10th Year Anniversary Edition:
I’m revisiting some of my best old posts on playing guitar. Enjoy!
Yes. And no.
It really depends on how you are asking this question. Some of the Classical Guitar Methods out there are definitely more comprehensive, more well thought out, more revised and time-tested than others. But all of them have valuable points of view, and all of them have pitfalls and blind spots. If you use any guitar method intelligently and consciously, it will “work.” With the help of a good classical guitar teacher who knows how to use it without worshiping it, a good guitar method, chosen appropriately for the stage of learning and type of person you are, can be a great help.
But beyond that, it’s about the frame of mind you use to approach learning. More importantly, for most people, it’s about your “frame of body.” Clumsy term, I know, and I’ll try not to use it again.
It’s about your consciousness and how much you allow it to include as you learn classical guitar, (or acoustic guitar, jazz guitar, fingerstyle guitar….Mohan Veena for that matter….any kind of musical instrument, really.)
Ok, try to bear with me; I’m going to get geeky on you for a few paragraphs:
As a tradition, classical guitar methods use an “it” perspective— they use “it” language…use your finger (it) in this way….hold the guitar (it) against your body (it) in this way…practice this technical exercise (it) to achieve this result (it) …
This kind of language shows you how things work, from the outside in….you see your hand, you see the music, you see the strings and your fingernails, you understand how they interact with each other and then you tell them what to do. You are “in the driver’s seat” telling your body what it should and shouldn’t do, and with the help of these suggestions you attempt to put everything together so that it all works like a well-oiled human playing machine.
“It” language, however, does not tend to put you fully in the driver’s seat, because it keeps you mostly in your mind, and playing classical guitar happens in your body, with your body, from your body.
When you are able to include your whole body in your consciousness, you are no longer seeing your body as “it.” You are feeling it as “me.” You are not merely the driver but you are also the “car,” so to speak. That’s a much more powerful way to be in the driver’s seat.
From that place, you can even go deeper: you can go from “me” to “we,” and include the guitar as part of your consciousness: you fully inhabit yourself, “become yourself” and you start to become the guitar as well! This is where your playing starts to flow into and truly amazing things start to happen.
These are high-minded ideals but there are very specific, effective ways to make them part of how you practice and learn: I’ve been experimenting with and developing these concepts for years and have learned a few things for myself and a few of my students.
Recently, as part of my journey towards finding new and more powerful ways to teach and embody the deepest, most powerful and profound aspects of music and musicianship, I discovered a truly brilliant mind-body system, called Uzazu. It was developed through years of research and experimentation with professional dancers in the Netherlands, by a Juilliard-trained dancer, composer and choreographer who is now teaching Uzazu workshops around the world. I’ve trained in it for a while and recently went whole hog, did teacher training and am currently undergoing certification as an Uzazu teacher.
And I’ve found that it has given me an unbelievably useful, deep and effective way to access the more mysterious, hard to teach, hard to talk about, aspects of guitar playing. These are the things that, if accessed, can get any guitarist who is stuck, unstuck. They can revamp your bad habits from the inside out. They can allow you to understand and unlock musical en.joyment and technical potential that seem to out of reach for many people
With feedback on exactly what you need as a classical guitar beginner, intermediate, or even advancced player, I want to develop the best possible ways to share them with anyone who is interested in tapping into their true potential as a player.