Ask First “Why?” Then “How?”

HVCC Guitar Festival Recap

Recently, I did an hour long presentation on applying world music for guitar at the 2016 Hudson Valley guitar festival.

It’s a large and potentially overwhelming topic that would have (to me) painful omissions if taught over the course of a 15 week college term.  In an hour its more like Campbells Pepper Pot soup.  You dump the condensed mass of ingredients in the form of the can it came out of into a pot and you can’t make out the individual components right away.  You think, “Wow that cant be good” but after adding some water and heat and stirring you get a soup with surprising flavor out of it.  (The last I knew Campbells hadn’t made Pepper Pot soup in years.   Perhaps the main ingredient that added flavor, tripe, was off putting to some people.  My grandfather said it was the only good soup they made and when it was announced that they weren’t making it anymore I remember that he went to all the local stores and bought whatever they had of it in stock.  Strange that now in a celebrity chef culture people would probably seek that ingredient out .  As usual I digress…).

So in a best case you make something that people can digest.  In a worse case they get a mouthful of concentrate and spit it out or – if watered down too much they get something that has no content whatsoever.  The challenge becomes –  what’s the minimum amount of data I have to have present to fully represent the idea later?

Revise and shine

With a few of these more formal presentations under my belt I have developed a pretty consistent way of approaching them.  I’ll outline the topic and pull all the material together and edit and revise ruthlessly until I feel like I can move forward.  I’ll run multiple versions by trusted people and work on the cusp of a complete presentation and an improvised talk to keep it engaging.

For this specific presentation I ended up removing a lot of material in the interest of time.  This was unfortunate as one of the excised elements (the perspective / motivational aspect of practicing) is one that bears more discussion in general.

I’ve adapted some of that material for a post here.  You can read it in a TED talk voice if that helps but it into context.  In any capacity – I hope it helps!

Before continuing to the post I need to first thank Maria Zemantauski for having me present and play at the guitar Festival and thank the long suffering John Harper for his wisdom, guidance and editing chops.  Much of what is written below is a direct outcome of their involvement – so thank you!

Ask How AND Why

As a teacher, the most common question I get – by far – is some variation of the following:

  • I bought a book….
  • I watched some videos….
  • I took some lessons…

How come I don’t get better at playing the guitar?

Which is kind of like asking:

  • I bought a gym membership
  • I bought some muscle gainer
  • I bought a work out DVD

How come I’m not more fit?

My first question in response to this is always:

Are you putting the work in?

and the answer is always, “of course!”

My second question is then:

Are you REALLY putting the work in a focused and consistent way?

and the answer is usually, “well what do you mean by that?”

Are you REALLY putting the work in a focused and consistent way using proper technique AND monitoring and assessing your progress? i.e. are you working on this every day, writing down what you’re doing and actually monitoring your progress by keeping a log of what you’re doing and reviewing said log?

– that answer is always no.

We get better at things

  • by being clear about what we’re doing and
  • by doing them in a consistent and focused way.

Doing anything consistently (i.e. doing it day in and day out and making it part of the long haul) requires having a “why”.

Essentially you’re developing a new habit and you need to have a clear motivation to develop a new habit.

Often we don’t have a WHY for what we want to do.  Or we have the wrong why!

How not to learn Italian

Do any of you speak Italian?  I don’t – but I’ll share with you a brief story about my attempt to learn Italian.

In college I was madly smitten with an Italian goddess named Ada. She was smart and funny and beautiful and incredibly talented.

When I say she was Italian I mean that she came from from Italy versus she’s Italian from Utica, NY.

Now I am not a beautiful guy so since I didn’t have the looks to try to approach this woman  I tried to use my brains to get her attention. I asked another friend of mine who was from Italy, to translate a phrase for me:

It is a pleasure to bask in the beauty of your smile.

He asked me to write it down.

Admittedly, the word bask  (“To lie exposed to warmth and light, typically from the sun, for relaxation and pleasure or to revel in and make the most of (something pleasing).”) is a difficult word to translate. But he translated it for me. “E une piacare, bagnarmi nella belleza del tuo sorriso”.  I am NOT a natural language learner so I repeated it endlessly like a mantra and tweaked my pronunciation for a day or two.

My friend Linda formally introduced us. I said hello and as I shook her hand with both of my hands I looked her in the eye and said:

“E une piacare, bagnarmi nella belleza del tuo sorriso”. Which translates into:

It is a pleasure to bathe in the beauty of your smile.

While the sentiment may have been headed in a similar direction for intent it’s totally different in execution.

She blushed and then introduced me to the guy who (out of nowhere) suddenly came up behind her as her boyfriend.

Awkward pleasantries were exchanged and I made a quick exit.

The non-obvious question here is:

Why didn’t I get better at Italian?

The answer is I didn’t really want to learn Italian. I wanted to impress a girl.

I had a why for learning a phrase but I had the wrong “why” for actually learning the language.  So I never got any further with my Italian studies.

Here’s something that is also not obvious

Your success in an area will rarely be achieved by just mindlessly doing work. But it generally involves focused work in service to your goals.

  • WHAT you want to do will inspire you.
  • WHY you want to do it will keep you going.

This is a critical component to learning anything. To really learn something you have to have a strong reason why and that has to align with your goals.

If, for example, you want to be a great lead guitarist and you decide to work on adding some world music to your playing because you think it’s going to make you a better player – you now have a reason to practice that material and the time you spend practicing that material will be viewed as being in service to you goal rather than detracting from it.

This is why people start working on something like a melodic minor scale and stop – because (typically unconsciously) they haven’t figured out how this is going to serve them.

So going back to the beginning.  If

  • you bought a book….
  • you watched some videos….
  • you took some lessons…

and you understand how those things relate to your goals – you are more likely to put the time into working on them.

If you REALLY put the work in a focused and consistent way using proper technique AND monitoring and assessing your progress (i.e. working on this every day, writing down what you’re doing and actually monitoring your progress by keeping a log of what you’re doing and reviewing said log and adjusting when necessary based on that assessment of data)

you will get better at guitar. (Or whatever else you do!)

That’s it for now!  Hopefully this helps you with your own goal setting!

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

GuitArchitecture Clinic & KoriSoron Concert HVCC Saturday April 23rd

For those of you who live in update NY – Hudson Valley Community College is putting on a really cool day and a half guitar event on April 22nd and 23rd.

I’ll be doing a one hour clinic on Saturday, April 23rd on “Adaptive guitar – applying World music to guitar” and helping close out the day with a concert by KoriSoron.  I’m really excited by this clinic as I’ll be essentially hacking the presentation and demonstrating a number of approaches that can help with rapid skill acquisition in any area (but especially guitar).

Tickets are $20 – which gets you access to all events for both days (or free for Hudson Valley Community College students, faculty and staff with ID (ticket required)).

Tickets available online at Brown Paper Tickets or call (518) 629-8071 for tickets and information.

There are a lot of great workshops and performances planned – and honestly the $20 price tag is a fraction of what a private lesson with any of these people would cost you – so it’s a steal.

Here’s a schedule of the two days events from the HVCC website:

Guitar Festival
Friday, April 22, 2016

The Hudson Valley Community College Guitar Festival is a celebration of electric, steel, and nylon string guitar styles and bass guitar with acclaimed workshop facilitators, guitarists and luthiers from the Capital Region. Events include workshops, jam sessions and concerts featuring blues, bluegrass, classical, flamenco, gypsy jazz, rock and roll, and roots styles.
Madison Peruzzi “Guitar Set-up & Maintenance”
10 – 11 a.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1

Morning Blues Jam with Super 400
10 – 11:30 a.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Auditorium
Don’t miss this special opportunity to jam with Lori Friday, Kenny Hohman and Joe Daley – or just come by to listen!

Monica Roach “Intro to Jazz Bass”
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B
During this workshop we will discuss the different styles of electric bass performance. We also will explore “playing in the pocket” and its versatility.

Madison Peruzzi “Guitar Effects & Pedals”
11 a.m. – Noon

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1

Lori Friday “Electric Bass for Beginners: Let’s Get Rockin’!”
Noon – 1 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B
Build a solid foundation on the bass with Lori Friday of Super 400. We’ll introduce the tools every electric bassist needs: hand positioning, fingers vs picking, riffs, locking with the drums, and more. We’ll end the session by playing the Cream classic, Sunshine of Your Love,” with varying levels of technique to suit intermediate players as well.

Kenny Hohman of Super 400 “Get Started on Slide Guitar”
Noon – 1 p.m.
Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 3
This workshop will be geared toward guitarists looking to add slide playing to their trick bag. It will cover the required gear, basic right and left hand techniques, and how to use open tunings as well as standard tuning in an effective way, with examples of classic slide parts to get you on your way.

Thomasina Winslow “Acoustic Blues”
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1

Bernie Mulleda “Intro to Gypsy Jazz”
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 3
Bernie Mulleda will cover the basics of Gypsy Jazz rhythm and lead guitar styles.

Joe Lowry “Pentatonic and the Blues”
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B
A look into Major and Minor Pentatonic scales in blues. “Its all about the feeling.”

Chris Chapman “Metal”
2 – 3 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1

Open Mic hosted by Caroline Motherjudge
2 – 5 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Auditorium
All musical acts welcome – solo, duo or band. Be part of the show that features YOU! Sign up in advance to secure your spot or join us on the day of the event.
To sign up for Open Mic, go to www.facebook.com/hvccguitarfest.

Chuck D’Aloia “Blues With Brains & Beyond: Shortcuts Into More Complex Harmony”
3 – 4 p.m.
Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 3

Graham Tichy “American Roots Electric Guitar”
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B
Graham Tichy will cover the techniques and music theory to jump start an exploration into the mid-century music styles of Rockabilly, Western Swing, Jump Blues, Swing, Honky Tonk, Rhythm and Blues, and Rock and Roll. Workshop participants will learn how to get an authentic tone from any instrument, and gain useful advice on how to approach practice and study for a lifetime of progress.

Guitar Festival
Saturday, April 23, 2016

Madison Peruzzi “Guitar Set-up & Maintenance”
10 – 11 a.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1

Mike Collins/Eric Marczak “More Than Just Wire & Wood”
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Auditorium
Luthiers Collins and Marczak discuss the fine art of guitar building.

Maria Zemantauski “Intro to Flamenco Guitar”
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 3
This class will focus on rasqueado, the rhythmically precise chord strumming style specific to Flamenco guitar. Maria will introduce basic rasqueado patterns within the compas (rhythmic structure) of farruca and rumba.

Mark Gamsjager “Rockabilly Guitar”
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B

Madison Peruzzi “Guitar Effects & Pedals”
11 a.m. – Noon

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1

David LaPlante “A History of the Spanish Guitar” with performance demonstrations by Christopher Gotzenberg
Noon – 1 p.m.
Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Auditorium

Chris Chapman & Jamie Juron “Metal: Putting It Together”
Noon – 1 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B
Assault On The Living guitarists demonstrate their approach to collaborating.

Bernie Mulleda “Intro to Gypsy Jazz”
Noon – 1 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 3
Bernie Mulleda will cover the basics of Gypsy Jazz rhythm and lead guitar styles.

Sten Isachsen “Brazilian Guitar Styles”
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1
Sten Isachsen explores chord progressions, rhythms and arrangements for solo guitar.

Harry George Pellegrin “Is Ferdinando Carulli Your Right Hand Man?”
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Auditorium
Harry George Pellegrin compares the pedagogical works of Carulli’s Opus 114 to Giuliani’s 120 and Carlevaro’s Cuaderno No. 2

Mike Dimin “The Art of Solo Bass”
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B
It is so much more than the sight of a lone bassist on stage. It’s an exploration into the interconnectedness of the melody, harmony and rhythm, through our instrument – the bass. Be a complete musician, not “just the bass player.”

Scott Collins “Adaptive Guitar: Applying World Music to the Guitar”
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 3
In this hands-on session, Scott Collins will guide you through the process of how to take music from other cultures and adapt it into your own songs and/or solos.

Gary Cellucci “Rock Guitar: Soloing and Improvisation Techniques”
2 – 3 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1
This workshop will help guitarists explore pentatonic scales, arpeggios, and modes over various types of chord progressions in a rock context. Learn how to develop solos with tone, phrasing, theme, variation, and other improvisational techniques. All experience levels are welcome and participation is strongly encouraged.

Mike McMann “Bluegrass Breakdown”
3 – 4 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 3
Explore Bluegrass guitar techniques,including rhythm playing, solos, melodies, scales, cross-picking, and flatpicking in the styles of Doc Watson and Tony Rice. Hands-on; bring your guitar.

Chuck D’Aloia “Blues With Brains & Beyond: Shortcuts Into More Complex Harmony”
3 – 4 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Viking Video Studio B

GX3+ in concert
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Auditorium
Ray Andrews, Sten Isachsen & Maria Zemantauski collaborate to create something totally unique: GX3+. The name GX3+ refers to the the fact that they play (at least) three very different guitars – flamenco, classical and Baroque – plus mandolin, charango, guilele, cajons (percussion boxes), banjo, and mountain dulcimer. The result is innovative arrangements of the traditional, classical and Latin repertoire, plus stunning, original compositions by Maria Z, arranged for the trio.

Christopher Gotzenberg “Classical Guitar: It’s not just music from old dead guys!”
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Meeting Room 1
The classical guitar has a large repertoire, with music from the Medieval era all the way to current day. Most people associate “Classical” music by composers from days gone by, but some of the most interesting music we have is being composed today. This lecture-recital features music by living composers; Moller, Brouwer, Assad, and Pasieczny. Oh, and it’s not atonal, so don’t be afraid!

Korisoron in concert
5 – 6 p.m.

Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Auditorium
An instrumental acoustic trio combining rock and progressive influences with musical traditions from across the globe. Guitarists Scott Collins and Farzad Golpayegani along with percussionist Dean Mirabito take the stage.