The Practice

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Playing guitar doesn’t come easy to me these days. Almost all aspects of playing have become challenging – even areas where I once excelled at have become foreign and a bit enigmatic.  Which is why a daily practice has become more important than ever, to me.  I’m slowly adding my old pieces back into my repertoire, but am cautiously adding new to me composers as well.  For someone who has invested almost her entire life to the playing of classical guitar, there are some huge gaps in my knowledge of guitar music. For instance, almost the entire baroque repertoire, with the exception of the Bach cello suites.  So I have added this Weiss Fantasie into my practice.  And surprisingly, I am beginning to love it.

For those of you who are interested – this is what my rehab practice looks like.  I try to get in an hour a day. Sometimes I am unable to play that long – and sometimes I want to play more, but I know that if I push it too much, the pain that will occur will be too much for me to handle, and I will have to take several days off – and I cant afford that.

  • Arpeggio exercises – 10 minutes.  I do this instead of scales, because its easier on my hands, and it gives my brain a workout, when I progress past the standard PIMAMI
  • Sarabande by Francis Poulenc – its a simple piece, but its quite difficult to master.  Its meditative and somber.  It was my dog Charles favourite piece, and when I play it, I can feel him next to me, keeping time with his tail.  Its a great warm up. Usually I play this for 10 minutes.  Trying to get the tone as even as possible.
  • Suite no. 1 – Richard Rodney Bennett – A suite of Pieces for the early intermediate student. Structurally there isn’t much happening, but the soprano and bass voices are written in different keys, which makes playing a bit challenging.  But mostly its brain work. Usually by this point my fingers are warm and about as agile as Im going to get in the practice session.  So the set of pieces usually flows fairly well at this point. – 2 complete tun throughs- plus any extra practice where its needed.
  • I am now halfway through my practice session. At this point I choose a couple of pieces I have had in my repertoire for years, and I choose a passage or 2 in each to deconstruct and re-learn.  I usually do about 10-15 minutes on this.  Usually this is an older contemporary piece, it might go back as far as Mauel de Falla’s Homenaje, or some thing from the Four Pieces by Frank Martin, or probably one of the many pieces I have learned and loved by Leo Brouwer.  The only requirement here, is that it had to be something that was at one time, performance ready – and had to have been played in front of an audience.
  • The remainder of the hour is devoted to new work(s).  I have several in rotation.  Weiss, Bach, Stephen Dodgson, Richard Rodney Bennett, and Scarlatti.  I usually work on a phrase or 2.  Because I usually have between 15-20 minutes left in the session – learning new works is a slow business for me.

This time of regimen is new for me.  I used to be the type of musician who would skip warmups.  I hated scales and other technical exercises (I still do). I didn’t think technique was necessary.  Ah youth – so stubborn, so wrong!  In the past, I was the master mistress of thoughtless practice. I’d just play whatever was sitting on the music stand. I was a really good sight reader, so I didn’t have to think about what I was doing – I just did it, and I could get away with minimal amounts of practice.

Im in a very different situation now, I actually have to think about alternating my fingers. They don’t do it on their own anymore.  When you have to put that much thought into movement, playing becomes laboured, heavy, and clumsy. There really isn’t any way to make it sound good. So you have to look at your practice in a new way.  Instead of reclaiming a new skill. I have chosen to look at is as an adventure through history. Which is why I am trying to close the gaps. It’s going to take me a long time – since I am lucky if I can master 1 single measure of a new piece in one practice.  But if you aren’t aiming to get better, you are getting worse.

So I deem it to be worthwhile.

 

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Open Mouth – Enter Foot

Today being International Women’s Day, a very important day for all of us- since we either are or know (and probably love) a woman, I decided to share a post on my company’s Instagram page that I manage. A quote that involved something that I happen to agree with.

“They can live in my new world, or they can die in their old one.”

This is a partial quote explaining that the world has changed, you can either jump aboard, or drown waiting for things to go back to the old ways. The quote is attributed to a fictional character. A strong, independent, female character. The quote probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on this day, unless you know who said it. So here is what I posted, in all its glory:

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The quote is attributed to Daenerys Targaryen. A character known for strength, fairness, and leadership skills, amongst other qualities. What didn’t occur to me when I posted this, was that this character is written by a man. A man who writes extraordinarily strong and independent women, and then usually kills them off.

But its International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate real women, not fictional characters (no matter how strong they are).  I could have chosen thousands of other quotes.  I could have chosen to write something myself.  But I was in a hurry, and I’ve been a big angry of late – and this said what I wanted to say. It just isn’t enough. The message could be stronger, because it could have been said by a woman (original source). So I apologize to my colleagues, and customers, and anyone who saw the instagram post (most likely none of whom will read this post- but oh well – I feel better).

That said, I have chosen to leave the post up for several reasons:

  • I like the quote
  • Its International Women’s Day. I am a woman. Women are Human. Humans make mistakes. We should learn to celebrate and learn from our mistakes/failures.
  • Daenerys is one hell of a woman, and even though she is not exactly real, she is a good role model – or at least she has been up to what I have seen of Game of Thrones (I am only on season 5).
  • I grew as a person today. I experienced some presence and some sensitivity (albeit after the fact). I learned my lesson – and I am keeping the post up there to remind me (and all of us), that I am/we are not perfect. But as long as we keep learning, we can become better than who we used to be. And as long as that happens, we can survive (and thrive) in the new world.

And right now I am better than who I was at 1pm PST on March 8, 2017

*photo found on pinterest- source unknown.

The Calling Card

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While I am taking a break from a creative life, I don’t want the people I have worked with to forget about me.  So I decided to send out Valentine’s Day cards (like the ones we gave to everyone in our fourth grade class). The postage is easily more expensive than these little cards, but I thought it would make my former clients smile a little.

I chose to send Disney Princesses, because the majority all of my clients (aka students) were between the ages of 4 and 17. A lot of them are girls who are just crazy about these ladies, and it will make the boys that I taught roll their eyes and laugh, and say something along the lines of, “ugh Laura is such a marshmallow”. Yes I am!  I am also determined to be remembered fondly; so that whenever the next venture starts, these people and their friends are going to get in line to sign up- or sing my praises – or whatever. But they most certainly will not forget about me. If the memories of our times together fade – the weird little mailers I send are going to remind them that those lessons really were the good old days.

I don’t really subscribe to the whole Disney Princess thing, I was more into going to the beach, and seeing if I could dig all the way to China, and explore new lands along the way, then dressing up in gowns and tiaras, but whatever you are into is fine with me. However, this got me thinking, if I was going to be a Disney Princess who would I be? So l took a quiz, and…

No I didn’t take a quiz. Of course I didn’t. I am the least princess like person on the planet. And I am happy enough not being one. I’m kind, independent, smart, and interesting in my own way. I don’t need the tiara. I just don’t want to be forgotten.

The Renaissance of Laura

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Today is Jan 29th, which means I have attempted to write this post about 23 times over the course of this month.  And for whatever reason  fear – the reason is fear, I have not been able to publish it. But with all the things that are going on in the world (which is the result of fear), and for the strength of the masses to standing up to the Powers that Be, I am going to rewrite this post and put it out there for all to see: what I want, what I need, and what I will have in the coming year.

The photo below, is my attempt at a mind map/manifesto for 2017. It was a bit of a fail on the mind map side of things – but it was effective nonetheless. It started with my take on the Three Words exercise that was started by Chris Brogan.  But what I ended up with was so much more.

Lets start with what is glaring us in the face. The fridge magnet that holds up my 2017 life plan. “Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do”. This was a gift given to me by the great Tris Hussey, on the day he insisted that I learn to blog because I had a voice worth listening to. It was a time when I was uncertain about my skills (in anything), as well as the kind of person I was (at the time). Tris showed that I was/am valid. That I had something to say – and he made sure that people were going to read that story. I find myself back in this place again. Unsure of myself and of my skills – and this time I have to cope without his help. But the lessons are still there. All I have to do is try- and if I fail, and find out along the way that this new thing is what I want – I just have to keep trying, until it works. Continue reading “The Renaissance of Laura”