A question asked by many a student and I suppose if I take off my teacher head I can appreciate the reasoning behind the question.
Looking at my life outside of music, yes I do have one, I am just as guilty as any reticent guitar student when it comes to deciding how much effort or time I am willing to allocate to achieving my goal.
Recently Selina and I joined a gym, you know what it is like spending hours with your guitar then hours at the computer and finally after all that sitting down, hours wishing you were more active. So yes we joined a gym.
Attending the first day was all about what one wished to achieve, any physical/health problems requiring consideration and finally how much time could be allocated to actually attending the gym.
From all this information the instructor, who looks like I used to when I was younger (dream on Adrian) wrote out an exercise plan and proceeded to walk us through each exercise explaining the correct way to use each piece of equipment.
Driving home from this first session Selina and I were really enthused and looking forward to the next time we could attend the gym and work through our routine.
Attendance day arrived –
Rising at 6am we had breakfast, drove the few miles to the gym and started our individual workouts. Did I really rise at 6am?
Everything was going great; I enjoyed each exercise and felt each one having a positive effect on my well being.
Selina had a different instructor and as it transpired completed her routine before I had reached the end of mine which meant she was waiting for me.
Selina was more than happy to wait however I found myself rushing through my final routine and when it came time for the cool down I convinced myself that this final exercise didn’t matter so much, after all it was only a cool down, and so I neglected to do it and instead collected Selina and went home.
So what am I trying to say with this little story of mine and how does it relate to the guitar?
Well for all of you that do attend gyms or for that matter any kind of physical exercise you will know that an instructor may allow you to miss a specific exercise if time is short but the one thing an instructor will not let you miss is the cool down and for very good reasons which I will not expand on here.
All the above is great however we are talking about playing the guitar not running around perspiring and breathing like 100 a day smoker.
Ok story number 2
Recently I received 2 visitors to our studio one of which was looking for a new guitar. I won’t go into the details of what he was looking for however I will recount something during visit that made me smile.
Both visitors were professional players and so listening to them play the various guitars was an experience.
During the playing of one of the guitars John (not his real name) commented that although he thought this particular guitar was a great musical instrument and very easy to play the vocal sound on the top E string was rather bright and also had an overly sharp attack.
Now this surprised me as I have a great deal of experience with this make of guitar and so started to look more intently at how John was playing the instrument.
Whilst considering his comment I found myself having one of those light bulb moments, you know one minute you are at a total loss of what to do or say then suddenly all becomes clear.
I asked John if he would be happy for his friend Peter (again not his real name) to play the guitar while John stood by me to listen.
Peter played beautifully with great strength and colour and yes, thankfully, the sharp/bright attacking sound John experienced while playing was no longer present.
John’s question to me – why is this?
Now remember I had been able to look at John’s playing for an hour or so and felt able to offer an opinion as to how this could occur.
The sound produced by John whilst playing notes on the high E string was a result of his right hand not being in a correct position over the string to allow full usage of all three joints of the finger when playing the string.
Playing any of the other strings on the guitar John’s hand presented the fingers in a way that allowed full use of the finger joints resulting in lovely vocals for each note.
There are several reasons why John had this problem and also several ways of solving or preventing it from occurring in let’s say a new student.
Basically we are talking about exercise, hence the title for this blog, that is exercise with and using the guitar. I would hate to seeing you all in gym kit running around with a guitar strapped to your back.
If we exercise in the right way, understand how exercise is of benefit (why are we doing it) and continue to exercise as part of our daily practice the benefits derived will enable each of us to achieve what it is we desire from our guitar studies.
As a teacher I spend more of my time involved in how to play the guitar than I do in actually performing and therefore most of my students perform better than I on the guitar however it is very easy for anyone to gradually develop a problem, as in John’s case, which over time, if not corrected, affects their level of performance.
Exercises help us to achieve the basics from which everything else grows, physically and mentally.
Look at any sport, and yes the playing of an instrument, as well as being an art form, has all the demands of a sport, and you will see that practice starts with the basics of physical movement before moving on to other elements, and these basics are carried out at every level of performance.