You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
Rognvald
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You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by Rognvald » Sat May 25, 2019 4:28 pm

Last night, I was listening to a wonderful recording of Giuliani Variations by the gifted Artist Ricardo Gallen recorded in Canada in 1999 by guitarist/ engineer Norbert Kraft. And, it occurred to me, once again, that we all have been drawn to this Black Art of Music by being moved by the beauty and artistry of CG performance. However, it also occurred to me that like an Olympic gold medal or the Nobel Prize, there is some repertoire that is only accessible to a few. If we begin with "the dream," we may delude ourselves into believing that one day with great determination, we will be able to emulate the "greats," but the reality is that there are so many factors to success that it is more likely than not that your dream will not be achieved. As a serious athlete in my youth, I played baseball from Little League through my college years and believe that we musicians are, in fact, athletes. And being athletes, we are limited by our abilities. On my university team, I played with a third baseman who was average in stature and size but wanted to be a home-run hitter. And, every time he came to the plate, he would hit the ball deep into left or center field for a long out but never could hit the ball out of the park. Consequently, his batting average fell and despite his fielding talents, he was benched for the season and then lost his scholarship. Should he have kept his dream as a home-run hitter ad infinitum or should he have focused on being a good "line-drive" hitter with a 300 pct. batting average? Isn't this the same question we should ask ourselves about our potential musical abilities and focus on accessible repertoire rather than devoting useless time and energy to music that is far beyond our dreams and latent ability wasting valuable time in the process? Will determination alone overcome average skills and abilities? Is honest, self-evaluation and feedback from others critical to our growth . . . or, do you think you're still a home run hitter? What do you think???? Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

powderedtoastman
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by powderedtoastman » Sat May 25, 2019 4:46 pm

An interesting point that can make for a lot of discussion.

As I see it the drawback to this analogy is that in baseball, you have limited chances to go to the plate and do something productive. And then as in the case of your former teammate, if you don't produce you can get put on the bench and lose your chance for good.

When it comes to playing guitar at home for our own personal pleasure, there is no bench to be exiled to, at least not as a consequence of trying and failing to execute what is beyond our reach. And we don't have to actually compete to keep playing.

If I'm going to perform publicly then maybe it's best to maximize the quality of my performances by being realistic about what pieces I would attempt.
But I don't see any harm in practicing excerpts of Grand Sonata Eroica if I happen to be drawn to it. I may never be able to play it to a level that's worthy of putting on a CD or bringing to a concert stage, but the difference is that I can still learn something from it and maybe find some enjoyment for myself in the time spent exploring whatever musical works I'm interested in.

There isn't much more to be learned from swinging for the fences and falling short, beyond the fact that the coach isn't going to put up with it for long!

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isleepinabed
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by isleepinabed » Sat May 25, 2019 7:41 pm

Well.. the homerun example is maybe not too adequate in my view, as it implies having a team, etc... but let's say you'd want to run marathons or do 1000 sit-ups or be a chess grandmaster.

I have dedicated myself to guitar playing as a hobby. That being said, I probably spend more time reading about guitars, looking at guitars and listening to guitars than I play. Nonetheless, I find it sort of vindicating when I decide to try and learn a particularly challenging piece, because I especially enjoy it. And, like you, I always start by imagining I'd never play be able to play it. Yet, little by little, over weeks (and months sometimes), I end up learning what I want.

This is of course measure of, first, setting goals that are challenging but not incredibly frustrating (i.e., don't start Giuliani or 42Km marathons on your first week) and second, realizing this is a long term project, for my enjoyment ... I'm just an amateur musician and obviously I don't dedicate 8 hours a day to guitar playing, marathon running or learning chess.

Of course some things will always be out of reach because they may take more than what one is willing to give (for whatever reason) but it's also no reason to become frustrated about it. Then again, we can still listen to the great performers and we can compromise on 21Km marathons and 500 sit ups.

When I started learning music as a child, I did so in a music conservatory and, even though I do regret not having taken my studies then more seriously, the competitiveness and football-coach/recruit sergeant-like mentality and attitude then made me physically sick and unable to enjoy it. I didn't turn out a pro, but I'm certainly playing for my enjoyment now and I still managed to find a profession that satisfies me and allows me to have a great hobby

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by Rick Beauregard » Sat May 25, 2019 8:36 pm

We of course have limits. Time. Physical ability. Age. Hand-eye coordination needed to hit the curve.

I prefer fucusing on what we can achieve beyond our "limits". Kind of a glass-half-full kind of thing, don't you think?

Setting expectations can be either the source of much happiness and success, or failure and depression. Do we get to choose, or is this something innate in us? Maybe that's the key to "talent".
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lagartija
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by lagartija » Sat May 25, 2019 8:37 pm

Part of the reason I pay good money for a good teacher is to help me develop as a musician by choosing pieces for me that are challenging but not out of reach. I tell him some of the pieces on my wish list and he comes up with pieces that have the same flavor, challenge my musicianship, but are possible for me to play well enough to perform. I laughed one time as we discussed repertoire and I said that I will probably not live long enough to play anything that Dyens wrote; I would love to play Tango in Skai. I bought the score so I could listen and read along as my favorite performers played the piece. I then realized that there were more notes being played than I heard in the piece because the speed was faster than my audio processor worked at that time. :shock: my current teacher mentioned that there were other pieces he wrote that were within my reach. Likewise, I probably won’t live long enough to play Bach’s Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro. But again, there are things that Bach wrote that are within my grasp, but still challenging and intriguing. My teacher makes sure I don’t waste my time on over reach and recognizes that I want to play a piece well and expressively, not just the notes so I could claim I could play it. My first teacher allowed me to play things I really was not ready for. I did play them. Badly, although I was not aware of that at the time. I guess he thought if he let me play a piece that was too hard, I would soon give up....but that did not happen! :lol: Non musicians enjoyed my playing of those pieces way back then, but when I listen now to recordings I made of them as I worked on them, I cringe. However, I learned a lot as I learned them, both technically and musically. They helped me develop my ears and fingers, so it was not a total loss, but I might have developed faster if I had played other pieces that were more aimed at developing my musicianship in a logical manner.
It all depends on why *you* are playing music. If for your own satisfaction, then after you decide what satisfies you, the choice is yours to over reach or not.
When the sun shines, bask.
__/^^^^^o>
Classical Guitar forever!

Rognvald
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by Rognvald » Sat May 25, 2019 10:48 pm

Thanks to everyone for the great replies so far on a topic that I believe should be clearly understood by any serious musician--whether a hobbyist or a performer. I remember, early on, when I first began to study CG, I was fortunate to study with several well-known teachers who were concert artists. The first was a great performer but, in my opinion, a disinterested teacher and he agreed to take me as a student since I was already an accomplished musician on another instrument. Once the basic CG technique was understood, I moved quickly through the standard graded repertoire and fortunately, I had the time to practice a few hours a day. In less than a year, the teacher gave me "Recuerdos" and I began to study in earnest. However, my tremolo was poor, at best, and I struggled to keep focus. Finally, after a month, I told him that I didn't believe I was ready for the piece and wanted to move on to something else since my performance was horrible and unmusical. He agreed and I began to move forward again. However, the case in point that relates to our topic is that how many students might have given up and missed a wealth of enjoyment from the CG since they believed they were unable to make any progress? I had the advantage of being a musician and knowing that the path he pointed forward needed a revision. Would a novice/beginning student have had the instincts to do so? So, if we want to progress and become a better musician(CG), we must know what is reachable, at the moment, and what is not possible whether it is under the tutelage of a teacher or self-study. But, this is NOT to say that we avoid the necessary challenges for personal musical growth. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

AKim
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by AKim » Sat May 25, 2019 11:00 pm

I think it’s important to balance personal ability with challenge. I’ll never be a concert classical guitarist. And I’m long past the opportunity to pursue the violin performance thing either. So I focus on getting really good at music within my ability and always working on a few things that are a bit beyond me. Sometimes I get there, and sometimes I have to keep chipping at it...not to perform it for an audience, but to keep trying to attain those skills. I’m limited by my hand span and flexibility...and the time to really dig into practicing. But it’s personal enrichment for me, so I keep chipping away at it.

Arion Romanus

Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by Arion Romanus » Sat May 25, 2019 11:41 pm

Without getting overly morbid, I think that when it comes to these things its helpful to keep one's mortality in view. It's very easy to get caught up in these notion of success, achievement and "greatness" but in the grander view of things they don't really amount to much. No matter if you are a fourth rate bedroom player or "the best" guitarist ever, your prowess on the instrument won't do you much good in the end. There's no doubt that the name of Giuliani, for example, will be remembered far longer than mine, but in the face of eternity the difference hardly seems worth considering, and there is almost something comforting about that. There is a kind of fundamental equality built into the universe and achieving "greatness" will not exempt you from our common fate.

Given the transient nature of all things I think it's unhelpful to dwell too much on greatness or success, because unlike with baseball, there are no "winners" in the game of life (so to speak). No matter how much you achieve it will all be taken from you in the end. Thus, I try to worry less about a supposed "end goal" and more about being engaged in the process as it is happening. Even if your abilities and circumstances are ideal, there are no guarantees in life, so unless you find the journey itself meaningful there's little point in striving towards some far off goal which may never happen. This is especially true given how often our goals and dreams are actually someone else's that we've somehow gotten stuck with. Things that we think we should want, rather than things we actually want.

Besides, you don't have to examine the lives of so called "greats" for very long before realizing that greatness does very little to bring you fulfillment or happiness. As much as we like to think so, achieving the worldly trappings of success won't suddenly "fix" us or makes us whole. If you enjoy playing your instrument you've already "won", and if you aren't, there's probably no amount of talent or success that will ever change that.
Last edited by Arion Romanus on Sun May 26, 2019 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Tom Poore
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by Tom Poore » Sat May 25, 2019 11:51 pm

To me, the point of playing the guitar is to challenge myself. Okay, I’m not a concert artist. But can I play something—anything—at a level commensurate with a concert artist? Yes, if I choose wisely and practice effectively.

Here’s a link to a recording I made with one of my students about a decade ago:

http://www.pooretom.com/sor-valse.html

Our goal was to make a recording that compares well to performances by professional guitarists. I think we pulled it off. (Others may disagree.)

Reaching a professional level is something mere mortals can achieve, provided we do it in dribs and drabs. No, I can’t play all the Bach suites at a high level. But I can master one movement. That’s worth doing, at least to me.

It also gives me an insider’s look—albeit limited—into what virtuosos are doing.

Tom Poore
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USA

soltirefa
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by soltirefa » Sun May 26, 2019 12:53 am

Arion Romanus wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 11:41 pm
Without getting overly morbid, I think that when it comes to these things its helpful to keep one's mortality in view. It's very easy to get caught up in these notion of success, achievement and "greatness" but in the grander view of things they don't really amount to much. No matter if you are a fourth rate bedroom player or "the best" guitarist ever, your prowess on the instrument won't do you much good in the end. There's no doubt that the name of Giuliani, for example, will be remember far longer than mine, but in the face of eternity the difference hardly seems worth considering, and there is almost something comforting about that. There is a kind of fundamental equality built into the universe and achieving "greatness" will not exempt you from our common fate.

Given the transient nature of all things I think it's unhelpful to dwell too much on greatness or success, because unlike with baseball, there are no "winners" in the game of life (so to speak). No matter how much you achieve it will all be taken from you in the end. Thus, I try to worry less about a supposed "end goal" and more about being engaged in the process as it is happening. Even if your abilities and circumstances are ideal, there are no guarantees in life, so unless you find the journey itself meaningful there's little point in striving towards some far off goal which may never happen. This is especially true given how often our goals and dreams are actually someone else's that we've somehow gotten stuck with. Things that we think we should want, rather than things we actually want.

Besides, you don't have to examine the lives of so called "greats" for very long before realizing that greatness does very little to bring you fulfillment or happiness. As much as we like to think so, achieving the worldly trappings of success won't suddenly "fix" us or makes us whole. If you enjoy playing your instrument you've already "won", and if you aren't, there's probably no amount of talent or success that will ever change that.
I found your post quite profound and I agree with everything you said.

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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by PeteJ » Sun May 26, 2019 11:22 am

soltirefa wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 12:53 am
Arion Romanus wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 11:41 pm
Without getting overly morbid, I think that when it comes to these things its helpful to keep one's mortality in view. It's very easy ...
I found your post quite profound and I agree with everything you said.
Me too. Great advice.

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twang
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by twang » Sun May 26, 2019 11:54 am

It doesn't matter; strive for your dream whatever it is. What is important is not to attach yourself (your self-esteem, your happiness, your well being, your peace of mind) to the goal but to find the joy in your progress wherever you happen to be.

"Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."
-Robert Louis Stevenson
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

dan5001
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by dan5001 » Sun May 26, 2019 12:00 pm

twang wrote:
Sun May 26, 2019 11:54 am
It doesn't matter; strive for your dream whatever it is. What is important is not to attach yourself (your self-esteem, your happiness, your well being, your peace of mind) to the goal but to find the joy in your progress wherever you happen to be.

"Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."
-Robert Louis Stevenson
Absolutely!

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muirtan
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by muirtan » Sun May 26, 2019 12:28 pm

lagartija wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 8:37 pm
Part of the reason I pay good money for a good teacher is to help me develop as a musician by choosing pieces for me that are challenging but not out of reach. I tell him some of the pieces on my wish list and he comes up with pieces that have the same flavor, challenge my musicianship, but are possible for me to play well enough to perform. I laughed one time as we discussed repertoire and I said that I will probably not live long enough to play anything that Dyens wrote; I would love to play Tango in Skai. I bought the score so I could listen and read along as my favorite performers played the piece. I then realized that there were more notes being played than I heard in the piece because the speed was faster than my audio processor worked at that time. :shock: my current teacher mentioned that there were other pieces he wrote that were within my reach. Likewise, I probably won’t live long enough to play Bach’s Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro. But again, there are things that Bach wrote that are within my grasp, but still challenging and intriguing. My teacher makes sure I don’t waste my time on over reach and recognizes that I want to play a piece well and expressively, not just the notes so I could claim I could play it. My first teacher allowed me to play things I really was not ready for. I did play them. Badly, although I was not aware of that at the time. I guess he thought if he let me play a piece that was too hard, I would soon give up....but that did not happen! :lol: Non musicians enjoyed my playing of those pieces way back then, but when I listen now to recordings I made of them as I worked on them, I cringe. However, I learned a lot as I learned them, both technically and musically. They helped me develop my ears and fingers, so it was not a total loss, but I might have developed faster if I had played other pieces that were more aimed at developing my musicianship in a logical manner.
It all depends on why *you* are playing music. If for your own satisfaction, then after you decide what satisfies you, the choice is yours to over reach or not.
The only comment I could add to this, playing and the process of learning not only develops you musically but also as a person. I have changed so much since I started learning with a good teacher.

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segobreawill
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Re: You'll Never Play Giuliani or Hit Home Runs!

Post by segobreawill » Sun May 26, 2019 1:31 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 4:28 pm
And, it occurred to me, once again, that we all have been drawn to this Black Art of Music by being moved by the beauty and artistry of CG performance.
Haha Very well said indeed! And it IS just that, isn't it - a seduction! We've all been seduced by the CG in some form or another.

I completely concur - and often say so myself - that there are many variables that go into this complex equation of 'what makes a virtuoso concert musician'. Some variables are evident of course, but others not so much. It's always a beautiful thing to see someone who has transcended the limits of their physical bodies as well as the limitations that are inherent to their particular instrument, in order to place before an astounded public a performance that has everyone forgetting about the struggles and petty back-stabbings of daily life and elevate them to a state of euphoric desire for something beyond the ordinary.

This is what this siren, the classical guitar, of the "Black Art", as Rognvald has so aptly coined it, is to me.

Delusions of concert performing? No, none at all for me thank you. I've got my two feet very firmly planted on the ground on that one. I'm very happy with my guitar practice since I started up again. But, I know what it is/what it feels like to desire the recital stage and not be good enough to step on it.

Lucidity of mind and a bit of self-knowledge will enlighten you, if you will allow it that is? Otherwise, the harsh reality of truth will be your chastisement.

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