Wednesday, 15 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions!

Right, it's been 2014 for a little while now, and as I've been quizzing all my students on their musical goals for the new year, I think it's only fair that I share some of my own. After all, if you're not willing to learn, you've got no business trying to teach... and I like to try and lead by example.

First resolution - FLCM (Fellow of the London College of Music). This is the highest level (Level 6 - Master's degree standard) issued by the Registry Of Guitar Tutors. As some of you know, I passed the Level 5 Licentiate exam last year, that one being Bachelor's degree standard. It took alot of work and alot of preparation, but the result was well worth it - so any of you guys going in for grades, know that I've been there too and I know exactly how you feel! I can certainly say that exam day last year was one of the most stressful and nerve-wracking I can remember.

So now I'm devoting half my practice time to the repertoire for this exam, and there are some real finger twisters here.. still, if it's difficult, that means you're learning something (See? I don't just use these phrases on my students... I'm just as tough on myself ;-) ). Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Yngwie, Satch, Megadeath, Paul Gilbert... 2014 is going to be LOUD.

Second resolution - technical development. I think we've all as guitar players been guilty of being unfocused in our playing, trying to go in a variety of directions all at once and getting nowhere. So what I've tried to do this year is get organised and separate technical development into a small group of four areas - pentatonic scales, diatonic seven-note scales, arpeggios and chord voicings. I'm spending a month on each area, changing key each week using the cycle of 5ths (for those unfamiliar with the idea, it means moving up a fifth each time, so for example from C to G, G to D, D to A and so on).

This approach has yielded some strong results - by focusing purely on one area, you are forced to "squeeze as much juice" from each idea as possible.

Pentatonics - octave micro-fingerings, allowing greater fluency across the fretboard horizontally and 3 octave sequenced runs diaginally across the neck

Diatonics - six note micro fingerings and sequenced patterns in 3s, 4s and 6s, also moving laterally in two string groups.

Arpeggios - Sweeping, tapping along single string, string skipping and string skip/tap combined (Nuno Bettencourt style)

Chord voicings - triads and dominant chords reduced down to triads superimposed onto each other - inversions and open voicings

I hope this gives you some idea about how best to organise your practice time for best results - here's to making real gains in 2014!