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Great Guitar Tips, Issue #001 -- Information Packed Articles
November 16, 2003

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Great Guitar Tips - The World's Most Useable Guitar E-Zine ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A free, monthly E-Zine dedicated to providing you with useful information and tips for your guitar playing ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ November 16th, 2003 Issue #001 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you like this E-Zine, please do a friend a big favor and pass it on. If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Table Of Contents

1. Memorizing Music

2. Composer Spotlight ~ Manuel Ponce

3. Guitar humidification

4. A Quick Look ~ Intervals

5. Performance Anxiety

6. Free Music

7. Recommended Resource ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Welcome to the first edition of my E-Zine/Newsletter Great Guitar Tips! I hope you find it helpful and enjoyable...

Memorizing Music

When memorizing music there are several things you can do that will make your job that much easier. Memorizing music is important as most people know you play better when having the music in your head rather than having your head in the music. So where to start when memorizing music effectively?

I agree with Fred Noad, when discussing memorization in his book, Solo Guitar playing, he states...Learn to play a piece from beginning to end with absolutely correct fingering and with complete continuity (however slow) before committing it to memory.

To learn music in this fashion helps with an overall visual memory of the piece and it helps with continuity rather than have the piece sound disjointed and fragmented. If you think about it you will realize that our thoughts and memories are nothing more than powerful images or, pictures, if you like.

To prove my point let's say I ask you to think of an elephant. What do you see? Is it the word elephant written down (which could be a picture) or is it a picture or part picture the animal itself? I bet you I know the answer. Another test would be to ask how you dreamed at night. Do you dream in words or are your dreams a series of pictures rather like a scene from a movie?

You need to work with your brain rather than against it. Why not utilize the natural operation of your memory? It's crazy not to!

I also know from my days at Teacher's College that most people have different strengths when it comes to learning something new based on the body's different senses. Some people are visual learners, some learn better with their tactile (touching) sense and some are strong auditory learners.

What is clear in most literature about memory is that a combination of as many of your senses as possible is a stronger way of learning anything. Because of this we should employ most of our senses when learning a new piece of music. Of course we can't include taste and smell to any great degree (unless you want to eat your music!) but we should definitely try to use our other senses of sight, hearing and touch.

So, having established a method of learning a new piece of music what comes next? What are the nuts and bolts, so to speak?

I would actually take a step back. That is, start not with playing a piece of music but rather just reading it, just like a book, on its own. What I would be looking for is how it is put together. I would look at the key, form, and structure of the music? What about sequences and repetitions? What about dynamics, articulation and tone?

Breaking a piece up into its component parts first before you start to play it and get a visual memory of the piece allows you to take a ¡§short-cut¡¨ of sorts. If you understand where the repeats are, for example, you have already cut down on the amount of bars you have to memorize. If you know about the dynamics of the piece before you play it physically your brain won't have to deal with too much information at once.

As Sharon Isbin says in the Classical Guitar Answer Book..."The more you understand the language and structure of a piece, the easier it will be to memorize."

I liken it to driving to an unfamiliar place or suburb in your car and using a roadmap. If you just turn up and expect to find the street it would be very difficult indeed. But if you look at the map beforehand you stand a much better chance of finding your destination by noticing the signs along the way. You recognize where you are, with much less stress!

Of course, I'm talking about reading the music AWAY from the guitar. This should be your very first step. I would then employ the Noad method after this.

Next I would test my memory by playing the separate phrases in the music. If you definitely know a phrase, try to string it together with the next phrase in the piece and so on until you get to the end of the piece. If you are not confident to play phrases try playing one bar at a time and going back to the printed music when a bar is forgotten.

In this way the music can be overlapped until the whole piece can be played by memory.

I would leave the piece for several days to a week after that. Then I would test my memory again by trying to play the whole piece, making note of where I faltered or needed to consolidate. Leaving it for a period of time allows your subconscious brain to keep "working" on it for you. The subconscious is really quite powerful and when you get out of its way, you'll be amazed at what it can achieve.

Studying a new piece in this fashion should yield results. And remember, the more you practice (properly) the easier it will become. Good luck!

Composer Spotlight - Manuel Ponce

Manuel Ponce was born in 1882 and died in 1948. He started composing at about the age of seven after he received early musical training from a sister. By the time he was 22 he was studying piano and composition in Italy and Germany. He moved to Paris in the 1920's and after studying with the French composer Paul Dukas. So impressed was Dukas by Ponce's music he once gave him a 30 out of 10 rating in an exam!

He developed a very nationalistic style based on his Mexican origins. Although Ponce was heavily influenced by European music, his style was also infused with his native folk music and other elements to create a truly individual sound. Indeed, he collected and arranged many folk tunes which helped to define a true "Mexican voice" in music of the day.

The great Villa lobos once said of Ponce... "It gave me great joy to learn that in that distant part of my continent there was another artist who was arming himself with the resources of the folklore of his people in the struggle for the future musical independence of his country."

Ponce wrote most of his guitar works with Segovia in mind. They were close friends and collaborated on many occasions over their professional careers. Ponce had to live in Havana, Cuba from 1915 to 1917 because of the political upheaval of the Mexican revolution.

This turned out to be fortuitous as Ponce was able to imbibe the local music, with its sultry rhythms and lively dance forms, which became a feature of his music. Not limited to being a composer, Ponce once was the editor of the Musical Gazette, which championed the music of the Latin peoples.

He later published and edited another magazine called "Cultura Musical" whist in Mexico. Ponce was a composer of the finest rank and he, almost single-handedly, put Mexico on the world musical map.

Guitar Humidification

Problems with humidity can lead to heartbreak for the classical (or other) guitarist. Excessive humidity or dryness can ruin an instrument probably quicker than you think.

You must always be aware of what conditions you are leaving your instrument, whether inside a guitar case or within a room or in the open. They should NEVER be left in the sun for any length of time.

When guitars are built they are usually in an environment where the relative humidity of the room is kept constant, roughly around 50%.

To be safe you ideally should keep your instrument around this mark though they are generally regarded as safe between 40%-70% as the upper and lower margins. Below or above this can be drastic for your instrument!

An interesting example of anecdotal evidence of problems with humidity I've heard is with Ramirez guitars.

Because they're made in Spain where the humidity is often above the 50% mark and are shipped to areas where the humidity is much lower with dry winter conditions, they can easily develop cracks and slits throughout the guitar.

Having made an investment for such a beautiful guitar you¡¦d be mad not to invest in a relatively cheap system for keeping the humidity of your guitar constant, like a guitar humidifier case for example.

The damage caused by too much humidity or of drying out your instrument can range from cracks, splits and shrinkage to warping and even snapping of the wood.

There are many things you can do to prevent problems from the start. You know the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

I would recommend keeping your house, or wherever you keep your instrument, at a constant temperature and humidity all year round.

Next I would get a humidifier for my guitar case, whether one sold commercially which releases moisture slowly and attaches to the inside of your case, or a home-made one which could consist of a wet cloth (be careful not to let it touch your instrument as it may damage the wood).

Another thing to invest in is a "hygrometer", which is an instrument that will keep track of humidity, or lack of it in your guitar case. As mentioned above, some guitar cases are made with these things as standard.

If you follow these few simple rules and keep an eye out for changes in temperature and humidity conditions it shouldn't be hard to keep your instrument in good order.

If you want to read a more technical article on the subject here is a good one...

A Quick Look At - Intervals

Intervals are nothing more than the distance in pitch between two notes. They are usually numbered as in second, third, fourth, fifth etc.

They are also qualified by terms such as perfect, major, minor and so on. The number is determined by the position of the notes on the staff and the qualifying word by the number of tones and semitones in the interval. For a more detailed discussion on chords and interval go here...

Performance Anxiety

Everyone who has ever performed has felt it! Those sweaty palms...the butterflies in the tummy...the absolute fear and dread!

Just what can you do to combat those nerves? The best thing is to realize that nerves are actually good for you.


Yes, that's right! They're actually good for you IF you learn to manage them properly. Nerves can make your performance "sharp" or "on the edge" but it can cut both ways. It doesn't matter whether you're playing a few pieces to one or two people, or you're playing a whole recital to hundreds, nerves can really wreck things. The best way to combat this is to really be PREPARED. If you really know your music (see memorizing in this e-zine) you will feel more comfortable as you begin your performance.

After you know your music you should take the time rehearse properly, which includes going through your pieces very slowly to make sure your finger memory is secure. You must also be very relaxed within yourself as tension and worry, even fear, can get the better of you, destroying what should have been a thoroughly practiced performance.

Relaxation may take the form of meditation or just occupying your time with some pleasant form of interest or hobby away from the instrument itself. Distraction can be positive. I remember I was playing at my teacher's soiree many years ago and was traveling in my car to his place at night when a huge thunderstorm broke out.

My windshield wipers decided not to work at all so I had to put up an umbrella with one hand outside the window and try to shield my vision from the driving rain so as not to crash! This went on for almost the entire journey of about 15 minutes and I was so angry and annoyed when I arrived that I forgot about being nervous and played the best I'd ever done up to that point. I remember Adam (my Teacher) saying as much and thought to myself... "Maybe I should get angry more often"

I must admit, I still don't really enjoy performing as much as teaching but I guess that's just my calling. I do know, however, that it did take me some time, and quite a bit of determination to overcome my fear of performance. Several years ago I did some "Master Training" with Michael Domeyko Rowland, who wrote the best seller..."Absolute Happiness" and conducts training courses in self development, personal growth and meditation both here in Australia and overseas. He has also appeared with Louise L. Hay, Deepak Chopra and others...

One of the very many useful and practical tips I picked up was how to re-program my mind for success in any venture. It’s quite a simple technique really called 22x11. It’s where for 11 days you write a statement of intent out (or type it on your computer) 22 times with 22 responses also recorded. It must be framed in the present and positive tense and it can be on any topic you like.

An example would be… “I am now performing brilliantly in public on guitar in perfect ways.” Or something similar. You then write down the first response you have to that statement which could be anything from… “I feel like a cup of tea” to “Don’t be stupid – you’re CRAP” or anything in between.

It is important to write down your response or even to write “no response” as it is a means to clear your subconscious of "blocks" it may have had since childhood which was put in there by yourself or someone else (not usually intentional but almost unavoidable). It is Rowland’s contention that we can’t really change our behavior until our thoughts that control us are brought to the "surface" for examination. In other words, we are controlled by our subconscious conditioning and until we are aware of that conditioning we can do nothing to change it.

I must say after doing it myself many times, on many different topics, it seems to have helped me immensely but beware, it does take some work and you can touch “raw nerves” even though it is a very simple technique/tool to use. For a more detailed examination of this technique I suggest you by the book. It should be available at most good book stores.

Here is a good post to a classical guitar forum that I though was quite good on the subject of nerves and performance anxiety…

I hope this little discussion on managing nerves has helped you. Good luck!

Free Music

Here is this month’s free music (including midi files) that I have prepared. There is a simple Study by Sor for the beginners and a Bourree by Bach for the intermediates among you. Enjoy!

Recommended Resource

This month’s recommended resource is a free guitar tuner for windows 95/98/ME. You can find the link at the end of the article on this page… (No longer available)

Well that's it for the first issue! Please let me know what you think or if you would like a particular topic covered in the future and I'll try to help out.

See you next month...

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