This is a great little tutorial on the E Minor Bouree from the BWV996 Lute Suite by J.S. Bach. This piece is easily one of the most familiar classical guitar pieces, and is moderately accessible to beginner-intermediate players - though, as Jason Vieaux points out, it is much more complex than it seems. Jason's recordings of these suites are usually my go-to for listening. I really enjoy his interpretations.
I've been MIA for a little while now, and I apologize for that! I have gotten some great blog ideas started, but just haven't had the time lately to back up the ideas with research. I just ran across this video by Jody Fisher - a jazz guitar teacher - that I thought has some fantastic tools for both beginners and really advanced players. If you've ever spent a lot of time working on chords, or have had difficulty moving from one chord to the other seamlessly, this video is definitely worth watching!
The time has come...
Very recently, I read Sparky's blog post about
6-Steps to Pass Your College Guitar Audition.
This got my thinking about my days of dreaded auditions...
...these were short lived...
and I will get to them in a moment
I continued playing music throughout high school for the sole reason that all my friends were doing it. I mean, hindsight is 20/20, but I never practiced then, and now my hobby needs to be fed, and vetted, and housed, and ridden 6(ish) days a week...and I love doing that...so...
…oh and although this is always the elephant in the room…it can kill you
SO, naturally I looked up when the next "big" auditions were and planned accordingly. Here is a list of things you should do not only to prepare for an audition, but while you are in the audition room.
1. Get a private teacher.
Preferably one that likes you,
doesn't also teach your ex, who dumped you...
with a Post-It note...
and who doesn't put these next words together in any type of sentence ... ever:
You. Play. Like. A. Girl.
What does that even mean?! I AM a girl...
2. You should (probably) practice. We can't all have natural talent, okay? While you can hate those people all you want it's not them it's you, so go practice.
In fact, why are you even reading this?
Go practice. . .
I'm not saying I ever practiced...
because I didn't
...but I didn't pick a musical career of any kind...so...there's that
3. I was told once that auditions are 75% preparation, 25% mindset.
I have NO idea if this is legit, but "Own the room".
4. Auditions are sorta like Game of Thrones.
You KNOW who the top contenders are. If you are one of them, congrats to you. If you are not, lesbe-honest you're just hoping to be the bannerman or something. You DEFINITELY don't want to be Hodor!
The year I auditioned for all state (And all the years I was in HS (except for our freshman year because let's face it: Will Livingood and Stefan Schuck)) there was always a top trumpet contender, for all intents and purposes let's call him Ender.
ENDER was sort of a jerk, but he was a brass player, are you really SURPRISED?
...Do not talk to this person. Just don't. NO.
Hold that thought for a second while I move to
Things NOT to do at an Audition:
1. Do not get the same seat and score as you did the year before. Nothing says you are not even remotely trying like a repeat year...and also who wants to spend TWO years playing third part...
Embrace the whole note. BE the whole note. There are no little notes...just little people...blah blah blah.
3. Do not be a good person. If you know that the middle card is C, G,E ...pick that card. For the LOVE of ALLAH/GOD/NOBODY pick that bleeping CARD! Because if you don't and you pick the one to the left you will pick: some shenanigans with a ton of sharps and flats and stuff...and also C
4. Don't look around the room when you walk in, because that private teacher I was telling you about, he's probably the blind judge.
5. Make sure you know how to sight-read. This was high school, so seriously did anyone know how to sight read? I dunno but I know that I SURE DIDN'T
6. Don't drive yourself to east-jabumba-places if you just learned how to drive stick
7. If you're not passionate...why? and find yourself asking yourself something along the lines of What am I doing here? I don't belong here. Go find your passion.
And I'm gonna stop you right there, because if you are old, you are probably thinking blah blah another millenial talking about said "passion" about what you do, and while I think you should be passionate about SOMETHING it doesn't have to be your work
(but if you can make that happen, definitely go for it)
XOXO Gossip Girl
P.S. This is the WORST blog template that ever existed
So, I recently had a student pick up his guitar off the floor only to find he hadn't latched it! Yes, it ended badly.
Well, maybe not that badly, but it ended with a guitar about as useful.
I've owned far more cases than I care to admit to, and this is a danger with all of them. About a year ago, I picked up a cheap guitar that I felt OK putting a pickup in and using as a gig guitar. It came with a cheaply made foam case, but it had the greatest innovation in a case I think I've yet encountered.
This case has a velcro strap just above where the neck support is. Thus (so long as you remember to attach the strap), if you happen to pick up your case without doing the latches, the guitar remains safely within the case! This is such a fantastic little innovation that costs less than a dollar! WHY DON'T ALL CASES COME WITH THIS? I own a case that costs more than many people spend on guitars, and it doesn't have it! I'm planning on putting one in myself.
A little while back, I posted a blog about my ideal practice routine, which you can view here. I did not get into actual practice techniques, though, so I thought I would share one here. Occasionally, I'll use "games" in my practice that I also recommend to my students to develop specific skills. One of my former teachers introduced me to one technique that I have adapted, and I like to call the Step-Ladder Game. It is not difficult to comprehend, does not take a whole lot of time, and can speed up the process of working out a tough section of music. So, here it is:
The goal is to reach 12 perfect performances of a small section. (The number 12 is arbitrary, and the one I was given by Joe Mayes; it could be any number, but I like that 12 is higher than 10, and seems to usually work for me.) These performances do not have to be consecutive; in fact, the game is set up so that you are just playing them perfectly a large majority of the time. You take this small section - one you are having particular difficulty playing - and set your metronome at a speed that you can play it comfortably, maybe even a little below that. Play the section, and if it is perfect, you count that as "One".
Now, it may be time to explain what I mean by "Perfect." This requires you to be a very good judge of yourself, and a very honest one. Take everything into consideration - timing, rhythm, pulse, pitches, left hand fingering, right hand fingering, and anything else you can think of - and if even one of those things is off, then it was not a "Perfect" performance. If you struggle to get past "one," reduce the tempo, or even the length of the section - I've done this with a single chord change.
Next, play the section again, and if you play it perfectly again, then you move on to "Two." Simple, right? BUT, if it was not perfect, you subtract one, so now instead of moving up, you in fact return to zero. You will never drop below zero. So, say you've reached number 11, and during the next performance, you use the wrong finger but played the right note. That's right, you have to go back to 10, and now you have two perfect performances to reach 12. Oh, you played again, and you used the right finger, but the wrong note? Now you're back at 9. You see how this works? Great! You are moving up and down a step ladder to reach the 12th step. If you're still unsure, think of it like a platform game. If you are playing a game and die, you return to the last placed you clicked "SAVE," instead of returning to the beginning of the game (that is a technique for another time). The only difference is, you can lose all of your saves if you keep dying.
That's it, that's your game! You reach 12, and you can probably bump up the speed pretty easily. The beauty of this game is that is covers so many developments in one little game. You develop your ability to self regulate, you take the time to really listen, you can isolate a specific passage and perfect it in every way, it ensures that you perform the section correctly with consistency, and it has a high pressure performance aspect as you get closer to your goal - the closer you are, the more pressure you place on yourself to reach that number. Keep practicing, and have fun!
I thought today might be an appropriate time to talk about passing your college guitar audition since the the first major deadline for applications was Last Night, and you're probably thinking: "Great, now that process is finally finished, now I get to work my @$$ off to prepare for this audition." - Flashback to November 1st, and I was still writing my last essay in the dressing rooms between scenes of my high school's performance of "Maybe Baby it's You."
You're probably one of the better guitarist in your area, and you may have even played in the high school jazz band. You know you love music, and think getting a degree in guitar would be fantastic, but your only options are Jazz or Classical - unless you go to a useless school either in Boston (which everyone always confuses with a university in California) or some "Institute" for guitarists that is in California. You've never really studied either, and you're panicking a little bit, but you think you could probably do one or the other. The audition requirements are something along the lines of: Play "Donna Lee" and be able to solo over the changes, or play a five minute solo classical guitar piece from memory, and know these scales. Following the audition requirements is important, but not the only thing you have to worry about. Don't worry so much about that because many auditions are really a judge of potential, especially for classical guitar because, let's face it: very few people have really studied classical guitar before college. That doesn't mean you can get away with sucking though, so I've boiled the audition prep process down to six steps that can apply to either a jazz or classical audition.
Step 1: Get a Lesson
Contact the guitar teacher at the school and ask if you can set up AT LEAST one lesson (Try to do more) from him/her. If s/he cannot or will not offer you a lesson, ask for a recommendation (if not offered) of a teacher, and I assure you: you will get one. The benefits of doing this are endless! First, this allows you to get to know the teacher's pedagogical styles to see if you are compatible. More importantly, the teacher will tell you EXACTLY what to work on. (*note: Work on those things!!! If you don't, then skip the audition). The importance of this step should be stressed, and is the reason it is number one. Many people fail to do this, and it often hurts them. In fact, I did not do this when I was auditioning for undergrad, and guess what? I failed my audition at Rowan.....TWICE. I passed finally after taking a summer of lessons with Brian Betz - the Jazz Guitar teacher at Rowan.
Step 2: Scales
It doesn't matter what kind of guitar you want to study in guitar, if you don't know how to play your scales, you are wasting your time.The bare minimum should include your two-octave major scales in all 12 keys (Yes, even E and F). I recommend learning at least two fingerings for each scale. People auditioning for Jazz guitar should also learn their mixolydian and dorian scales at minimum. It wouldn't hurt either to learn natural minor (Wait....there are different kinds of minor scales? - Yes). Learning scales on guitar is relatively easy - you learn one fingering for G major, move it up one fret, and Hey! You're already playing G# major. The instrument offers other complications, but these, at least, are kind of easy. A guitarist who hasn't taken the time to learn his scales displays a lack of interest and work ethic, and no teacher wants to take that one.
Step 2 (a): Chords
Jazz guitar majors should also learn to play multiple voicings of the Big Five basic seventh
chords: Major, Dominant, Minor, Minor7b5 (half diminished), and Diminished.
Step 3: Reading
Now, reading does not include tablature. I mean modern music notation (if you can read older notation systems already, perhaps you should consider a career in musicology). Reading music is foundational to any worth-while music study. Every college audition will include a sight-reading portion. You may shred like EVH, but if you can't read no music department in the world will accept you. There is too much ground to cover in an undergraduate degree to also have to learn to read music. I suggest you grab the nearest method book and start to familiarize yourself with reading music on guitar. If you can look at a treble clef staff and say: "That's a 'C'," it's useless if you can't play it on your instrument. Start to practice sight reading every day. You might also consider reading my blog post on practicing sight reading HERE.
Step 4: Required Material
Before you show up to the audition, or even the lesson, you should find out what the audition requirements are. Every college I have encountered posts these online now, and they are very easy to access. Some of them require a little searching on the website, but they are always there. If you cannot find them, contact the school. I have heard of people passing an audition without the requirements prepared, but only in very rare cases of extreme talent or preparation. Many (though not all) schools will overlap in their requirements...and that's great for you! It allows you time to focus on a common set of requirements instead of 50 different things. Knowing these requirements may also help you make a decision on a school. If the requirements are "play mary had a little lamb at a tempo of 40 beats per minute," you might consider a different school. If the requirements are too hard, but you love the school, maybe you need some more time in lessons and should wait a semester or even a year before applying.
Step 5: Take a Sample Lesson
Yes, I realize I am repeating myself, but only because there is nothing more important than this step. Call up the teacher at the school and get a lesson or two...or three... I was recently on a panel during auditions in which another teacher turned to me and said "I was going to say no, but when he said he started taking lessons with (so and so) I changed my mind because that shows that he cares and has taken the initiative to work. That I can work with." Now, after that snaffoo with my Rowan auditions, I didn't make that mistake again when I was applying to graduate school. In my penultimate semester at Rowan, I took maybe a dozen road trips just to take lessons with each of the teachers whose studios I was interested in. This led me to some great information; I learned from the teachers everything they wanted me to work on. I even decided against some schools because I didn't think I would work well with the teacher. In some cases, teachers gave me completely contrasting advise; in turn, I worked on both and auditioned on the same pieces in different ways to show the teacher that I was willing to work. By the time I began working at Radford, I had already developed a rapport with Dr. Trent, and at my audition - which was not perfect - I was offered a teaching fellowship in part because I worked on the things he told me needed work.
Step 6: Research
Do some research into the schools and the teachers in the departments. This will help you make a decision that will affect the rest of your life. Unlike other majors, you will spend more time with these teachers than perhaps you even care to. It's important to know their philosophies before getting into that.
So there you have it. Six easy steps to prepare for your college guitar audition. I wish you the best of luck. You might also check out JOHN DEMKO's blogs on scales and auditioning for some extra info.
I've recently had several students ask me about my practice routine and how to set up a good one, so I figured I'd share it here.
As a general rule, I like to practice several times each day, and I try to structure and plan each one rigorously. I don't always have a lot of time, so I want to get as much as possible out of the time I'm spending with my instrument.
I like to start my day with about a half hour or so of technical work: scales, arpeggios, etc. I like to do this when I'm fresh because, frankly, my brain isn't quite ready for music right after I wake up, so I like to focus on my tone, or something specific my left hand is doing, etc. After that, I feel like starting my day.
My other sessions throughout the day are usually (when possible) about an hour and a half. I don't really like to do a chunk too much longer than that because after a period of time, when I do, I'm not as focused and not accomplishing what I could. Before starting, I map out what I want to accomplish, and as a parallel, when I'm finished I write down exactly what I did accomplish so I know where to start next time (e.g. E major scale in thirds with an a m fingering I got to 73bmp... I'll start next time around 60 and work up from there to a new goal). After I've mapped out what I want to accomplish I start my warm-up with technical exercises and excerpts, all tailored toward reaching those end goals in my repertoire or my playing. This warmup can range anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour depending on how much time I have. That leaves the duration of the practice to work on repertoire or studies. *generally, it's a ratio of about 15-25 minutes warmup and 60-75 minutes practice. Sometimes that's less if I only have half an hour to practice at this time. I make sure I'm focused and attentive; if I've got something else on my mind, I'll take care of that and practice later; I don't need anything interrupting that focus. I like to do a 5 minute or so cool down after where I'm just 'noodling'...this is more for some unstructured fun, and sometimes reveals new ideas.
I try to get at least two of these sessions in per day. If I have a huge chunk of time available, I'll split it into different sessions with something in the middle that is not strenuous on my hands or really taxing on my mind in the same ways. I might read, take the dog for a walk, go for a short walk, get something to eat. You get the picture...get out and do something else. Then I'll go back and start a whole new session. Multiple sessions are far more successful than on very large section. You can accomplish more, be more attentive, and it reinforces material better.
I don't suggest you have to follow my plan exactly, merely take from it the overall idea: (1) keep sessions short and focused; (2) plan to practice multiple times per day; (3) go in with a plan each time; (4) have some fun! Your playing music for Pete's sake!
I suppose you might call this a mini rant.
As a teacher, I encounter this more frequently with piano students than guitar students (but to some extent with them too). This is usually propagated by a parent believing that their child should only be playing pieces by what they consider "real" composers (one of the maybe five composers whose name they recognize). Often, the parent had taken piano lessons previously and remembered playing "fur elise" (or at least part of it).
The real issue here is that learning only these "classics" does not allow for development of skills. Often, I encounter this as a complaint about a method book. While I don't feel that any method book I've encountered is perfect, I've never run across one that didn't seem to be put together meticulously to develop student growth. Occasionally, there is a composition by the author or editor of the method. The reason for this is not to stroke the go of the author, but to allow for a student to develop a singular skill without extraneous material. In many cases, either such a piece did not exist, or was not in the public domain to be used in the book and keep the cost (and ultimately, your price) down.
Studies of Michael Aaron's "Swing Song" is one of the many stepping stones that may one day get you to successfully perform Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
In this situation, you teacher is supposed to be the expert. He or she has dedicated their lives to the study of music. If you truly believe that your music teacher is not providing a quality education, you should first speak with them about the pedagogical value of what they are teaching, and if you still feel it's insufficient, find a new teacher.
How do you get a guitarist to stop playing?....Put some music in front of him!
Ok, maybe that was in bad taste, but the underlying problem exposed is far too true. If you aren't persuaded by the desire to be a well rounded musician, at at least realize the value of reading well. And by value, I literally mean $$$. As a guitarist, being able to read is the most valuable tool in your pocket to get gigs.
In the past, my only approach to sight reading was simply: stick a metronome in front of you and pick up something you haven't read before. I've picked up book after book for developing sight reading, most being either too simple, or having no practical application. The problem with my method was this: there is not a set regimen to build upon; no scaffolding, no advancement of levels. Sure, my reading got better, but I could be reading far better than I am now had I known of a better system for developing and growing the skill.
I was recently given a few ideas that I though I had to share. The first is simple, and sort of follows my previous method. Put on a record, and play music. Keeping up with John Williams will be impossible, you might catch a few notes here and there, but to just do this, you have to be reading. When you fall behind, find your spot and start again.
The next is I think the most genius approach I've ever heard. This works great with single line material, and with developing position reading. Pick up a piece of single line music, and follow this three step process (in time and with a metronome - yes that scary tool making the annoyingly incessant clicking you have nightmares about):
1. Read the line in time, but during the first pass, only saying (out loud) the string number of each note in time.
2. The same process as Step 1, but this time naming the fret number instead of the string.
3. Finally, play the line.
After this, try the same process in various positions on the guitar. You can also increase the difficulty of the music to include position shifts, varying tempi, and various rhythms.
While I was at GFA, I attended one technique workshop that really stood out, and not because it was about building speed. It was the only workshop I left really feeling as though I had actually changed my playing after. Unfortunately, I believe this is one my friend, John Demko missed. It really reminded me of an exercise he used to do to develop his tremolo. The workshop was given by Zoran Dukic - later that day I had a great lesson with him. These are my notes on what he had to say, they correspond to the recording below.
Place p on 4th string and lightly strum up and down with c
· Repeat this process with each RH finger
Play Triplets on a C Major Scale using a, c. Repeat this with each set of fingers.
Perform a rasgueado with c,a,c,a in the following pattern: down down, up up.
Perform the triplet exercise pushing out to full extension with the RH Fingers, Zoran calls this picking because it attacks the strings in the same direction a plectrum player wold.
Knock on the back of the guitar with each finger without allowing the arm or wrist to move. This can also be performed with the LH.
Then, do the knocking motion while pulling up on a string.
Play using only the superficialius tendon
Cover 5 strings, Rasg on all, allowing only the first string to sound. Slowly move up each string until all 6 are sounding
Practice a palm rasg (where fingers are held against the palm for a more percussive rasg)
Rest stroke with full extension, or “Soldier Walk”
Move individual fingers & make sure there is no sympathetic movement in other fingers.
Play & return RH finger precisely to the correct where the nail and flesh meet.
Rasg w/ left hand on strings
Triplet Rasg w/ each finger individually & consecutively.