Video-of-the-Month: Fragile Balance

Posted by Brian on 15th July 2012 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Video of the Month, Youth

Video-of-the-MonthAs is my custom, I will be doubling up on videos-of-the-month for the summer months, when it is a bit harder to sit in front of a screen writing about playing guitar when I could be outside playing guitar. The second video-of-the-month for July features a young duo from Texas…

Fragile Balance consists of two young guitarists who met in high school two years ago, Nick Cooper and Cruz Lujan. So far, they have released two full length CDs and have shared a stage with the likes of Antoine Dufour and Michael Chapdelaine.

Here they are playing “Elements of Emotion”:

 

Once again, I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for these talented young men…

Fragile Balance’s website: www.Fragile-Balance.com

Fragile Balance’s YouTube channel: www.YouTube.com/user/fragilebalanceband

Video-of-the Month: Maja Radovanlija

Posted by Brian on 1st July 2012 in Classical Guitar, Fingerstyle Guitar, Video of the Month, Women

Video-of-the-MonthSummer is here, so in keeping with past tradition I will start presenting two videos each month to try to offset my reluctance to sit at my computer writing new posts during the summer weather.

The first video-of-the-month for July features classical guitarist Maja Radovanlija. Following my post about the lack of female guitarists, Maja wrote me a note suggesting that, at least in the classical world, there are more female guitarists than many of us realize. She suggested that it may be that women just aren’t as aggressive at promoting themselves.

Here Maja plays “Lento from Jazz Sonata” by Dusan Bogdanovic:

Originally from Serbia, Maya is a faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Music.

Maja’s Fandalism (a FaceBook affiliate) page: www.Fandalism.com/mayaradovanlia

Maja’s YouTube channel: www.YouTube.com/user/folkofolkas

Maja’s website was down at the time of writing, if it’s back up, it should be here: www.MajaRadovanlija.com

Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part III: Rhythm & Tempo

Posted by Brian on 28th June 2012 in General Music, How to:..., Musicianship, Practice

Early in May, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. I am now working on getting some of the insights from that workshop written down and posted. In this, the third of four installments, I am going to talk about working on Rhythm and Tempo without your guitar.

Rhythm

A while ago I wrote about attending a guitar workshop led by David Ross MacDonald at the Eaglewood Folk Festival. In that workshop he talked about how he used a sort of two step to embed various rhythms (i.e eighths, triplets, sixteenths, etc.) into his brain. You can also tap out rhythms in time with your metronome, or even use your left hand to tap out a steady beat while tapping out more complex rhythms with the right (or vice versa, if that’s how you’re wired).

Tempo

One of the biggest challenges for many musicians is starting at the right tempo. As it turns out, our brains have a remarkable capacity for reproducing the tempo of well known songs. For example, according to Daniel Levitin, in his book, “This Is Your Brain On Music”, we can use the following songs to find the following tempos:

“Hotel California”, by The Eagles – 75 beats per minute
“Back in Black”, by AC/DC – 96 bpm
“Walk This Way” by Aerosmith – 112 bpm
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson – 116 bpm

This is a technique that I have found to be very helpful.

Hopefully, you can use some of these ideas to improve your musicianship without building callouses.

Stay tuned for Part IV: Listening and Ear Training

Part I: Why?

Part II: Visualizing

Grace in Small Things – Musical Edition, Vol. 4

Posted by Brian on 17th June 2012 in General Music, Grace in Small Things, Journal

You are hereby challenged to find the joy in small things, because life is short and love is large.

GraceInSmallThings.com

Okay, it’s been a while – not since I found joy in the small things, but certainly since I posted about it. Here are five musical bits of joy from the last week or so:

1. A paying gig!

2. A non-paying gig for a good cause.

3. My kids working hard to prepare for an upcoming piano recital.

4. A somewhat regular jam with good friends that has turned into a band.

5. A rehearsal with the aforementioned band that went shockingly well!

 

More about Grace In Small Things

Video-of-the-Month: Salomon Jakobsson

Posted by Brian on 15th June 2012 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Video of the Month, Youth

Video-of-the-MonthFor June’s original Video-of-the-Month we go to Sweden, where we find Salomon Jakobsson.

I have been able to piece together that Salomon is about 17 years old and only started playing when he was thirteen.

Here he is playing his original composition, “Battle of the Brave Frog”:

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds…

Salomon’s FaceBook page: www.FaceBook.com/pages/Salomon-Jakobsson/202188176493954

Salomon’s YouTube channel: www.YouTube.com/user/salomon9595

Video-of-the-Month: Doc Watson

Video-of-the-MonthDoc Watson (1923-2012)

I have pre-empted my regularly scheduled Video-of-the-Month to pay tribute to one of the great guitarists of all time, Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, who passed away on May 29th at the age of 89.

Having lost his eyesight at an early age, Doc first learned to play the banjo on an instrument that his dad made. He switched to guitar while attending a school for the blind. He went on to become one of the great “flatpickers” of all time.

This video (actually, audio only) is from the Newport Folk Festival, 1963, where Doc caught his first “big break”. Here he plays two of his signature pieces: “Doc’s Guitar” (a.k.a. “Tickling the Strings”) a fingerpicking tune, and “Black Mountain Rag” a flatpicking tune.

Rest in peace, Doc.

(The original Video-of-the-Month for June will appear on June 15th.)

Wikipedia: Doc Watson

Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part II: Visualizing

Posted by Brian on 29th May 2012 in General Music, How to:..., Musicianship, Performing, Practice

Earlier this month, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. I am now working on getting some of the insights from that workshop written down and posted. Two weeks ago, I talked about why we might want to practice without our guitar. This week I am going to talk about visualization techniques.

We often hear athletes talk about using visualizing techniques to help them on their road to success. One thing that came up during the workshop was the legendary story of the golfer who kept himself sane as  a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam by imagining playing a round of golf at his home course each day. When he finally did get home, the story goes, he had only lost a couple of strokes off his game. While the veracity of this story may be in doubt, the benefits of visualization techniques are not.

One way that we can use visualization is to play “air guitar”. We can imagine playing new chord shapes or playing a familiar chord progression – maybe playing that chord progression on another part of the neck. We can imagine playing scales – working through the major, and various minor and modal scales, hearing them in our mind as we “play” them.

We can also pick up some sheet music (standard notation or tablature) and visualize playing it. If you are using standard notation, figure out the best place to play each note, and, where applicable, figure out which chord voicings will work most effectively.

Another way we can use visualization techniques is to use our computer or mobile devices. There are websites and “apps” that help you to learn your fretboard. Here is one from MusicTheory.net: http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/fretboard/yy998y

A final area where we can use visualization is in performance. Years ago I heard Olympic Gold Medalist, Mark Tewksbury tell a story about sneaking into the, then unfinished, pool in Barcelona and imagining the crowds and walking across the deck to the starting blocks and hearing the starters pistol and how it helped him to perform on the actual day of competition. As musicians, we can do the same by imagining an audience, imagining taking our place on the stage and nailing those first few notes. We can also use this type of visualization with our instrument in hand too – when we are working on performance pieces, we should be imagining our audience and even practicing our verbal bits between songs.

Stay tuned for Part III: Rhythm and Tempo

 

 

Quote, Unquote.

Posted by Brian on 19th May 2012 in General Music, Practice, Quote Unquote

Quote, UnquoteI came across this quote reading an excellent article, “How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?” at Bulletproof Musician.com:

“If you practice with your fingers,
no amount is enough.
If you practice with your head,
two hours is plenty.”

– Leopold Auer upon being asked by violinist Nathan
Milstein how long he should practice each day.

The rest of the article talks about the importance of being engaged while you practice and discusses the the pitfalls of the “typical” practice routine and the importance of breaking down your material into small bits and really analyzing your playing as you work on those small chunks.

Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part I: Why?

A week and a half ago, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting some of the techniques that were discussed for practicing without having an instrument in hand.

First, however, I thought it might be helpful to discuss why one might want to practice without a guitar.

For me, the most obvious situation where one might want to practice without a guitar is when there isn’t a guitar available. When you’re on the bus, or at your kids’ soccer practice, or waiting at the doctor’s office, you may want to wile away the time by practicing without your guitar.

You may also want to practice without your guitar to build non-guitar-specific skills. You can work on rhythm or ear training very easily without having your instrument in hand.

Another reason you may want to practice without your guitar is to avoid (or recover from) injury. Repetitive stress injuries are common with the guitar and we can reduce our playing hours by finding ways to practice without actually playing.

So now that you know why you might want to practice without your guitar, stay tuned to learn how to practice without your guitar…

May 29, 2012:  Part II: Visualizing

June 28, 2012: Part III: Rhythm and Tempo

Video of the Month: Timo Brauwers

Posted by Brian on 1st May 2012 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Video of the Month

Video-of-the-MonthMay’s Video-of-the-Month is another German guitarist, Timo Brauwers, who I discovered when Adam Rafferty posted a video link of Timo’s on Facebook. At the time of writing, the English version of Timo’s website did not yet have his biographical information and I don’t read German particularly well, so I can’t tell you much about Timo, other than that I really enjoy his playing.

Here he is playing “Breathe Deeply”:

 

Incidentally, I recently tried the same model guitar that Timo uses in this video – it may well be my next guitar!

Timo’s website: www.timobrauwers.de (English version – click on German flag at far right of navigation bar for German)

Timo’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/dabooti