Top Tips, Tricks and Techniques for the classical guitar by Matt Withers – Australian Guitarist
My students often ask me, ‘What can I do to improve my playing?’
Firstly, I don’t like to give a blanket response to encompass all players and abilities. I strongly encourage finding a teacher for regular lessons and compliment these lessons with masterclasses from other performers, teachers and musicians. I offer lessons via Skype to help with any stage of your learning and would love to help you develop your musical abilities. Contact me today.
Don’t let the melody suffer!
Music mimics the voice and we want to make the guitar sing. Of course, the plucked note decays very quickly on the guitar so we have to ensure the melody is not interrupted or overpowered by other voices (eg. accompaniment or bass lines). The best way to do this is to try to play the other lines quieter, rather than trying to play the melody louder. If we put too much tension and effort into playing the melody louder, our hands can tighten up and our fingers may find it hard to move fast – plus the tone of the note suffers.
Balance these multiple voices gently and really let the melody sing and eventually you can build on the overall volume and speed of the passage or piece.
Practice sight reading!
There are many resources available today to help us sight read. Start out by finding simple, single line melodies to develop your reading. This is beneficial at any stage of your learning. Pick some pieces with slightly challenging rhythms or range of notes (or both!) and aim to keep the tempo steady – not fast, just steady! Ensemble pieces are my favourites for sight reading. Generally in three or four parts, the individual lines are often divided across the parts in pitch range or rhythmic devices to focus on your current technique that requires development.
If you miss a note, don’t worry, keep going and keep steady. The aim here is to learn to read musical notes as alphabet letters, rhythmic & melodic motives as words and phrases as full sentences, with all the musical punctuation along the way. Eventually you will be able to make your guitar sing the music in a beautiful long, shaped melodic line with ease of inflection and striking subtlety.
Once you’ve read the music once or twice, move onto another line or piece. We’re not trying to learn the music, simply to sight read to the best of our abilities the first time. Mistakes will happen.
The 120 Giuliani Right Hand Exercises Challenge!
For the next four months, challenge yourself to spend just 5 minutes a day on one right hand exercise – one new exercise per day. Many players see these as speed drills and power loud and fast through dozens a week, playing each one only once. My advice to you is to play these incredibly slowly and softly – gently caressing the string, listening to every note, feeling and controlling every refined movement in your hand. Each note should take at least a second if not more – Slowly!
I assure you, once you’ve completed this challenge, you will feel much better about the dexterity and ability of your right hand technique.
Once you are in performance, should you slip and make a small mistake, if you apply these Top Tips, Tricks with your developed Top Technique, you will be able to move through the melodic line and convey to the audience an extra sense of confidence in the music instead of stopping and returning to the point of your error.
Let me know how you go!
More Top Tips, Tricks & Techniques to come!