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Classical Guitar Lessons: How To Practice

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I'd like to talk with you for
a little bit about practicing,
the art of practicing, practicing,
the practice room, and also practicing
Practicing is, is different for everyone
I want to just give you some general ideas
and recommendations.
The most important point is to, maintain a
varied regimen.
Everybody has different schedules and,
and, not everybody is going to be able to
practice four hours a day.
So whether you pra, whether you can
practice an hour and a half a day, or
four hours or more, the more, the
important thing is to just make sure that,
that, that whatever you do is very varied
and covers a lot of different things.
If you've been playing for a while, it's a
good idea to know your strengths and
weaknesses so that you can emphasize eh,
and spend more time improving on your
areas of weakness to help try to bring
them up to the level, of your strengths.
I'll be helping you with this when I see
your video submissions.
As far as the practice session itself,
it's important to, first warm up your
hands and fingers.
It's not a great idea to just tear, you
know, pick up your guitar first thing in
the morning and tear into your most
difficult pieces.
There’s a lesson in the curriculum on
stretching, that really you should,
you should watch and, and practice those
There are various stretches that I picked
up from teacher,
my teachers like John Holmquist and, and
David Leisner, and, and
just many other people around the
And so stretching is a good part of
warming up, but
also starting with things that are a
little bit
easier to handle like your exercises, your
technical exercises.
I personally like to have anywhere from a
half an hour to an hour
of technical, mechanical kind of warmups.
They help get my hands warm.
And I can cover some scales, arpeggios,
some, maybe some technical exercises,
some etudes, to kind of keep myself in
shape and also remind me of my mechanics.
And then also within that technique hour,
if you will I like to have kind of a most
wanted list of my toughest
excerpts from the concerts that I'm
playing, the programs that I'm playing.
No matter what, remember to play all
exercises in a musical way, even scales.
You'll see many examples in, in the
various parts of the curriculum where
even the scale passages in the exercises I
tried to imbue with some, with phrasing.
I also recommend for anybody reading music
and practicing your sight reading
a minimum of 15 minutes a day reading
things that you've never seen before.
I think one, I think the main reason why
my sight reading is,
is as strong as it is is because from the
time I was eight studying the classical
guitar from the time I was eight, my
teacher would bring over all
these anthologies for me to be studying
one or two pieces out of them.
And then once I was finished practicing, I
would just
sort of devour the rest of the anthology
on my own just reading through things.
Now that wasn't really in, intended to be
part of my practice.
But the effect that happened was I began
to over time, after a couple years,
I'd seen or experienced a lot of the
shapes and moves and, and that sort
of thing and right hand fingerings that
are most commonly found in the repertoire.
So your sight reading should not be any
more than one or two levels,
like one or two steps, behind your actual
guitar playing.
You it's, it's not advisable to, to have,
sort of develop, this chasm between
your actual playing level, your chops, and
your, and your music reading level.
And that, kind of, brings then us into the
next, point or
area I want to cover about practicing.
It's when you're,
is when you're actually practicing a piece
of music or working on a piece.
It's a good idea to, to organize a, a
piece of music into different sections,
into sensible sections according to the
structure of the piece.
For example, if you're, if you're
practicing a Tarrega piece like Adelita,
and it has an A, a clear A section, then a
B section, middle section, then A section.
It's a good idea to just organize your
time so that you are first just
working on the A section rather than
playing all the way through and
just trying to run the piece all the way
Just work on a couple measures at a time
in the A section,
then work on the third and fourth
You know, basically working, I try to work
in phrases.
And then I put those phrases together to
form a section.
And then I put the sections together to
form the, the whole piece.
Over time, as your sections become
stronger, you'll probably start to notice
that the piece begins to become memorized,
at least partially.
There'll be a temptation to, at that
point, throw the score away and
never look at it again.
This would be a mistake [LAUGH] because,
if you continue over time,
if you're always playing the piece just
from, memory and
not going back to the original blueprint.
It's very common for students to forget
dynamic markings, to forget
phrase markings, to get fing, forget their
fingerings and this kind of thing.
So, a regular refresher with the score is
very important,
even after the point that you have the
piece totally memorized.
At the piece, at the moment when something
when you have a piece and
you can run it through from start to
finish and it feels like it's from memory,
it's then a good idea to take that piece
out of the practice room laboratory and
kind of into the real world if you will,
of performance.
And the act of performance also takes
practice and should be done in steps.
I, as many concerts as I've played,
it's probably well over 1000, by this
point in my career.
I still don't take a new solo piece that
I've learned and wait and make the,
the time that I'm stepping out on stage in
front of 500,000 people and
make that the first run through that I do
of that piece.
That would that would be very that would
make me feel very uncomfortable.
[LAUGH] Actually there's the nice stage
various stages that I have,
and I recommend to all of my students.
When you have a piece and you have the
sense that in your practice room you can
run it through without stopping, it's not
a bad idea then to just play for a person,
one person or two, that that you can trust
an you feel really comfortable around.
And then maybe if you're at a guitar
program or studio bring it in,
then bring it into studio class.
And then maybe step three, then play, then
try to perform from memory in front of
your teacher if you get maybe, if you find
you get nervous in front of your teacher.
But the point is, it's gonna be different
for everybody, but to go in, in stages.
And and then maybe do an outreach program,
you know, an outreach performance or
something like that if you have a group of
pieces for your junior recital.
And you can get some good run-throughs in
for that, and those audiences
will really appreciate that you're, that
you're giving music to them.
And that'll make your event, like your
junior recital or
your senior recital a little less gravitas
in, in terms of the,
the fear factor in terms of playing,
playing in front of them.
You'll know inside that you have already
played the program all the way through,
and that way the, the actual event will
not seem as daunting.
In this through this curriculum and
through this system you can
submit videos and, and do for you can
submit videos with the intent
of preparing pieces for auditions and or,
and or competitions.
And you should state when you submit those
videos that
that this is a piece I'm getting ready for
And I can help you of course in the
lesson, in the responses with, with the,
the act of, of playing for competitions,
or preparing for them.
Finally, I wanted to draw your attention
to the online practice log that is
available to you on the site.
They allow you to keep track of your
practice time and
make sure that you have a balanced
practice regimen.
I created some templates with categories
that should help you structure
your practice.
Finally, I wanted to draw your
attention to the online practice log
that's available to you on this site.
They allow you to keep track of your
practice time, and
make sure that you have a balanced
practice regimen.
I created some templates with categories
that should help you structure your
practice and you can create your own
practice chart.
I think you'll find it helpful to use the
practice log to help you structure
your practice time, and also keep a nice
visual record of your practicing.
Beyond practicing and sight-reading I
recommend that you listen to other
guitarists, listen to other instruments,
listen to other styles of music.
Listen to every style of classical music
that you can,
all of the great composers you know?
Hay, listen to Haydn piano sonatas.
Listen to Beethoven string quartets.
Listen to Shostakovich string quartets and
symphonies and everything in between and
Try as a musician you want to absorb as
much music as you can possibly listen to.
I mean, in college I, and, and, and just
for several years after I,
I probably listened to music four hours a
It was just so pleasurable to me that it
was it didn't feel like work at all
but it really gave me, over time, over the
course of 15 years,
a really pretty extensive library of
I also listen to a lot of other kinds of
I have a, an extensive jazz collection of
about a thousand CD's.
And, and it's well-documented that you
I love certain rock and roll artists,
metal, hip-hop, country.
So, I mean, even those kind of things can
help inform,
albeit indirectly or directly your
experiences as a musician.
But particularly for classical guitar,
it's very important that you
really become very familiar with the
stylistic difference between,
say, Mozart and Beethoven.
They're not that far apart in in terms of
the timeline, historically.
But, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, then going
on from there to Schubert.
If you're able to really pick up those,
those differences between their what they
contributed to music.
It really helps historically inform you
when you're playing
a piece by Fernando Sor, as opposed to one
by Mauro Giuliani,
as opposed to one by Johann Kaspar Mertz
or Giulio Regondi.
Which is a little bit later in the 19th
century, for example.
And that's just within the 19th century,
that's not even really going,
the comparisons between that and playing
Johann Sebastian Bach.
So again, the absorption of lots of music
is is,
is really, is a really wonderful thing and
then very important.
So I encourage you to listen to as much
classical music as you can and
I myself need to still have some work left
to do in that area.
So that's, I, covers, basically it's a bit
of an overview of practicing, living as a,
as a musician, a practicing musician, and
a performing musician as well.
Regardless of your level, I want you to
feel as though
that you can be a performing musician
right away.
When these pieces are ready, whether they
are at the fundamental skills level or
foundational skills level or intermediate
or advanced.
When something is ready to perform where
you have it memorized it's,
it's time to, to find a way to perform it.
And that way you're not only a practicing
you're a performing musician as well.
Thank you.