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Theodor Leschetizky on the “Hopeless Quest” of Repetition in Practice


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


“The player who repeats the same passage, wearily expectant that he will accomplish it in process of time, is a lost soul on a hopeless quest.” 

Theodor Leschetizky


Repetition is a part of practice. We need to do things more than once to imprint them in the mind. However, mindless repetition can do more harm than good.

Mindless repetition encourages mind-wandering and low focus. It trains us to play without awareness and without listening. And it can lead to repetitive stress injuries, such as focal dystonia. (Plus, it’s boring.)

Instead of the grinding treadmill of mindless repetition, we can do better.

How can we do better? Through variation.

Many of the best musicians from history, most notably pianists and violinists, have written about variation in practice.

Variation can help dissolve problem spots. It creates a more flexible and dexterous technique. And it’s more fun.

We can use rhythmic variation, accents, dynamics, articulations, and more.

For example, in a scale or melodic passage, it is common to play a straight rhythm, such as all 8th notes, in practice.

While this will be the rhythm when we perform the piece, we can practice it differently. We can play using dotted rhythms. We can play in short bursts of quick notes followed by long notes.

We can accent every first of two notes. Then every second of two notes. Then every third note, fourth, and so on. Or we can accent a given right-hand finger.

We can play the scale or passage staccato. We can play every third note staccato and all others legato.

We can play the scale at each of the five main dynamic levels, from very quiet, up to very loud. We can get louder and softer in intentional patterns.

And we can combine the above in endless experimentation.

We can devise variations for right-hand arpeggio patterns, scales, exercises, and all other elements of technique practice. And we can invent creative ways to practice each bit of each piece we play.

Learning to play classical guitar is actually learning to practice classical guitar.

We learn methods by which to practice, and this allows us to play the music we want to play. Practice is different from playing, and the more different we make it, the better.

John Culkin (or was it Churchill?) wrote: “We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us.”

Variation in practice is one of the most useful tools we can shape. It takes more mental energy, and this helps to improve at guitar more quickly.

Variation keeps practice engaging. And it lets us ride the zone of constructive challenge – the razor’s edge of hard but not too hard.








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.




Hi Allen, I am thoroughly enjoying your website and I find it is just what I need in my renewed passion for classical guitar. I have rediscovered a great love for this instrument and the music I can learn and play and it has changed my life for the better dramatically! Thank you for facilitating this process.~

 

~ George Rogers


-George Rogers

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.

 

~ R. Martinez


-R. Martinez



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