#8 Choosing Your Instrument: Classical Guitar

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In the 70’s John Williams and Julian Bream both classical guitarists, were like pop stars, playing together, and as solo players they both had a very unique style. When I heard them play on the TV, I wanted to play like them,  this desire took me on an incredible journey, not only on playing guitar but on my understanding of music, music theory and what it truly takes, to be a top class musician.

I got so much spin off from this journey, that it would take a lot more than just one page to tell you about it, so what I’m going to do is give you some of the high lights. In the late 70’s I would be 29 years old, and I had started my teaching career, I had no training or experience in teaching music, but I always had a waiting list of new students.

As the title suggests by the word classical, the reference is to the style of music, but this really doesn’t tell the whole story. When you play the guitar, the left hand holds down the notes, but the right hand is where all the action is, in classical guitar the right hand, picks the notes with the thumb, index, middle and annular fingers the short finger or the pinkie is not used. P.I.M.A. for short. The guitar really does become something else, more like a nylon string orchestra. The holding position is completely different, you sit it on your left knee using a footstool under your left foot, this is completely necessary because of all the stretching you do with the left hand.

To keep myself motivated I started to prepare for music exams starting at grade 3, I was so nervous at my first ever exam my fingers were going between the strings. When it came to the aural tests in the exam, I just didn’t know what to practice for this part of the exam. When I couldn’t do it the examiner said to me “who is your teacher?” My answer was, ”me” He went over each bit with me then gave me the aural test. I passed. I reached grade 8, and went onto do the diploma. I managed to get to this level in about four years, I practiced 4 hours a day one hour on scales and an hour on each of the three pieces of music. I played solo at music clubs and played with a string quartet.

The feeling you get is indescribable when you achieve this kind of control, but what you also need is 100% total dedication to this, just to maintain the standard. I completed this journey when my wife Mary died from cancer.

Playing great music is nothing like riding a bike, that’s child’s play, if you stop practicing the touch and the memory stops. I have no regrets because I love playing the guitar and this journey has made me a better musician and teacher.

Segovia Quote; There’s nothing as beautiful as a guitar, save perhaps two.

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