Thursday, January 29, 2009


To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. - Thomas Aquinas

Practice having faith when you play. Have faith that your hands will do exactly what you've asked of them. Trust your magnificent body. Excessive tension is a physical manifestation of fear brought about by doubt and worry. It keeps the body from acting in a natural way. Train your body well through practice, but let go of the need to control it. Relax and observe your hands with a continuous strong faith and you will be highly rewarded.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Efficient Action

Do, everyday, all that can be done that day - doing each separate act in an efficient manner - Wallace Wattles

Efficient action is a topic I've been studying carefully as of late. It's an incredibly simple idea, and perhaps this is why it is often overlooked. Action can either be strong or weak - efficient or inefficient. Strong action is guided by a concentrated mental vision, while weak action is derived from a distracted mind.

It's not the number of things you do in your practice which matters - it's the full concentration behind each seperate act which matters. Remember that the the body/mind is one unit. If the mind is not fully present, the physical act will represent that. We want to be fully present in each act with a clear mental vision guiding us.

I recently had a wonderful lesson with a student who was having problems with buzzes in the left hand. We tried many "tricks" to get her left hand to fret cleanly, but the problems persisted. I suddenly realized that the student was not guiding the left hand with her mind. She was pressing on the correct frets, but because she didn't have a clean sound in her mind, the left hand was acting inefficiently.

I then asked her to hear the piece clearly without buzzes in her mind. I told her to keep that imagined sound in her mind as she played through the piece no matter what happens. By concentrating on the clean sound, her body started to find the way to get that sound. The playing instantly became much cleaner. This is efficient action.

Keep your mind on the vision of what you want while you work - no matter how distracting the mistakes may be. Stay focused upon what you want and act towards it with your full concentration. When a mistake appears, acknowledge it - but stay focused upon what you want and continue to act with the clear mental vision guiding you. You can only progress with this kind of work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Furthur use of the Will

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks.” - Phillip Brooks

If we want things to change, we must study the use of the will. If you have excellent will power, you can accomplish whatever you want.

Practicing the will can be done every day. Notice when you want or need to do something, but you find excuses not to do it. This is where the will can be practiced.

Practice it on little things at first - washing the dishes now instead of waiting for them to pile up, cleaning your apartment even though you don't feel like it, writing an email to someone even though it's going to take time and effort, going to the gym even though it's freezing out (like this morning in NYC) or - writing practice goals on an index card and then doing them one by one. All of this strengthens the will. Make it into a game - play with this idea.

With time, your will will become very strong. You'll begin to face challenges straight away and take action even though you may not feel comfortable with them. We are using the will to get out of the comfort zone. This is how we grow and learn.

In the following days I will write about efficient action.

Monday, January 12, 2009


"Discipline is being able to give yourself a command and then follow it" - Bob Proctor

It's very easy to play the guitar, but practicing is something else. We want to know exactly what we are reaching for in our practice sessions.

Since learning this new program for Portugal, I write down exactly what I'm going to work on during the day. I put the session's work on an index card which is placed in clear view on my music stand. Since I'm practicing 3-4 hours per day, the list usually consists of 5-6 ideas I want to accomplish that day.

I used to write goals for the day in a note book, but invariably, the goals wouldn't be within clear view at all times, and I would easily forget what I wanted to accomplish. With the index card right in front of my eyes at all times, this does not happen.

Every task is clearly written so that I don't fall into the trap of simply "playing" all day. There's a time to play through the repertoire, but while I'm learning music, practice is the top priority.

For example

Sunday, Jan 11, 2009

1. Right Hand arpeggios - working on speed, volume and fluidity (30 - 45 minutes)

a. Tremolo technique and Pami arpeggios
b. Villa Lobos Etude 1 arpeggio

2. Left hand Technique -

a. Chromatic Scale in slurs
b. Scale bursts working on 431 patterns

3. Right hand fingering for Conde Claros. Write in fingering for all difficult sections and drill.

4. Decide left hand fingering for B section of Movement 3 / Sonata Romantica - write in fingering

5. Work on phrasing for Kreneck Suite Movements 2 and 3. Write in ideas.

6. Memorize opening of Sor Fantasia Opus 7. Circle areas which are not clear in memory and drill them.

If I don't get something done that day, it goes onto the next days list. Notice how much writing is done in the session. The reason I write everything down is because I want to record the idea and anchor the idea clearly in my mind. It has been proven that writing ideas down become fixed in the memory far more easily than not writing them down.

This practice list is a lot for most people, but I'm used to this kind of work load. Make sure that you choose goals which you feel you can accomplish in that day - no matter how small. You might decide to solve the fingering for 1 measure - that's fine. If you accomplish that, you've succeeded. If you don't get everything done - just put it on the next days list. Eventually you will get a feel for the amount of work you can do in one day.

It's vitally important that you walk away from the guitar feeling like you've gotten some work done no matter how small it is. Every feeling of success in your practice leads to larger successes. It cannot be any other way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Performance and Masterclasses in Portugal

I'll be perforning and teaching in Lisbon, Portugal at "Guitarmania" from February 22-27th. It's very exciting to be returning to the concert stage in Europe. It would be wonderful to see some of you there. The information for the festival is here -

Lagrima - Video Lesson

Part one of a video lesson on Lagrima. "Lagrima" by Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) is one of the classical guitar's most popular romantic pieces.

In this videos I demonstrate the right hand technique used in this piece - particularly the use of rest strokes, or apoyando.

Using rest strokes fluidly and creatively is one of the hallmarks of the "Tarrega School" of playing, represented by such great artists as Miguel Llobet, Andres Segovia, Rey de la Torre, Julian Bream and John Williams, among many others.