Francis Beacon on Playing Classical Guitar Naturally
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“Nature, in order to be commanded, must be obeyed.”
In his Kitharologous, Ricardo Iznaola offers this quote by Francis Bacon. But as true as it sounds, what does it actually mean?
When we talk about learning and practicing classical guitar, what is “Nature”?
So much in music is thought to be “in the ear of the beholder”. But Bacon suggests that there are deeper truths that govern our art. He implies that it’s only though mastery of these core elements that we create “natural” art and music.
So what are they?
Perhaps we can reference the building blocks of music in general:
volume (loud vs. soft)
and timbre (in guitar, tone quality).
For any piece of music, these are indeed a great place to start. And improving any of these will bring our music to higher levels.
But to create any of the above, we have to use our human bodies. And this brings in more “nature”.
If we use our bodies wrong, we can cause pain and injury. Or at the least, we can limit our abilities to execute the four musical building blocks above.
So “nature” now includes our positioning and form, and how we move our hands. It could also include how well we listen and pay attention.
Looking at music in this light, we can perhaps do best by putting complex patterns and pieces aside, and focus for a while instead on beefing up the basics.
We can slow down and release the need to reach a goal or finish line. Now, we just may find joy and meaning in the small incremental improvements that come with focused practice.
When we focus on the fundamentals, we set ourselves up to one day “command nature”.
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully. Click here for a sample formula.
This is the ideal starting position for me. As a relative beginner with no teacher this is helping me enormously in developing good technique and not falling into bad habits. I no longer feel (A) That it's a struggle to learn a new piece and (B) That I am alone in my endeavors. My advice is to try The Woodshed program. It is fantastic and will not only bring up your playing but his explanations of musical concepts as you go along put things into perspective.
I just want to thank you for your lessons. You are helping us to understand how a piece is composed, the parts to analyze and how to do it. You are teaching a lot about how to read and play, and the most important part: PLAY with the music and ENJOY it.
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