Peter Bevelin on Doing Things Right the First Time

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!

“I don’t want to be a great-problem-solver. I want to avoid problems – prevent them from happening and doing right from the beginning.” 

Peter Bevelin

There is a problem we all face when beginning to learn to play guitar. When we begin, we don’t know what “right” looks and feels like.

So we try to use intuition and our sense of what feels “natural.” But these feelings are almost always wrong on guitar. This is because we judge “natural” by our current comfort zones, not on efficient form or motion.

What feels natural as a beginner has no relation with how an advanced player plays.

As a result of this, we develop all sorts of counterproductive habits. Later, we’ll need to change these if we want to improve past a certain point.

In other words, we create ceilings on how well we can play.

And like childhood, no one makes it through the early stages unscathed. Perhaps if we spent every practice minute with a great teacher we could get it right the first time. But that’s not usually realistic.

(The great violinist Jascha Heifetz’s father, himself a fine violinist, allegedly kept the violin in the top of the closet. This way little Jascha could have no unsupervised practice. But this is extremely rare.)

So at the beginning, we will inevitably learn a few bad habits. But it’s what we do ongoing that counts most.

The sooner we make practice about training the fundamentals, the sooner we form a solid foundation on which we can build. Until then, we will dig deeper holes, and hit taller walls.

Problems often stem from complexity. And complexity is easy to create. Pieces of music can get very complex very fast. Right-hand patterns, left-hand position, finger pressure, squeaks, wrists, shifts, arms – the list goes on.

And this complexity is alluring. The ego loves to work on hard problems. We feel productive and smart when facing off against the plume of complexity.

But the height of elegance and grace is simplicity. The simpler (the more organized and structured) we can make music, the better it often sounds. The simpler our technique, the cleaner we play.

And to create simplicity, we have to know and use the fundamentals. And more, we have to recognize the fundamentals in our movements and music.

When we do, we can solve problems more easily and polish music to a higher level.

This means finding a source to trust for instruction. No one discovers great classical guitar technique on their own.

And it means bringing intention and awareness to our practice. Slowing down, staying present, and finding joy in the process and work.

Once we have our foundation, bigger pieces of music become simple combinations of common building blocks. We understand the structure and mechanisms at play.

With the basics covered, we’ll still face challenges and hurdles. But we’ll have the tools with which to overcome them. We’ll break through the glass ceilings and rise above our previous limitations.?

Allen Mathews

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 other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, 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.

I am a 61 year old physician, reconnecting with the classical guitar after a hiatus of nearly 40 years. After a couple of weeks [in the program], I’m now producing a much clearer, yet somehow more mellow and beautiful sound. It was really good to feel it happening in my hand, and that it felt more comfortable and somehow “right”, compared to the way I had played before (“curved picking”). The fog started to lift and I found that I was remembering more, and it felt great (also a bit of a relief!), giving me confidence to keep going. Thank you for making your course available - your love of music and the guitar shines through the teaching. I am very happy I found and registered with CGS.

-Brian Davey

Thanks to you (you are my only teacher) in only a few months I've gone from very basic beginner pieces to having just completed learning Bach's Gavottes 1&2 in good form and execution. As a non-classical electric guitarist who has always used a pick and never his fingers, this has been no small feat!

-Gregg Olson

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