Making Time for Practice During the Holidays and Taking Breaks

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Like many people, my schedule around the holidays seems to fill up very fast. Among working, shopping for gifts, and attending family and friend gatherings, there seems to be little down time to dig into any serious music practice. I have thought about waking up even earlier than I already do (6 am) but I just find myself using that extra time to get other things done. This challenge of finding time to practice when life gets busy is something every musician certainly faces. So, how do you find time when life has you running around?

One trick I have learned through the years, and it seems effective, is to break up your practice into smaller, more manageable chunks of time. A day of spaced practice might look something like this: morning = warm up routine and exercises for 10-15 minutes; break time at the office = mental imaging for 10-15 minutes (more on that later); evening = 5 minutes of warm up and 15 minutes of working on a sticking spot in a piece, then 5 minutes of playing through an old piece. Breaking practice time into smaller chunks, I have about an hour of focused, goal-driven practice. Notice I do not just pick up my instrument and play during these times, but I have a specific task to work through each time. This ensures that I not only use my time efficiently, but that I also practice correctly to achieve a goal each day. I also find that taking breaks between practice times sometimes allows me to come back to a problem or sticky spot I might have with a fresh perspective and new vigor to solve the issue. Try spacing out your practice time to fit your busy schedule and you might actually notice faster improvement in your playing.

Now if I could only find time to blog more. Lol.

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire…” – Nat King Cole Arrangements for Solo Guitar

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Arranging for classical guitar has always been a fun challenge for me. As Andre Segovia once said, “The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every string is a different color, a different voice.” This give the guitar a great advantage as a vehicle for some complex arrangements. The challenge, of course, is to keep the life and feel of the original piece intact while accommodating for a small instrument. Though, keeping with Segovia’s quote, the instrument does offer a whole lot in terms of being able to produce a bunch of different sound colors and textures if put into the right hands. One of my biggest challenges for arranging has been Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” The Assad brothers have a great duet arrangement recorded, but before I heard that I decided to tackle the project for solo guitar. That is still a challenge that I am learning from, and I am happy to say that it is a playable arrangement (just not for the average guitarist. lol).

With the colder fall and winter seasons, one song always pops into my head that helps me to get into the spirit of the holidays. One version in particular strikes the mood – Nat King Cole’s version of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” I have been a huge fan of Nat King Cole even before I can remember. His timeless hits about love and life have permeated my soul and warmed my heart since I was a child. I have always had a notion to arrange some of these hits for duos or other small ensembles in the back of my head, but this season I had a thought to try them out for solo guitar..and why not? The lyrical colors and lush textures produced by a nylon-string guitar fit perfectly with the smooth, round tones of Mr. Cole’s voice. Hopefully, I can do justice to some of his timeless classics and have them ready before Christmas. What a wonderful gift those recording might make! Stay tuned for some excerpts and possible video footage of some of the arrangements. Feel free to inquire about any of the arrangements for personal use, as well.

Music and Living on the Central Coast

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Living in beautiful San Luis Obispo gives me the privilege of being able to perform music regularly for weddings, parties, and other life-celebrating events hosted at gorgeous venues around the Central Coast. My Classical Guitar and mandolin takes me from wonderful wine and food events to joyous wedding ceremonies and cocktail hours. I am very happy to call this town my home and this region my playground. With these following blog posts, I hope to share some of my knowledge and thoughts about guitar, mandolin, music, and the Central Coast with guitar aficionados and music lovers around the world. Hopefully, I will help a struggling student or inspire an amateur musician along the way. With that in mind, I bid the world hello, and offer this first though about learning music: Music from all over the world and throughout history has always started with our most basic instrument unique to humans…the human voice. Instrumental music and other forms grow out of the tradition of using the voice to produce music. Use this thought as a basis for learning how to play and listen to music and you will go far.

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