Guitar practise tips

Under Guitar practise tips you will find articles by Yak Santiago about practising. The articles will hopefully give some inspiration.

For the moment there are four articles:

1. Practice every day (don't be lazy)!

2. Play with a good technique

3. Read sheet music; don't be lazy!

4. Holiday with the guitar


Practise every day! (article 1)

The most important thing, after learning to play with a good technique, is not to be lazy! Don't try to fool anyone, and especially not yourself,  that you don't have the time to practise. Every single hour spent on Facebook should be followed by one hour of guitar practising. Ok, you have a lot to do; homeworks, job, friends visiting or birthday parties; but it's not really an excuse. Tell your environment (and again: yourself!) that you must practise. One day without the guitar is a wasted day for a guitarist, and you'll not be able to catch up that lost day on Sunday, by playing more. Half an hour every day (3,5 hours a week) is much more worth than one hour on Wednesday and two and a half hours on Sunday.

If you're a totally new beginner, you will not be able to play more than half an hour a day without pain in the fingertops and other parts of the body. After some weeks your skin will be harder and there's no pain anymore. IF you play everyday.

Learn how to practise everyday already from the start. You, or someone else, pay for the lessons, and if you don't practise it's like throwing those money in the trash can!


Practise -Don't play!

Do what your teacher tell you to do: Exercises, scales, classical pieces, rock pieces. Don't fool yourself  and jump over the boring but important exercises. If you want to be a good soccer player you can't fool around with the ball all the time, but you must run and jump a lot too; short distance, long distance, streching...It's really boring, but it gives result.


Ronaldo backstage. Boring, boring, boring! 


 Ronaldo on stage. Fun, fun fun!    

Do exactly like Ronaldo would do it if he would be into guitar playing!                                            

 If your homework for the week consist of chromatic exercises, barre chords and legato, you must do that before you start to play that Beatles song (which is of course more fun). Sitting for half an hour and just playing chords it not to practise. After half an hour of serious practising; feel free to play chords for how long that you want to!

 Play with a good technique (article 2)

What does it mean to play with a good technique? My conviction is that it means to play with a "classical technique". Classical for me means professional, as opposed to an amateur who plays without thinking too much about things that he'd never heard about. In classical guitar; thoughts have been given about the right way to sit, how to position your guitar, how to place the right and the left hands correctly and so on. There are different classical schools and they differ a bit from each other. Most of them have in common some important things; They want to give the guitarist the best possible tools to express himself (herself for feminists) while encountering music that is demanding both on the musical and the technical level.

Andres Segovia played with a good enough technique although his feet aren't  relaxed enough on this drawing...

   If I may use an analogy again from the world of sports; if you want to defend yourself you can start to study Karate. Ok, so which style should you study; Shotokan Karate, Goju Ryu Karate or Kouchin Kyu Karate? Well, with some small differences; all of them will serve your purpose; they will give you the tools to survive. The same holds for the different classical guitar schools; most of them are good enough to help you through the musical repertoir.

The amateur, on the contrary, may sit on the bed, holding the guitar as all the amateur guitarists shown everyday on MTV, strumming along with a pick. That might be enough to make him happy...But one day he (she) decides to really go for it and wants to play something beautiful and more difficult (say a classical guitar piece suddenly made famous by Adele; who put words to it!!!). BUT, BUT, BUT! The door is closed! It's difficult to teach an old dog to sit, when he's already used to stroll around freely (so they say, I never tried...). The nice position of the two hands are simply not there, and the amateur guitarist will have to continue strumming the chords. Bad technique destroyed the fun.

 Read sheet music; don't be lazy! (article 3)


Here's a lovely piece by guitar master and composer Francisco Tarrega. Four lines full of wonderful music,

but can you read it? Can you feel the connection with the composer?

If you're a serious guitar student and have been so for some years, the answer should be yes!

Reading sheet music skills among guitarists, even classical guitarists, is probably under the level of an average piano player who has been studying for the same amount of time. Why?

One explaination could be that guitar is a "popular" instrument, in this context meaning an instrument of the ordinary people, as opposed to the established classical instuments like violin or piano. People in general don't seem to know that the guitar is an instrument capable of producing very advanced music; they believe it's just an instrument to use for strumming some chords.

   Now, the guitar is able to produce almost everything you want it to produce soundwise; and this will be more obvious when you read a prelude like the one above, by Tarrega. By playing pieces like this, you will expand your knowledge about the guitars possibilities and you will feel the pain in your fingers when you practise it all over again and again.

All the information in the piece, from notes to suggested fingerings is a treasure of knowledge that you'll never get if you're trying to learn it  from Youtube or some tablature. If you learn the piece using tablature it's like a monkey learning some tricks to perform at the circus, but you will not understand the composers intention, and you will not be able to make your own decisions based on the original score.

Do you find it hard to read notes? Are you sure that you're not only lazy? Well, try this piece by Tarrega. Four lines with only three bars in every line; all together 12 bars. Two little tiny bars a day and it'll take you 6 days. The Seventh day you can rest; enjoy your Shabbat!

Holiday with the guitar (article 4)

Ordinary, "lazy" people travel on their holiday without the guitar. Two weeks on a vacation without the guitar? It will take you at least four weeks of practise again to return to the level you had before the vacation! To return to previous level after a break; one normally needs double the time to get back in form.

One thing that everyone should try is to take a "guitar vacation". With guitar vacation I mean vacation WITH the guitar, not without it! We all work (as an example I normally teach the guitar five days a week and can't play all the day) during the week and we spend one or two hours a day on the instrument we love. Now; why don't we skip that stupid flight to Greece, and just stay home on the vacation, with the main goal to play the guitar as many hours as possible every day?

Maybe we can divide the day in three guitar sessions; morning, afternoon and evening; and play two hours session; making it six hours in one day!? What should we do during those three sessions?

The first two hours can be dedicated to learning a new piece of sheet music; the next session can be spent on one singel piece that you really want to get up the level on; a difficult piece that you one day want to perform in front of a crowd...For the evening you'll have two hours to play your current repertoir; all the pieces without interuption; if you make any faults; don;t worry; it's only guitar playing!

I'm writing this in the middle of my two month summer vacation (the community center is closed), and I've been following my own advice above. Apart from being a guest for three days on a wedding, I've been playing a lot, and the satisfaction is just SO great! One more important thing is to bring this practising spirit back to the real life; to try to play a bit more after the vacation is over. Less television, less Facebook, less dreaming. PLAY! And if you don;t play, you'll have a least to paint a guitar, as I did my last vacation; this Jimi Hendrix guitar was a job for a sushi restaurant with rock ambitions. It took me around three days and was a good fun, too!



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