energy changes me and those who are listening. But the dance of the Universe is daunting - waves of thought, emotions and miscues of an aging body arise unexpectedly to counteract the flow. Again and again I must begin.  Again and again I loose my step. And then the right causes and conditions supported by decades of practice arrive - music surges and I surf the creative wave one more time.  Dancing with dissonance, connection ebbs and flows, and we begin again. What if I'd never picked up a guitar. 

Listen. Listen now. 

Have you heard The Call? Listen Here

Photo by: Abigail Atienza