Thunk practice is used to work on arpeggio (or scale) right hand evenness by muting the strings with the left hand. The result is that it’s really easy to hear uneven rhythms or accidental rushing/dragging. It’s a great, powerful tool.
But there’s a downside: thunk practice hides all other right hand noise. An imprecise finger placement that produces a bit of nail noise will get covered up by thunk practice.
Need to work on evening out arpeggios or scale-like alternation? Use some thunk practice (combined with changing up the rhythm), but be sure to alternate thunk practice with normal playing to keep sloppy right hand technique from sneaking in.
The most important part of nail care — before even finding the correct shape of nails for the right hand — is consistency.
Technique is also about consistency: movement patterns must be consistent and consistently drilled in exercises and in real music. Those movement patterns will never be the same if nail length and shape isn’t consistent from day to day.
It’s still a great idea to do nail care before the practice day, but it’s probably an even better idea to review and care for nails every single day.
That’s hard. Sometimes that tricky exercise or beautiful piece of music is calling. Nails get in the way of the real practice. But what if set of left hand nails that are too long force changes in hand position? That practice becomes less effective because movement patterns within some piece of music or exercise will change from day to day. Just because five minutes was too much time for nail care.
Relearning Technique After One Weekend
After a few days off from pratice, I returned to my guitar tonight with newly filed and smoothed nails (thanks to some new micro mesh pads). I was excited to get back to it.
But nothing really felt great. Why? I’d let my nails get too long over the last week — right and left hands. I’d also been using a set of micro mesh pads that were worn out and not really getting a good edge on my nails. I felt like I’d set myself back by not taking care of my nails sooner. This feeling inspired this article and the warning: take care of your nails first. Without nail care, technique work only gets harder.
This video is courtesy of Tonebase, a new platform for learning classical guitar with video lessons from virtuoso performer like Pepe Romero, Elliot Fisk, Aniello Desiderio, and many more.
If it sounds right and feels bad, it’s dangerous.
– Pepe Romero
In this video Pepe Romero talks a bit about exercises and the various gymnastic routines guitarists can draw from, but he focuses mainly on technique as a driver of musicality. Technique should always have a musical destination.
Dear GFA Members,
In the past six months, GFA has begun dialogues with five school districts in Southern California about adding guitar programs throughout the district. These dialogues have all originated from personal connections with Superintendents, members of the Board of Education, or local politicians. Do you have a connection in your district, someone you’d like to invite to a meeting to discuss the idea of adding guitar in your area? With your introduction, we can assist with advocacy, and introduce various possibilities for implementing a guitar program in your district.
School districts are an area where cold-calling doesn’t typically work. We need your personal connections and your passion. Will you help us? If you know someone who could be influential, we would love to talk with you about ways in which we can work together. Please reach out to us at info [AT] guitarfoundation.org. We look forward to working with you to change the face of music education in your community!
~ Martha Masters, President, GFA
Have some connections that could help guitar guitar into local schools? Reach out to info [AT] guitarfoundation.org.
Michael Karmon is a California-based composer who dedicates much of his output to the classical guitar. We sat down (virtually) for a little interview about his background, composition process, and new models for commissioning music.
CG.org: Tell us about your musical education and the path that led you to the guitar
MK: I took the usual academic path as a composer, and was trained to write for orchestra, voice, and various chamber ensembles. I didn’t write much guitar music while in school, but once I got my degree I felt drawn back to the instrument. I was very fortunate early on, because I got to work with some terrific players (Joe Hagedorn, Denis Azabagic, Newman/Oltman Duo,) and that set me on the right track. The guitar is a really tough instrument to write for, but I’m continually inspired and energized by the various challenges it poses.
So did you study guitar formally before you commenced your composition studies? or did your interest in the instrument prompt you to learn to play later on?
A bit of both. The extent of my formal training is two years of lessons when I was very young. I picked up the guitar again in high school for the usual reasons. In college I played a lot of jazz both as a soloist and in various ensembles. After school I started playing classical, and this was very much driven by my interest in writing for the instrument. I’m not a good player, but I’m better now than I was when I first started writing for guitar. It definitely helps to be able to play through my own music.
As a composer, what’s your relationship with and attitude towards the “canon” of our repertoire?
I can’t say I share most guitarist’s love for the Spanish repertoire. For me things start to get interesting with the pieces Bream commissioned, especially from Takemitsu, Berkeley, and Walton. I try to play and study pieces from the repertoire as often as I can, and I find many of them inspiring. I’ve certainly learned a lot about writing for guitar through these pieces. Having said that, I do wish guitarists would embrace new music more readily. There really are a lot of worthwhile contemporary pieces out there.
You’ve developed some projects through online communication and networking. Tell me more about them, and do you think they may hint at a new, viable way of commissioning music?
Backpack Pieces, a suite of 10 easy movements, was such a project. I proposed on the Delcamp Guitar Forum that players could each have a movement dedicated to them in exchange for a small fee. Unfortunately, in this scenario participants could not have any input about the music, but they could choose which piece was dedicated to them. I even wrote the first movement in advance so people could have something concrete to look at. It went over well. I think all the spots were filled within a few hours. It certainly looks like there’s an interest in this kind of crowd sourced commission, and people seemed genuinely excited about being involved in the creation of a new piece. I think there is a lot of potential out there both in terms of getting funding and finding players to write for. Meeting players in person can be inspiring and valuable, but I’ve had great experiences writing for guitarist that I’ve met only online and never in person.
Do you write music that is strictly pedagogical? can you tell us more about your approach to this subset of the repertoire, and how much your own technique influences what you write in this context?
As it happens, my current project is a set of etudes, but they focus on the techniques of composition rather than those of playing. Developing musical material can be tricky on the guitar because of its limitations and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes it can be easier just to come up with new musical ideas rather than effectively use what you already have in different contexts and guises. But I feel that development is a hallmark of good music. These etudes are partly an immersive exercise for me, and partly an effort to showcase different ways to develop material on the guitar.
To conclude, tell us about your current projects.
Recent commissions include All in a Day’s Work for NYC Duo, which aims to evoke the busy life of a New York musician; Ice for 10-string guitarist Jouni Stenroos; and Dreams Laid Down, based on poems by Janice Notland, for guitarist Alan Rinehart. All these projects were unique and highly satisfying. I’ve learned through experience that it’s not wise to plan too far ahead into the future. But tentatively, projects for guitar duo; for a trio of guitar, violin, and clarinet; and for voice and guitar are on the horizon.
Many thanks to Michael for his time and insights. Make sure you check out his website, where several of his scores are available.
In this light, the recent release from Bridge Records offers a welcome change to gearheads like me. Take the cheapest, least identifiable guitar on the online catalogue at Elderly Musical Instruments (a website where I have spent my fair amount of time drooling over vintage resonators and boutique steel-string acoustics), send it along on a 30,000 mile-long journey, with 65 stop-overs at the homes of some of today’s most adventurous guitarists, have each musician come up with *something* inspired by the guitar, record it, and see what happens.
Oh, did I forget to mention that a sizable portion of the proceeds go to CARE, a foundation fighting hunger and global poverty? The pairing seems especially fitting to me—consider the thousands of musicians throughout the world who are vibrating the air with whatever salvaged instrument they can get their hands on. The wonderfully strange music of the $100 Guitar Project reminds us that it’s the hands, hearts, and brains that count—not so much the wood, metal, and glue.
The range of music on this double record is such that it would be pointless to go into a detailed review. Expect to hear a wide variety of styles as the list of participants amounts to a sort of who’s who in the contemporary experimental, avant-garde, and indie scene (Nels Cline anyone?!):
Alex Skolnick, David Starobin, Elliott Sharp, Mike Keneally, Barry Cleveland, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, Mark Hitt, Keith Rowe, Nels Cline, Andy Aledort, Hillary Fielding, John Shiurba, Karl Evangelista, Phil Burk, Ray Kallas, Janet Feder, Thomas Dimuzio, Julia Miller, Chris Murphy, Chuck O’Meara, Marty Carlson, Shawn Persinger, Kai Niggemann, Steve MacLean, Ken Field, Roger Miller, Michael Bierylo, Bill Brovold, Larry Polansky, Biota, Bill Sharp, Ava Mendoza, Amy Denio, Bruce Eisenbeil, Caroline Feldmeier, Colin Marston, David Linaburg, Hans Tammen, James Moore, Jesse Krakow, Jesse Kranzler, Joe Bouchard, Jon Diaz, Josh Lopes, Kobe Van Cauwenberghe, Marco Cappelli, Marco Oppedisano, Joe Berger, Mark Solomon, Mark Stewart, Mike Lerner, Nick Didkovsky, Rhys Chatham, Ron Anderson, Taylor Levine, Tom Marsan, Greg Anderson, Han-earl Park, Del Rey, Matt Wilson, Bruce Zeines, Toon Callier/ZWERM, Juan Parra, and Wiek Hijmanns.
Despite the diversity (and the home-rigged nature of many of the recordings), the album is extremely well produced and feels like a cohesive, polished listening experience. Kudos to project originators Nick Didkovsky and Chuck O’Meara, and to Bridge Records’ David Starobin for bringing this adventure to the public. You can see videos, maps, and pictures over at the official website; the album is available on Amazon and iTunes.
I urge every guitar fan to check out this unprecedented and unmistakably cool project, as it offers a wonderful snapshot of today’s fertile and diverse guitar scene while also contributing to a noble cause. And who knows, it may inspire some of us to ease on the fetishising and focus on the music.