Setting up your space for practicing and learning guitar

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Whether you play classical, jazz or spanish guitar (or any other instrument for that matter), you need to make sure that you have a good practice space.

When I first started practicing guitar, all I had was a chair, a music stand and a guitar. Sometimes I would even play sitting on the floor with my music. This minimal practice setup felt good initially, because I felt I could be free, but I was soon experiencing aches and pains (not sitting properly) and I didn’t feel that I had the tools necessary to practice well.

I recently read the book, ‘The Musicians Way‘ by Gerald Klickstein which inspired me to think more carefully about how I set up a space to practice. After reading this great book, I decided to write my own practice space inventory. I was really surprised to see how much stuff I actually needed to practice well:

  • A good armless chair (at a suitable height)
  • Music stand
  • Music (everything you need all in one place, including any technical exercises and sight-reading material)
  • Metronome
  • Guitar stand
  • Notebook
  • Music notebook (for jotting down musical ideas as and when you have them)
  • Pen
  • Pencil
  • Rubber
  • Footstool / guitar support
  • A music stand light
  • A light / lamp for your general practice area
  • Mirror
  • CD / mp3 player (for transcribing / listening to examples)
  • Nail care equipment (files, polishing cloths, nail cream, and nail scissors for the left hand)
  • Tuner

When choosing equipment, get the best you can. Nothing is more frustrating than a music stand that does not stand up properly or a pen which doesn’t work. Everything should be geared to making practicing as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. If something frustrates you, change it.

Alternative fingering enlightenment…

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When learning a piece I try and practice things in as many different ways as I can think of. Not only does this help me keep interest in a piece, but it can often throw up new ideas, which can be particularly useful in overcoming technical difficulties.

Sometimes I come across a phrase that, no matter how much I practice it, just doesn’t sound musical to me. A few weeks ago I was revisiting Suite Populaire Bresilienne by Villa-Lobos. I was reading though Schottish Choro (the second in the suite), but for some reason, the first phrase just didn’t sound right.

Here is the fingering I was using (as suggested in the fantastic Frederic Zigante version):

alt picking

I felt that I was landing too heavily on the d# in the second bar (circled in red).

With this original fingering, the move to the d# coincided with a significant shift of the left hand from the fourth position to the first. The natural reaction was therefore to play the d# quite heavily.

You would think that could just be solved by playing the d# lighter with the right hand. However, this didn’t work either, since no matter how quickly I tried to shift, I could always ‘feel’ a gap between that d# and the preceding g#.

After some more experimenting, I came upon a solution:

By keeping the half-bar at the fourth position until after playing the first d#, the phrase just seemed to work much better. I didn’t feel rushed to get to the d#, so I felt in control and much better able to ‘shape’ the phrase.

Try it out – I would be interested to hear what you think!

My Review on the Quick Lok Guitar Stool

As of late, I have decided to invest my time and resources into improving my guitar practice regiment. In doing so, the first item I had to purchase was a guitar stool. The reason for this is because the correct posture allows for maximum practice time. This reason for this is due to the decrease of strain that the guitar stool gives when you  compare it to sitting on a normal chair which was not designed for guitarists.

Before I went ahead and made just any purchase, I thought I’d spend a bit more time into researching different guitar stools and chairs and then choosing the one which I thought would suit me and my practice regimen the best.

 

From my research I came to the conclusion that the Quick Lok guitar stool was the best stool for my needs and since purchasing it I couldn’t be happier.

Thought I’d do a little bit of a review on this item seeing as though it is now an important part of my guitar practicing arsenal and has even made its way into my live performance as well.

The Quik Lok is a bit more expensive than other guitar stools on the market however, this is a high quality guitar stool and judging by the reviews I read and having owned it now for a few weeks, I can definitely tell you that the extra bucks spent on this guitar chair were well worth it!

Everything is adjustable and folds up exceptionally easily and well which is great for home and live use!

Simon Ambridge – Guitar Maker

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simon ambridge guitar maker luthier

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with the great guitar maker Simon Ambridge. Simon has been making guitars for over 20 years, and is based in a small workshop in Devon. He generously offered the opportunity for me to play one of his recently completed guitars.

Playing a newly completed guitar is always an interesting experience. The guitar I played was had only been strung the previous day, but the sound was already well balanced with an great sense of separation (i.e. different tones in a multi voice passages kept their ‘separate’ feel). Like a fine wine, guitars mature before they develop their full tone, but there was no doubt that this guitar was of the highest class.

Simon’s guitars are made in the in the Hauser / Torres style and use a traditional fan-strutting system. Many guitar makers are experimenting with a variety of different constructions (e.g. the ‘taut’ strutting system developed by Paul Fischer or the lattice bracing of Greg Smallman), however,  the character and depth of tone achieved by the more traditional constructions are, for me, unbeatable.

While writing this post, I was trying to think of way to describe the sound of Simon’s guitar in words, but gave up. However, I did find this video of Simon’s guitar making process with music by Stephen Keyon. I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome

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Welcome to my new site – I hope you enjoy listening to my music.

If you would like to find out more about bookings for weddings and corporate events, please contact me.

Over the next few months I will be adding posts with helpful advice for guitar pupils, along with inspiration from other guitarists and musicians. I hope you enjoy reading.

Mike