I really have to learn to relax.

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
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ameriken
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by ameriken » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:25 pm

I just started reading "The Natural Classical Guitar- the Principles of Effortless Playing". While it does have some left and right hand and other techniques, the book seems more focused on how to relax your mind and body so that your playing becomes natural and 'effortless' (if there is such a thing :) ).

Not a cheap book but you can find them online used in good condition for $20 to $50.
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rpavich
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by rpavich » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:26 pm

ameriken wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:25 pm
I just started reading "The Natural Classical Guitar- the Principles of Effortless Playing". While it does have some left and right hand and other techniques, the book seems more focused on how to relax your mind and body so that your playing becomes natural and 'effortless' (if there is such a thing :) ).

Not a cheap book but you can find them online used in good condition for $20 to $50.
Thanks, I'll check it out.

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ameriken
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by ameriken » Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:03 pm

rpavich wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:26 pm
ameriken wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:25 pm
I just started reading "The Natural Classical Guitar- the Principles of Effortless Playing". While it does have some left and right hand and other techniques, the book seems more focused on how to relax your mind and body so that your playing becomes natural and 'effortless' (if there is such a thing :) ).

Not a cheap book but you can find them online used in good condition for $20 to $50.
Thanks, I'll check it out.
There's another thread running specifically on this book... viewtopic.php?f=6&t=76752
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soufiej
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by soufiej » Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:16 pm

IMO, improper technique today can be attributed to so many players being self taught from the internet. Sort of like, who reads the owner's manual on, say, a guitar amplifier? Virtually no one. We want instant gratification. Who watches the very few instructional videos which teach proper posture and arm position vs "how to play seven easy pieces for classical guitar"? You have a guitar = you want to play your guitar, not learn how to sit and hold your guitar. I don't know, do the modern instructional books begin with several pages of just how to sit, hold and address your guitar like my old "Foden's Grand Method for Guitar" (copyright, 1921) manual does? Does anyone read them?

It's been a few decades since I took a lesson on the classical guitar but, if the instructors today are anything like the average steel string or electric guitar guys and some gals, they teach the same way they were taught. Which, IMO, is a mistake. It's as if our knowledge of how individuals learn has not progressed in the last half century and how to teach has stalled in the 1940's. One group of teachers inflicts themselves on one generation of students and then that generation inflicts themselves on the next generation in an unending cycle of poor teaching methods. If you can't address a student's individual needs, then you will have them simply plow through the pain and discomfort with a "no pain/no gain" attitude. Personally, I can't even understand why instructors still teach each of the six strings in first position to a beginning student. IMO there are much better ways to go about the whole affair.

Finally, guitarists seem not to grasp the concepts of using your opponent's weakness to overcome a perceived disadvantage. They don't even bother to stop and consider for a moment how to more efficiently go about their task.

I frequently tell students struggling with pain and frustrated by poor sounding notes to think of the guitar in the same way a martial artist sees their opponent. Learn to apply leverage rather than relying on strength alone. Unfortunately, particularly among the young male students who see "grip strengtheners" for sale in the shops, all they can think of is pushing as hard and as long as they physically can. They don't seem to realize the longer and the harder they push, the sooner they will wear out.

Think of your thumb as your lever and use it to gain the advantage over the string's opposition to being moved.

Use a capo on the second fret to remove the break angle of the nut, lower the string tension caused by that break angle and reduce the amount of effort required to play well. A capo on the second fret allows fret markers - if there are any - to still align for the student. As you develop a sense of just how little effort is required to play well with the capo, you should also be learning how to apply that learning to playing without the capo.

IMO people just want to make this more difficult than it needs to be.

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twang
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by twang » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:46 pm

bear wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:33 pm
I grip the floor with my toes (my shoes are on, so not much actual gripping). I'm apt to do this when trying to figure out new fingering. The more I concentrate the tighter the grip.
So far, I've never lost a shoe.
I know from personal experience that it's possible to injure your foot doing this. Beware Metatarsalgia.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

albert-canuck
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by albert-canuck » Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:39 pm

I just made this adjustment with my thumb lately in trying to get it more directly under the place where I fret a string. I had gotten a little sloppy with my thumb placement and I was getting more tension in my fretting hand than usual. Moving my thumb more and placing it more at right angle with the neck has also helped. I also increased the height of my foot stool slightly which has increased the angle of the guitar neck a bit. This makes placing my fretting hand at right angles to the neck easier as well as right hand to the strings. And sitting up straighter instead of draping over the guitar. It is amazing how small changes can make a difference.
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John Stone
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by John Stone » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:37 am

Relaxation is so important. If your left hand is relaxed and using minimum effort, your right hand actually plays better.
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They said, "You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are / Are changed upon the blue guitar."

PeteJ
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by PeteJ » Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:38 pm

This would be one reason for not learning on steel strings and to avoid teaching systems that start with chords. I'd say Lagartija nails the issue in his post. More generally, it seems that it's not possible to be tense most of the time and then relax when playing. Relaxation is a life-style choice and much helped by non-guitaristic activities like breath-control, Alexander technique, Zen sitting etc.

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Tomzooki
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by Tomzooki » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:42 pm

rpavich wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:59 pm
Did you tend to tense up in your beginning days also?
Yes, a lot.. and not only in my beginning days... :wink:

I would give one advice, a very simple one: your right shoulder and upper right arm muscles are almost never involved when playing classical guitar. So they should stay very relaxed. Just try to keep those muscles relaxed all the time while playing, you will see..... 8)
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rpavich
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by rpavich » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:47 pm

Thanks for the good input everyone, I'm going to work on it for sure.

MarkInLA
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by MarkInLA » Wed Jan 17, 2018 12:12 am

ALERT ! Everybody ! BREATH !! Wind/brass players take a breath at certain rests as part of their training. And boy, they need to !! I'll be practicing and realize I haven't been breathing (or deeply enough). When I do grab a deep breath, the part I'm having a problem with (What don't I have a problem with; including music !!) all of a sudden gets easier to straighten out...Maybe we should mark or sheet music with a red 'b' or 'B' in places other than at rests. Deep breath now while you are reading this...See what I mean !..Even during the day, not playing.. I have a theory it's not only good for the brain, but for the heart, too. M

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Michael.N.
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by Michael.N. » Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:41 am

Tomzooki wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:42 pm
rpavich wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:59 pm
Did you tend to tense up in your beginning days also?
Yes, a lot.. and not only in my beginning days... :wink:

I would give one advice, a very simple one: your right shoulder and upper right arm muscles are almost never involved when playing classical guitar. So they should stay very relaxed. Just try to keep those muscles relaxed all the time while playing, you will see..... 8)
I think they are used but not in the manner that can be quite common amongst many instrument players - shoulders moving towards the ears or pushed forward and closing in on the chest. Guitarists, pianists, violinists and wind players can all suffer from this. From personal experience it can throw out the geometry and efficiency of the body completely. Technically your playing can take giant leaps backwards.
This obviously refers to the piano but you can easily substitute the word guitar for virtually everything that he says - and he really is telling it like it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3BPfRER0Qg
Historicalguitars.

Todd Tipton
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Re: I really have to learn to relax.

Post by Todd Tipton » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:13 pm

I say that anything that helps to rid of counterproductive tension is good. There is a huge difference in understanding something intellectually and actually experiencing it physically. When we get into more subtle forms of physical poise, there really is no way to observe counterproductive tension from the outside; it must be felt. I'm also reminded of F. M. Alexander that he was unable to ride himself of counterproductive tension even when he worked on it.

It creeps up on you: even if you know what you are doing. As a general rule, I'm very cautious of someone claiming to have no problems, or saying they have overcome those problems from the past. I have always believed that it is something that always be sought out and that further improvement can come as a result of more heightened and subtle awareness. I doubt anyone has arrived. It is always a matter of perspective and in relation to everything else. If one is always playing with lots of excess tension, gaining some control of that can be a tremendous relief.

It works the other way too. For example, I've never been a particularly fast player. I'm one of those players that often make very good use of P when fast scale is needed. Lately, I've spent far more of my time teaching, and enjoying other aspects of my life. My ability to play as fast as I used to (which is modest) has decreased. The truth is, it is doubtful that I would suddenly hear new information. I have the textbook answers. So, I've taken a different approach. I've tried to glean information from the flamenco world. In a sense, there is no new information. I suppose it is a combination of hearing a new perspective, having some faith, putting in some honest work, and most importantly: stumbling on something that quickly got me to a higher level of relaxation. So, gradually my scale speed is improving. But it has had some unexpected results: my overall playing is becoming more effortless and I am better able to control my hands and more easily play with brilliance.

In hindsight, I better understand what had happened. Although I didn't explicitly use these words, there was a part of me that felt, "I have arrived." As a result, very subtly and gradually, excess tension began creeping into my playing. My lack of ability to play fast scale passages was merely a symptom of some larger problem, and I accidentally discovered it.

I firmly believe that physical poise is something that always needs to be maintained. I believe it can never be perfected. I believe that by continuing to strive for perfection, our ability to play well is elevated. I believe that we must accept that by not always focusing on it, it will gradually go away. Any teacher, book, video, or anything else that gets a person settled down enough to pull out the microscope and discover excess tension is a very good thing.
Dr. Todd Tipton, classical guitarist
Cincinnati, OH, USA (available via Skype)

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