Silicon Valley Classical Guitar NewsLocal Events, Interviews, Tips & More
Hi Everyone! Summer is approaching, and with that more time to practice. The foundation of musical study, (or any study for that matter) is practice, and while the amount of time and regularity with which you practice is the single most important factor, HOW you practice is nearly as important.
Don’t start practicing just from the beginning. If you always start practicing from the beginning of the piece, you’ll have a strong beginning, but a weak ending. Also, if the intention is to memorize the piece, you have created a muscle memory chain that is far too long, and a memory slip will force you to restart from the beginning. Make sure to divide your music into logical phrases, then work on the very last phrase, then the phrase before that, etc. Work backwards by phrase.
Practice slowly. Keep errors in repetitions to an absolute minimum. If you keep making mistakes in repetitions, keep slowing down until your repetitions are clean and precise. You may need to use a metronome set to the shortest note value to be slow enough.
Take frequent mini breaks: practice hard for 10 minutes, break for a couple minutes, practice hard again for 10 minutes, break for a couple minutes, etc. Stay as focused as you can.
If you feel like you’re getting frustrated, shift to another practice activity, like a different phrase, different piece, or different exercise. While proper practicing is work and can be tedious at times, it shouldn’t be frustrating. You should feel like you’re making progress.
That’s all folks!
Until next time…..
I just won second prize at the Concorso di Musica Antica “Maurizio Pratola” international lute competition in L’Aquila, Italy!!This has been a whirlwind couple of weeks, I learned that this competition was happening (close to event date)….. somehow figured out how to travel to Italy amidst the pandemic, and drank enough espresso to fight jet lag long enough to compete! With such short notice, I basically tried to live with the lute in my hands for a week and then came over here.
Attaching a photo with Paul O’Dette, who was the head of the jury. I’m humbled to have played for and gotten feedback from such an incredible musician, and very grateful to have met many excellent young lute players, all of whom I want to hear more from!
How to Keep up your Practice Routine When You’re Stuck Inside
Creating a Habit
Sometimes the hardest part about practicing is simply opening your guitar case. Or maybe the hardest part is finding time in your daily routine, between online school, homework and pent up energy from being stuck inside all day! The best way to turn practicing into a habit is to assign it a designated time in your busy day. Maybe you prefer practicing first thing when you wake up in the morning, or right after school before doing your homework. Or if you’re a parent, maybe it’s best to practice after the kids are asleep and the house is nice and quiet. Whatever your preference, stick to it, and incorporate your new practice habit into your daily life, whether it be for 10 min, 30 min or 2 hours. You’ve got this!
Setting Up Your Practice Space
While everyone is home all the time now, it’s important to create a space that is conducive to a productive practice. Growing up in a family of four children who all played multiple instruments, I quickly learned that my cherished classical guitar was no match for the piano, violin, clarinet, trumpet, or drum set. In order to get my practicing done in a productive manner, I had to create a practice space where I could both hear myself play and hear myself think. I recommend a space with as little distractions as possible! Practicing in your bedroom or in a room with a closed door is best; that way there are no distractions from siblings, pets or clanging pots and pans from the kitchen. Once you’ve picked your space, stick with it, and make it part of your practicing habit.
The Ultimate Classical Guitar Practice Set Up
- Pick a comfortable chair or stool that allows you to sit with a tall back and your legs at a 90 degree angle.
- Have your footstool or alternative sitting device ready to go.
- Have your clip-on tuner at the ready.
- Set up your music stand with the following:
- Any music you may need
- Pencil for making notes
- Nail files for shaping/buffing
- A note on devices: if you are using an electronic device as a practice aid (tuner, metronome), it should be turned on Do Not Disturb. Remember, we are creating a space with as little distractions as possible! If you only have a set time to practice, set an alarm for the period of time that you have set aside; that way you don’t have to keep checking the clock.
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We offer virtual guitar lessons in the Suzuki method to children as young as 4 years old. Our teachers are the most highly trained and experienced group of Suzuki guitar teachers in the Bay Area. Learn more about our teachers…
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The Bay Area is blessed with a surprising number of unique and independently owned guitar shops. These stores serve as a community hub for the musicians they serve, which is perhaps why they’ve so far been able to survive in these tough times for small Bay Area retailers. Here is a list of a few of our favorite places to shop. We hope this inspires you to visit your local music store, or spend a day exploring new neighborhoods you’ve yet to visit.
GSP – Guitar Solo
GSP is a recognized resource for both professional guitarists and guitar enthusiasts. Located near the At&T/Giants Ballpartk, they stock an ever changing inventory of new and used classical guitars, steel strings guitars, mandolins and ukuleles. They also house an incredibly comprehensive selection of sheet music, with over 12,000 titles of classical guitar methods, studies, music and folios. You can also find a large selection of jazz, blues, pop, folk, country, and rock methods and songbooks. For those who love to browse musical literature, it’s worth a trip to spend some time hunting through their racks and filing cabinets. GSP publish their own Editions and Recordings, introducing new players and composers to the guitar world. They also sell their own brand of custom-made guitar strings. Their online mail order service is equally extensive. Their repair shop does everything from basic set ups to full restorations. GSP is a wonderfully intimate shop that supports the Bay Area guitar community.
Hours: Mondays – Fridays from 12pm – 7:00pm • Saturdays from 11am – 6pm • Sundays from 12pm – 5pm
Mighty Fine Guitars
Mighty Fine Guitars is a mighty fine place to shop for high end acoustic guitars built by local and nationally known luthiers. This shop has the look and feel of a salon – the perfect atmosphere to try an instrument before making that big investment. Owner Stevie Coyle also offers lessons, specializing in fingerstyle guitar. This is another great example of a shop owned by a musician, for musicians. You can find the shop’s stock online. They’ve got really good photos of their instuments, along with all the specs. As an added bonus, Coyle posts webcasts about the instruments and sometimes featuring special guest artists on his Facebook page. There’s a lot of great content online, but this is also a shop you’ll definitely want to visit in person.
Address: 85 Lafayette Cir, Lafayette
Hours: Wednesdays – Fridays from 10am – 6pm • Saturdays from 10am – 5pm • closed Sundays & Mondays • Open Tuesdays for lessons only.
Gryphon Stringed Instruments
Gryphon Strings is a leading source of steel-string acoustic guitars, mandolins, nylon string guitars, and banjos. They are as much a music school as a retail store, with a packed calendar of workshops, group lessons, and private instruction. They make an effort to carry instruments built by individual luthiers, and you can also find some very interesting vintage instruments like old Martins and banjos from the early 1900’s. Where this store stands out is in their calendar of events. They get an incredible array of talented Bay Area musicians to come in and give workshops on everything from beginner basics, to improvisation, to playing in alternate tunings, to fingerstyle jazz for “folkies”. Looking to get into a new style of playing or technique? Gryphon Stringed Instruments is the place to go!
Address: 211 Lambert Ave, Palo Alto
Hours: Mondays – Thursdays from 10:30am – 7:00pm • Friday – Saturday from 10:30am – 5:30pm • Sunday closed
Real Guitars – used and vintage instruments
Specializing in used and vintage equipment, Real Guitars sells an ever changing inventory of interesting guitars, bases, amps, speakers, and gear. As San Francisco’s oldest guitar shop, (they’ve been in the same location since 1986), it feels a little like you’re back in the 80’s when you visit this shop. A lot of legends have come through this space. Need quality repair work done or looking for a vintage or custom part? This is the place to bring your axe. If it’s good enough for Bay Area musicians like Jerry Garcia, Joe Satriani, Neal Schon, and bands like Metallica,Green Day, and Hellfire, it’s good enough for us!
Address: 15 Lafayette St, San Francisco
Hours: Mondays – Saturdays from 11am – 6pm • closed Sundays
Broken Guitars, owned by Billy Joe Armstrong from Greenday, and his business partner and former bandmate of Pinhead Gunpowder, Bill Schneider, serves Oakland and the East Bay specializing in all guitar and luthier work. The store may be small, but it carries a well curated selection of electric and steel string guitars, and amplifiers. While there is some impressive gear, the store strives to be a shop for musicians, not just hobbyists with money. Their repair shop does quality work with a fast turn around. The musicians that work there are super friendly, and will communicate with you through the entire process of a repair from quote to finish. To top it off, the storefront is located across the street from 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, an independent record store, label and venue. Close to the McArthur Bart Station, this is a great destination shop to visit.
Address: 423 40th St, Oakland
Hours: Tuesdays – Saturdays from 11am – 7pm • Sundays from 12pm – 5pm • closed Sundays
The Starving Musician
The Starving Musician has been serving the community since 1985, selling, trading, and renting new and used instruments, as well as offering music lessons, repair services, and school band rentals. They’ll trade gear for cash or consignment (for rare or valuable gear). Their store houses a wide selection of guitars, amps, pedals, drums and other instruments from beginner models to higher end instruments. This shop has a bit of everything, so even if you’re just there to pick up some strings, you’re going to want to walk around, and likely find some cool instrument or accessory you didn’t know you needed. The Starving Musician also sells some of their stock online through their website and on Reverb.
Address: 2474 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
Hours: Mondays – Fridays from 11am – 7pm • Saturdays 11am – 6pm • Sundays 12pm – 6pm