Introduction: Guitar players' hands
When I first got involved with the guitar I was only 7 years old. At that time "playing" and the guitar were very much the same thing.
It was the Sixties, though and you just could not escape Segovia's gigantic figure and all that it stood for in terms of the way you "were supposed" to hold the guitar, the way you "were supposed" to pluck the strings, the way you "were supposed" to file your nails, the way you "were supposed" to play a musical phrase.. Having been a Segovia student myself, the whole process of finding my own way in the guitar world was rendered even more difficult.
We all need models when we are giving our first steps in any walk of life. Having a guitar teacher must be a priority.. having a good guitar teacher must be a top priority.
It has taken me years to realize that the best teachers are those who guide us throughout our own natural, personal and unique way of playing.
We must understand that when we try to copy a "guitarist" model, all that we can dream of, is to be able to play as well or nearly as well as the model. I've never met any guitarist perfect enough who would say "The guitar must be played the way I play it".
So, why do we keep imitating? The reason, once again, is that we have not had the good fortune of running across the sought after good teacher.
It doesn't take more than a quick look to see that there is very little in common among them.. still, these guitarists' playing is simply beautiful. At the same time, we all have our musical taste and preferences.. I may love Segovia's playing but.. yes, but still I wish he didn't make so much noise with his left hand.. or Parkening's but I wish he.. or you name it.
I often think that the secret to all of these masters' playing is: do not take the guitar so "seriously".. yet, be a professional in your way of doing it. After all, it is not the Holy Bible we are dealing with. These masters' voice is not the voice of God but their own. This is the greatest teaching: To find our own voice with the help of a teacher.
I lived for over 2 decades in a country -Paraguay- where 90 per cent of the guitar players are self taught folk players. I am constantly amazed at seeing how these players find their way around the most bizarre musical phrases. I sometimes think that they represent -without wanting to- a part of ourselves that has been partially lost or neglected.
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When I think of guitar technique, I think not only of the mechanical way to achieve a given result but to a much broader concept. Remember that our technique is constantly changing or, to use a more modern word, upgrading. If we look at the traditional guitar methods, we will see how each one of them approaches technique in a static, distant, non-musical, self standing way. What is worse is that we do not even know what pieces from the guitar repertoire these exercises apply to.
As a matter of fact, most of these guitar methods usually have a series of incredibly boring exercises attached to them as if the only way to acquire the given skill were to "swallow" the bitter pill. The times are constantly changing and for a modern guitarist to keep up to date with his every day life -which will most surely be shared by a "regular" job- it would be ridiculous to expect that the few hours we can dedicate to playing were dedicated to these ugly-sounding-anti-musical exercises.
If we think of music, or the piece we'd love to play, then we are thinking more like the nineties. Since there is no method in the world which will cover all the possible technical difficulties, --let alone that we do not want to cover all the technical difficulties but the ones directly involved with the piece we are learning-- let us focus on the sought after goal: The one piece we'd love to play... NOW- and as we are working on the piece, we'll be building our own musicianship and technique. Abel Carlevaro's "Guitar Master class" editions, are based on this concept. The masterclass series on this web site are based on Carlevaro's concepts. As you find a technical challenge in a piece you want to learn, create your own exercise to overcome it. The following video shows this concept based on a technical difficulty in Mangore's La Catedral.
Remember that there is no such thing as a beginner, advanced or intermediate repertoire but only a "I like it.. I don't like it repertoire. TRUTH
I will show you how by learning a piece online and showing you the process. (The Masterclass section of mangore takes you through the learning process)
I am preparing for a guitar competition in Spain --Spring 1997--, and I've just received the music. What I'll do is go through the learning process with you. The obligatory piece for the first round is Joaquin Turina's "Homenaje a Tarrega" -Homage to Tarrega- (Typical!, Competitions are "never played pieces" territory)
I turn the cover and I see the first of two pieces: Garrotin, Allegretto. Hum..., Let's see if I have the piece recorded.. I do! I have it recorded by Julian Bream and John Williams. I find it very helpful to hear a piece before I learn it, especially if I never heard it before. Then I listen to it with the music in front of me to see how much the performer has "interpreted" the piece.
I definitely like Breams' version more. It is lively and he does a great job. Quite a challenge.. I am lucky this time because competition music is often, not to say always, ugly. These particular obligatory pieces are at least decent...
The most important thing for a musician must be the quality of his sound. In developing our technique we must never lose sight of this foremost element of performance. I can affirm that if we concentrate on sound, we will develop a technique which will be in accordance with this key element. Keep in mind that the classical guitar uniqueness lays in the fact that sound quality and production is physically related to our fingers and fingernails. We deal with no keys, bows or mechanisms but with our very own body for the creation of our sound. Marvelous !
This also means that our technique will naturally be re-created with every new piece we learn. There is no such thing as The Segovia Technique, The Carlevaro Technique , Tárrega or Llobet Technique which will be good enough for us. (Follow this link to learn about "technical "secrets") We must come to say that we use "our technique". It is always wise to see what the great maestros have to say about any particular aspect of sound production, though, we must have the personality and patience to be able to read between the lines and re-examine each one of these aspects to see which one and how they best apply to us. At the same time believe that you might create something new altogether.
This is how natural harmonics are produced on the Classical Guitar
the members area.