Archive for May, 2010

Stagefright

Posted by Brian on 28th May 2010 in Guitar, Journal, Performing

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of getting out and performing for people. And while I have, in the past, performed as part of an ensemble – most often in church, I have not sought out opportunities to perform very often. I recently decided that this has been a gross oversight on my part.

My eight year-old son started taking piano lessons last fall and has already taken part in a recital and a school talent show and is currently preparing for another recital. It doesn’t occur to him that this is something to get nervous about, as far as he is concerned, its “just something that you do” if you play piano. I’ve now realized that it should be “just something you do” if you play the guitar too.

While I have always believed, in theory, that performing helps build musicianship, I have never really put this belief into practice – until recently. Shortly after deciding that I should be seeking out opportunities to perform, I discovered that there was a local(ish) fingerstyle guitar association, and that they were having an open mic on the first Sunday in May. This really left me with no alternative but to go. Yes, I was nervous – I’ve never really enjoyed being the centre of attention. But to my surprise, when the host got up to start he was nervous – and he apparently makes money performing. I had the luxury of watching several performances before it was my turn and, to my great surprise (and relief) almost all of them were visibly nervous, and yet, like me, felt that it was important to get up and play.

When my turn finally came I was already feeling much more comfortable. I knew that everyone else there was sympathetic to my nervousness and that made me much less nervous. It also helped that a couple of them played songs that I knew how to play. (I don’t know why that helped, but it did.) I had diligently prepared my three tunes and when I played them, everyone seemed genuinely impressed with “the new guy” and they then let me know that they had changed the rules and I could play a fourth tune if I wanted to – something I had not prepared for. Fortunately, I had suspected that a fourth song might be expected since everyone else seemed to be playing four songs so I had already chosen one in my head – though I hadn’t rehearsed it – and it went well too. My one regret is that I opted not to take my video camera – not knowing for sure if it would even be allowed – or practical. But most of the participants were, in fact, video taping themselves and it would have been nice to see for myself how it went. Next time…

So now I’ve chosen my four songs for the June edition of the open mic. Hopefully I’ll have video to show you (and see for myself) how it goes.

Love At First Sight – Pt. 2

Posted by Brian on 11th May 2010 in DADGAD tuning, Fingerstyle Guitar, Practice

In my post dated April 14, 2010, I started to chronicle my efforts to learn to play Laurence Juber’s “Love at First Sight”. This is the second installment:

Day 28 – May 11, 2010

Well, I’ve pretty much mastered and memorized the first eight bars that I was working on in my last post. And, since bars 9 to 12 are identical to bars 1 to 4, I’ve actually got the first twelve bars under my belt. I’ve now started working on the next twelve bars which will take me to the end of the first section of the song (0:35-1:27 in the video).

From a technical standpoint, this section is not terribly difficult to play, though it did take some extra time to work out the fingering, partly due to some transcription errors in the sheet music. In bar fourteen,  the tablature called for an impossible stretch from the 5th to the 12th fret (Yikes!!!). Fortunately, the standard notation was correct and indicated a fingering that gave clues as to the proper (and much easier) way to play it. I also checked Laurence Juber’s version on YouTube (approx 1:04) to confirm my solution. In bar 16 there was also a minor error, which although playable, made it more difficult than it needed to be.

Rhythmically speaking, however, this section is a little bit counter-intuitive. Once again, I have been working regularly with my metronome at a lower speed as I work out the timing and at this point I am very close to being able to play the entire first section at tempo. Normally by the time I am able to play a section of reasonably challenging music, I have it memorized but this section contains a couple of slight variations of a repeating melody line and this has slowed down the memorization process.

Once I’ve mastered this first section, I will be well on my way to knowing the whole song. The first 24 bars repeat, and in the remaining 50-odd bars, there are several recurrences of chunks that I’ve already learned, so I’m hopeful that I’ll have this tune ready in time for campfire season.

On performing:

Posted by Brian on 4th May 2010 in Guitar, Journal, Performing

I’ve often wondered how my guitar playing might be different today had I done things differently when I was young. I’ve often thought, “If only I’d played more scales… done more ear training… focused more on theory…” But I’ve also considered the possibility that doing more work on the “mundane” things may have tipped the scales of enjoyment to the point where I dropped the guitar altogether. However, the one thing that I think I should have done more is to play for an audience.

I’m not sure what it is about the guitar that attracts introverted boys – or what it is about introverted boys that attracts them to the guitar, but for whatever reason, introverted boys are far and away the largest demographic in the guitar playing community – and I certainly fall into that group, and as such, I was never drawn to perform for others. As a result, now in my forties, I still find myself having “sausage fingers” whenever playing in front of an unfamiliar listener – despite being a very proficient player.

Most other musical disciplines place a heavy emphasis on performance. My eight year old son started piano lessons last September and had his first public performance less than two months later. A few months after that, he was asking if he could try out for the school talent show. He passed the audition and quite comfortably played two songs in front of the whole school.

Whether it is the introverted nature of most guitarists, or the introverted nature of most guitar teachers, there doesn’t seem to be the same emphasis on performance with formal guitar instruction. I’m starting to believe that this is a grave oversight on our part. And next year I will be strongly encouraging my students to perform and will be finding or creating opportunities to do so. And, in the interests of “putting my money where my mouth is”, I’ve committed myself to seeking opportunities to perform more as well. And this past Sunday, I performed for the first time at an Open Mic for fingerstyle guitarists. (More on that in a forthcoming post…)

So, for all you introverted boys out there, get out and play your guitar where others can hear it.  After all, music is meant to be shared.