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Great Guitar Tips, Issue #002 -- Information Packed Articles About Guitar
December 14, 2003

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ December 14th, 2003 Issue #002 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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. Avoiding Injuries

2. Composer Spotlight ~ Heitor Villa-Lobos

3. Guitar Maintenance

4. A Quick Look ~ Treble Clef & Staff

5. Performance Anxiety - Follow Up

6. Recommended Resource - Keeping Your Nerve!

7. Free Music ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

***Note*** I've been having a little trouble with my e-mail after my computer crashed 2 weeks ago. It should be back on within the next week but if you want to contact me before then try me at...

Avoiding Injuries

When Playing Guitar

To avoid any sort of injuries when playing guitar a common sense approach is recommended.

Just what do I mean by that?

Well, there are many simple and obvious precautions you can take that will prevent most injuries.

To start with you can adopt the proper technique, posture and hand position.

A good book like Scott Tenant's Pumping Nylon or David Braid's Play Classical Guitar can give you sound basic fundamentals in this area.

With technique keep your movements simple or, as my teacher used to say... "Employ an economy of movement."

If you have less movement you will naturally have less friction and tension and therefore less chance of injury.

Teachers of guitar vary in their interpretation of posture and hand position but in classical guitar at least, there is generally widely accepted agreement on this subject.

You do need to be aware of your posture and hand position when a beginner or intermediate as you are learning habits that will last a lifetime.

I remember my teacher constantly pushing my shoulder down as I played. As I became tense my shoulder would "ride" upwards as my body would tense up.

He was giving me vital feedback on leaning to relax as I was learning basic technique.

It pays to have a good, alert teacher who can short circuit any problems as they appear!

Another point of note is when you begin to play guitar you can often overdo it.

Indeed, Anthony Glise writing in Classical Guitar Pedagogy states...

"Virtually all guitarists injuries are from over-use (simply practicing too much) or misuse (not warming up properly), playing pieces that are too difficult, improper hand positions, overstress, etc."

These are all things that the beginner and intermediate player are prone to.

You must develop your capabilities in line with your common sense and resist the urge to go "too fast too soon."

To quote the cliché..."You gotta crawl before you walk!":)

While we're on the subject of common sense, you need to take breaks in your practice routine.

You know how time flies when you're engrossed in a new and exciting piece. We all have the tendency to play through the pain at times but you must learn to avoid this sort of practice if you want to avoid long term injury. It might be wiser to break your practice sessions into smaller blocks and spread it out over the day rather than all in one hit.

I know we're all "time-poor" these days but is it worth the risk?

Only you can answer that one.

Make sure you build strength and flexibility in your hands and indeed, your body.

You can do this via a healthy lifestyle that consists of diet, stretching (including yoga), meditation and just plain relaxing and taking a break.

If you do all of this and find your still in pain - STOP!

As they say on the advertisement for a prominent pain reliever... "Pain is nature's warning."

If you find you get long term pain, use your common sense again and seek proper medical advice. To play through pain is downright silly.

I hope this brief discussion can give you some direction in this area. :)

Composer Spotlight

Heitor Villa-Lobos

The Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos was born in 1887 and died at the age of 72 in 1959.

He was both a popular and important composer in the overall scheme of things in the "musical firmament."

Indeed, he was the first South American composer to become internationally famous whose fame and popularity has continued unabated to the present day.

When young, Villa-Lobos earned his living as an orchestral player. He was a multi-instrumentalist being able to play cello, guitar, clarinet and piano.

Although not a virtuoso guitarist he was quite a good one who understood the peculiar technical complexities of the guitar.

In early part of the twentieth century he toured the country to find examples of folk music and for 5 years imbibed the flavor, texture and soul of Brazilian music. It was no wonder that it influenced his compositions thereafter.

Villa Lobos received a fellowship from the Brazilian government to visit Paris in 1922 and remained there until 1926.

It was there he met Segovia which resulted in a lifelong friendship and was important from the point of view of extending and improving the repertoire of guitar.

Indeed Segovia once said... "Villa- Lobos has given to the history of guitar fruits of his talent as luxuriant and savoury as those of Scarlatti and Chopin."

Villa-Lobos' output of music was prolific at approximately two thousands works. His music is an eclectic mix of Brazilian Indian and folk music and European impressionism, especially that of Debussy.

Writing in this most individual style easily made him the most important figure in Brazilian musical life in first half of the twentieth century.

To think that Villa-Lobos was essentially self taught made his rise to prominence all the more remarkable.

Indeed, he was good enough to be made the director of the national musical academy at the relatively young age of 43.

By the age of 45 was in charge of the country's musical education!

Villa-Lobos founded the Conservatorio Nacional de Canto Orfeonic for music teachers which would provide musical life and sustenance in Brazilian schools.

He excelled in writing the "Choros", which consists of variations of wind and string instruments and even choral elements. But orchestration can be widely varied from a single guitar to the whole orchestra.

Villa-Lobos was no one-trick pony writing symphonies, symphonic poems, a cello concerto, choros, chamber music, choral works, piano solos & songs.

M personal favorite, after the 5 preludes, is "The Little Train of the Caipira." Having taught in music in many primary (elementary) schools I can attest to its popularity, especially among the younger students. They respond to the rhythmic and musical charm of Villa-Lobos' easy style.

No wonder he has remained in such an exalted position for all these years!

Guitar Maintenance

Keeping our guitars in good working order should be uppermost in our mind.

Unfortunately I'm guilty of neglect when it comes to routine maintenance of my instrument :(

If you're at all like me you'll need a little prompting from time to time to get your "maintenance house" in order.

I decided, because it's so close to the New Year, to make a resolution to give my guitar regular and proper maintenance, instead of just thinking about it!

In my research frenzy I found many pages on the web that discuss this important topic but the one I liked the most was a short, simple and direct one by Douglas P. Somervell...

It's simple and to the point and really, we should all be doing this for the good of our guitars. If you're definitely NOT like me the just keep on doing what you've been doing :)

A Quick Look At ...

The Staff & Treble Clef

The staff and treble clef in music is really easy to understand. If you don't read music and just rely on tablature I really recommend you learn it because it can really open up a whole new "vista" for you.

The musical staff is nothing more than 5 lines and 4 spaces with smaller, "ledger" lines being written above and below the staff to indicate notes of lower or higher pitch.

That's all the staff really does i.e. indicate the pitch of a note in music.

To understand this more fully let's just backtrack a tad to go over the musical alphabet.

The musical alphabet is so simple compared to the normal alphabet. This is because there is only 7 notes (8 if you count the octave & 12 if you count sharps/flats etc) compared to the 26 of the reading alphabet.

Yes, that's right! It's only: A; B; C; D; E; F; G. After this the notes just keep repeating.

Let's relate that to our treble clef...

It just so happens that the lowest line in our 5 line staff has the note "E" situated on it. The good thing is that this N-E-V- E-R changes! That is its home and that's where it stays...

The other lines going upwards from the bottom have the notes: G; B; D; F situated on them. So now you have all the lines named with the notes: E; G; B; D; F.

The traditional way to remember these note names on the line is by an acronym sentence. That is, if you remember the sentence... "Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit", you'll remember the note names on the lines of the treble stave or staff.

Similarly for the 4 spaces that are between the lines you can remember the word "FACE" as that is what the word spells if you look at the notes in these spaces from the bottom up on the treble clef.

I often tell new students of mine, especially children, to remember the sentence... "Every Good Bozo Deserves Fruit" and then I tell them to imagine that Bozo clown eating so much fruit at once it goes all over his "FACE" rather than in his mouth.

Not only do they usually find this funny to think about but just the fact that they are imagining scene or picture helps them to retain the information.

This is because we basically think in "pictures" and this method just enhances the brain's natural method of information retention.

There's a good graphic about the treble clef on my website, if you haven't already seen it that explains what I'm talking about...

As you move vertically upwards on the staff the pitch of the note is getting higher and the musical alphabet is going in a forwards motion.

Conversely, if you're moving in a downwards motion the musical alphabet is going backwards and the pitch of the note is getting lower.

This is basic to most classical guitarists that have been playing and reading for some time but you other guitarists reading this that perhaps only read tablature at the moment can now see how easy it is to read the treble or "G" clef.

It's called the "G" clef by the way because the tail of the clef wraps around the "G" or second line from the bottom on the staff.

So there you have it! A few basics will really take you a long way.

Indeed, I often get my students to read off a couple of notes from a Bach or Tarrega book after I teach them about the staff.

This is not to say they could play the music but the look on their faces when they can realize what the note is in such difficult looking music brings a smile to their faces and new-found confidence in reading music.

It's something I firmly believe step at a time will get you a long, long way!

Performance Anxiety

Follow Up

In my last E-Zine I spoke about Performance Anxiety and how you can be better prepared to meet that challenge.

I had some good feedback on that article, thank-you for that. As I follow up on that article...

Elizabeth you can get that book of Michael Rowland's (Absolute Happiness) here...

I hope it helps you, I know I gained a lot of benefit from it.

And Steve wanted some advice on Beta Blockers and whether they are safe to take. I must admit, I've only ever taken them once and they seemed to work for me but I didn't really like the feeling.

I'd rather perform in a natural state :)

The best way is to be really informed about the topic professionally and I am not qualified to give advice on their use as it is a medical concern.

You really should ask your doctor or other medical authorities but here, at least, is an interesting article that may give you some idea about Beta Blockers...

Recommended Resource

As a further follow up to the discussion about performance anxiety my recommended resource for this month is...Keeping Your Nerve! by Kate Jones.

It's an inexpensive little booklet that will, according to the blurb on the back... "Will help you to: Prepare for performance, whether concert or exam; enjoy performing, wherever and whenever; unwind after the performance; understand why you perform and your audience turns up.

It is an easy read and I quite enjoyed it (although the print is rather small and hard to read). I have no hesitation in recommending it. Well worth the price (cheap) and definitely value for money.

Free Music

Here is this month’s free music (including midi files) that I have prepared. I have 3 different composers this month and the music ranges from easy to intermediate. I have also included tablature versions for those of you that asked for it. Enjoy!

P.S. Look for the Christmas sheetmusic specials at the bottom of the page from Sheet Music Plus!

Well that's it for the second 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.

Have a merry Christmas & I'll see you next year in January!

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