Music Learning Notes (Classical Guitar) 28/09/2020

I had two days of rest from classical guitar, mostly because I injured my toe badly on Friday and the pain was so acute nothing was possible. I feared a fracture. It was so bad I was whimpering and crying for most of the night and by Saturday morning had to get off my usual independent high horse and bleat for help at my auntie. Auntie and cousin showed up, I was rescued and sent to ER because I could barely walk and was wheeled around. Turned out it was broken blood vessels because of the impact of either the heavy IKEA glass or the plate that I absentmindedly dropped on myself on Friday evening.

Anyway, today I resumed classical guitar practice gingerly since the pain and swelling went down a bit. My toe has been bleeding off and on since yesterday because my blood sugars have been haywiring but also because the injury (that turned my toenail green) caused bloodclotting. Somehow, during CG practice, the bleeding stopped, and the swelling went down a bit more. Hence posting my gory toenail story here. Apparently my toe likes my playing.

What I played tonight is basically what I’ll be playing till my next class with my teacher so, an itemized list:

  • Warmups. Did the usual LH exercises (from Tennant’s Pumping Nylon and Matthew Mcallister’s video tutorial — which was actually based on the Pumping Nylon exercises IIRC, anyway seeing it was very helpful and Mcallister’s really good at explaining stuff clearly), followed by my brilliant teacher*’s slur exercises which are both challenging and fun. Then I decided to work on one of my favorite pieces for the CG from my Grade 2 days, Le Tambourin by Rameau. Though, I realized today it’s probably a bit beyond a Grade 2 piece and was one of those pieces Teacher #1 occasionally threw my way to challenge me before he told me “hello, you’re going to sit for exams”. Except, I never did. You have no idea how many hours I spent on that piece back in 1996, feeling so upset because I thought I’d never be good enough for it but loving it so fiercely I just kept playing and playing. Wish I’d known back then it was a “challenge piece”. He threw a few at me tbh that I later, much later realized “Bro, you were throwing me Grades 3-4 pieces at Grade 2! I never knew you thought so highly of me hahahahaha!”. Anyway, I notice that it’s at Grade 4 in the ABRSM syllabus, but that’s the Yates transcription and the one I played was a Schweitzer transcription. I don’t quite think it’s Grade 4 despite the slide towards the 7th position because that was only the one bar. Anyway! It’s SO DELICIOUS to play it these days and find so many of those obstacles magically (well, years of work so not quite magic) have gone away. Anyway, I worked on it based on all the “lightbulb moment” stuff current teacher taught me re performing, finger placement and worked on dynamics which I also pestered him about last week and will likely pester him about again. Poor man. I’m optimistic I will get better re finger placement. I’m putting in the work. Happy to reacquaint with Le Tambourin and may record it later this week. Thinking of making a youtube channel but making all videos unlisted, disabling comments, likes/dislikes etc. Solely for posting on this blog and my twitter. Did make a quick video earlier and loved the big smirk I gave the camera at the end of it. Ha! My performance self-confidence is definitely picking up. Now, if only I could match it with more competence!
  • Memories of Summer by Gary Ryan for class — this piece always makes me happy and melancholic at the same time. I guess there’s the usual synaesthete’s impressions of this rippling piece with harplike harmony, and that strong C Major presence suggesting sunlight on dew soaked grass. But thematically and emotionally this song reminds me of the “summer” of my existence. The younger days, but not the unpleasant stuff, but how sweet it was to be young and alive, to have adventures, to feel the sunlight kiss my face as I walked along trails in nature and in the city (okay this happened in my forties as well) — in my thirties, and the wistfulness of wondering if all of my “summer days” are gone or if there are any left. I guess that’s what I bring to the piece. Maybe there’s an aftertaste of hope in this song as well. After all C Major is a sunlight chord, isn’t it. And I am as much a daughter of sunlight as I am a daughter of moonlight and starlight (for what is the sun, but a star — and what is moonlight if not starlight and sunlight condensed and reflected). Ascending and Venus in Leo, after all. We love the sun, we love to shake our mane at the sun, we do.
  • Inveraray Castle by Stephen Daw for class– This piece is even trickier in terms of time signature than the Ryan piece. As with the Ryan piece I’m just trying not to overthink it and to just flow with the time. It also has some tricky position shifts but I’m fairly comfortable with pos. 7-10 by now so I’m working through it slowly, as is my custom with less familiar pieces. I’ve played through this piece a few times before but now that I am doing detailed practice I am focusing on the first five lines tonight. Tomorrow I’ll do the other half.
  • I’ve been noodling around with the E Major Sor piece in the exam book (forgot the name, on painkillers, lazy to go to living room to check). For some reason I can’t get a handle on it but tonight I managed to play it better, so yay for that.
  • Speaking of E Major, I worked on the EMaj scales in ascending, as requested by teacher. I’ve going to really focus on finger positioning as this is one of the weakest things about me and I’m glad we’re going to work on this slowly. Have to say, I’m really digging the fact that I have a teacher who waxes poetic about scales and who is very practical about the fact that I told him “I AM SO BAD AT SCALES”. Both poetry and pragmatism. Hard nod of approval.
  • Tremolo! Today my practice of J. Castle’s “On the Patio” went faster, so I’m getting somewhere.
  • I also practiced both the Dowland and Guzman. Just because I don’t have to play it for class next week doesn’t mean I shouldn’t practice them. They’re going to be exam pieces (though I MAY swap the Guzman for the Daw, we’ll see.) Anyway, maybe I am chill AF because of painkillers but the semiquaver runs certainly came easier today and I was playing it all chill-like. But! Need to work on the sustain!
  • Lagrima! I finally untangled the block I’ve been having with it after I worked on the Daw piece and my scales. Yay scales, tasty, tasty scales (even though I am SO BAD AT THEM)! So that made me very happy.
  • The BWV1007 Prelude! I played through the Disler version twice, getting a bit rusty since I barely touched the Prelude this past week. Then I worked on the Duarte version. Moved on to the next part. Not going to rush this. Good things take time.
  • I also freeform made/”composed” another piece — this time 8 minutes long with a whole lot of Raoul-slapping (look, I love my guitar so it was gentle, affectionate slapping, we don’t play rough with our darlings). Oh dearie me, enough to send CG purists into vapours of puritan dismay. Mwa hahaha. Anyway, I have it recorded so I can put it down in notation and refine it. It was a great release from the tension and the stress of the past few weeks. Did I mention that my blood pressure in ER was 181/99? Yes, that bad. I really need to take it easy. But maybe music is the trick. After all, it made my toe slightly less sad.

Because the phrasing in that bullet point up there is a bit weird and for the tiny group of ppl who want to know the identity of my teacher *not Mcallister, whom I really admire as a performer/educator, but when it came time for me to choose who to approach via email amongst the available classical guitarists I admire, I chose my teacher because of a combination of factors:

  1. Very few classical guitarists, even if I admire their performing, play in a way that moves me as a synaesthete. And my teacher plays with depth and texture, and timbre. To emotionally connect with any piece being played to me is a mark of a great classical guitarist. As I’ve obliquely mentioned, there are some popular classical guitarists who just leave me cold. Technically flawless but I couldn’t connect with their music. That’s why I chose my teacher. That’s the kind of playing I aspire towards.
  2. I also really admire his compositions which are a combination of strong melody with the kind of harmony/sound texture I like best about good classical guitar compositions. Hope I get to play them some day.
  3. Gut instinct. Gut said “that’s the one you should email.” So I did, nervously. I’m still nervous (because of all the above reasons — but despite all of the above reasons, he’s been so far the kindest and most considerate of all of my teachers) but I’m still glad I did, hahaha.
  4. He was highly recommended, which is always good when you second-guess yourself. And let’s face it, I don’t really trust myself and my judgement calls these days.
  5. And no, I’m not going to tell you who. Only my auntie and two good friends know because I had to tell SOMEONE. I’m waiting till I’m good enough or have learned long enough or, I don’t know, we’ll see. I guard my teacher’s identity as fiercely as I guard my favorite restaurants. Not that I’m suggesting he’s a restaurant. Plus I actually don’t like name-dropping and do this waaaay less than many other people.