wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on October 24, 2016

I am sometimes impressed by how much emphasis players put on fingering a passage a certain way. As if there is only one manner to produce a phrase that will give it the right personality. Keeping a melody on single string is one of those habits, as if the melody lived on the strings, not in the imagination of the player. The performer’s imagination is the most important aspect of playing; it is this imagined sound that triggers the rest of the music making process. This imagined sound needs to contain pitch and rhythm, in addition to timbre, articulation, volume and subtle changes of speed.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on October 10, 2016

Two of the teachers who influenced me the most had the grace to listen as full participants. They took the score in their hands and proceeded to live it along with each player they listened to. Players usually responded by playing better - it is much easier to play well when the person beside you is having a musical experience.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on August 19, 2016

Last week I gave workshops at Classical Guitarfest West every morning from 9–10 am. These were labeled as warm-up and technique but I chose to work on concentration.

When we work on pieces repeatedly they improve to a point and then our mind begins to wander. We think of groceries that must be picked up for dinner, projects that are due, any number of things but not about the music we are playing. This is a normal thing because after a certain degree of competency we no longer have to think about a task. Our progress stalls when we no longer attend to details.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on August 1, 2016

It is useful to think of the music we learn as gifts. Sometimes they are gifts from bygone times, like music from 1820; sometimes they are from living composers. Our mothers taught us to be gracious when receiving presents because it engenders gratitude, which in turn helps the gift cycle continue. Even if we bought the sheet music, the content is mysterious. I like to think of music coming from a from different realm, a magical time and place. It is as if we open the special window to infinity and the work comes in.girona garden

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on July 20, 2016

I believe we have to rehearse differently depending on our state of mind. In order to process lots of data effectively we must be alert and have the necessary energy to do so. For this reason learning new pieces or new habits requires more energy while reviewing older pieces takes less.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on June 15, 2016

“…Can you bring me to the place
where the pollen is now the light…” Linda Hogan

At its best, art can be transformative: a painting can make us look at the world in a new way; a poem can capture thoughts that rattled around in our heads without coherence. Music is sometimes at its best when it is hardly noticed like in a great film. One of my colleagues referred to Lawrence Of Arabia, a film that opens with seven minutes of landscape panoramas. The music captures our minds, and lets us float through the scenes.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on May 9, 2016

I have been thinking this week about finger stability [which has been discussed here before] because of a need to improve my playing for a concert on Saturday night. When moving our fingers quickly, we think about getting from one note to the next. It is hard to think of anything else, speed is one of those things that create many worries for even the advanced guitarist. To visualize either hand changing notes seven times a second, for example, is a formidable task.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on April 28, 2016

“with nothing but a story, and time” – Linda Hogan

As you learn and work on a piece of music the narrative flow becomes the driving force for an interpretation. Sometimes it takes a very long time to find the best way to deliver a passage. Yesterday I was playing one of my own pieces, a fairly easy one, and realized I was rushing into a section, that it needed to start more like coming into a turn while driving before speeding up. It seemed so obvious as this registered and now I have to figure out why it took so long to discover that basic notion.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on April 23, 2016

Sometimes there is a bit of shame, in the last few weeks I have been practicing and recording improvisations. When you are trying ideas for the first time peculiar things happen. Today for example, playing along with my eyes closed I could have sworn my fingers were at the 2nd fret but they were really at the 5th. Other times I began to play a line that was clear for the first few notes then got fuzzy, resulting in lots of clicks and confusion. At times I have taken the Miles Davis approach – “there are no mistakes”. I just repeat the click and try to make it a feature of the passage.

wilbeau picture
by wilbeau
on March 21, 2016

I have started falling in love with flats. A guitar player tends to find them hard to enjoy because in regular tuning they mean lots of barre chords and sore hands. In altered tunings things can change and one of the pieces on my latest CD is in G minor [2 flats]. I have just written another piece filled with flats: a birthday card for my wife. It opens and closes in a sharp key [G maj], but even that section is contains a great many flats.