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Ana Bragina plays Sergej Rudnev

2011 July 18
by Christopher Davis

Today we feature Ana Bragina performing Lipa vekovaia (Old lime tree). Rudnev is more of an arranger in this case: the piece is a variation set on on a Russian folk song. Matanya Ophee wrote a short article about this piece, including an old recording of it being sung. It’s worth it to have a listen to both.

Sergej Rudnev Himself

Thanks to Heike Matthiesen for the heads up about this video.

Three Ways to Perfect Your Rhythm

2011 July 7
by Christopher Davis

If you happen to follow Philip Hii’s Blog, a while back he wrote a series of articles on the importance of rhythm.

Rhythm can make a piece sound alive. It can take an ordinary phrase and turn it into something magical and moving. But rhythm only has that power if you are its absolute master. That starts with counting and understanding how the beats fit together.

Lessons Learned from Sight Reading

Anyone good at sight reading will tell you that the notes don’t really matter. It’s more important to keep the beat and keep moving. If you’ve ever been in an ensemble that had to stop every two bars to get people caught up, you know exactly why rhythm and counting are more important than hitting every not perfectly. Rhythm is kind of a big deal

On the other side of a the coin, Learning a piece is about developing and shaping habits over time. Nothing is perfect from the get go, but it’s your job to make sure every repetition is as close to perfect as possible. Develop a bad habit early only and you’ll spend hours fixing it later.

With an element as crucial and powerful as rhythm, it’s even hard to go back and reverse those bad habits. That’s why counting is so important. You cannot hope to push and pull a pieces beat, count and rhythm if you don’t fully understand it. So here are three ways to do that.

1. Put Down the Guitar

And Clap.

Too often we get so caught up in the finger mechanics of playing that we completely ignore the rhythmic aspect. Divorce the two. Your sense of beat and time should never be tied into the mechanics of playing the guitar, and one way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to practice reading rhythms separately.

Put down your guitar and try clapping the rhythms of each of the lines in your piece. Do it at tempo, slow, and fast. You should also clap rhythms while counting aloud (see point three).

2. Sing & Tap

Again, without the guitar, sing the musical lines of your piece in time.

If you do this without some sort of counting it doesn’t count (pun intended), so be sure to clap the beat or tap your foot while singing. The mechanics of music making should never be tied into your sense of time. This is another way to divorce the two.

3. Count Aloud

A teacher once told me that if you can’t count aloud while playing your piece, you don’t know it.

This is the only method of the three that involves your guitar. Count a loud while you’re playing a piece. But don’t just count when you play, keep a steady stream. In other words, pick the smallest subdivision in the piece and count that the entire way through. If that happens to be a sixteenth note, you’re count would be 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a etc. the entire piece or passage. In most cases this involves you counting more than necessary.

You should also try the opposite: count less than necessary. If you have a passage in 16ths, try counting only 8th notes

counting exercise

Counting Less Than Necessary

This is, like the previous two methods, about divorcing your sense of time from the mechanics of playing guitar. Counting a loud is a convenient way to do that.

Should I Use Metronome For These Things?

Sure. But know when to put it down. If you want to really have some fun, get your tempo from a metronome, then shut it off and play/sign/clap a passage. When you’re through, immediately turn the metronome back on. Did your tempo wander? Or did you stay in time?

Its never a bad choice to use a metronome, but be careful that it doesn’t become the only way you can stay in time.

2011 GFA Competition Winners

2011 July 4
by Christopher Davis

The Guitar Foundation of America convention, along with its International Artist Competition and youth competitions, just concluded yesterday (July 3, 2011).

International Artist Competition Winners

First Prize: Vladimir Gorbach (Russia)
Second Prize: Andras Csaki (Hungary)
Third Prize: Damien Lancelle (France)
Fourth Place: Jeremy Collins (USA)

GFA Competition Winners 2011

The GFA Winners (left to right): Vladimir, Jeremy, Damien, Andras

Watch Winner Vladimir Gorbach Play

Youth Competition Winners – Junior Division

First Prize: Thomas Pfefer (USA)
Second Prize: Ashwin Krishna (USA)
Third Prize: Sergiu Hudrea (Romania)
Fourth Prize: Jisu Lee (Korea)

Youth Competition Winners – Senior Division

First Prize: Xavier Jara (USA)
Second Prize: John Marcel Williams (USA)
Third Prize: Chaconne Klaverenga (USA)
Fourth Prize: Kyle Comer (USA)

Watch Winner Xavier Jara Play

Milos Karadaglic Tiny Desk Concert on NPR

2011 June 30
by Christopher Davis

Milos Karadaglic has been getting a lot of attention lately. He’s on the Deutsche Grammophon label, and has had articles about him in the economist, the UK’s Telegraph, and even Guitar World.

If the embed above isn’t working, head over to

2011 Classical Minds Competition Winners

2011 June 27
by Christopher Davis

There were three competition divisions at the 2011 Classical Minds Guitar Festival: junior, high school, and undergrad.

Junior Division Winners

First Prize: Juliette Farmer (11 yrs old)
Second Prize: Tiffany Chang (11 yrs old)
Third Prize: Reyna Orozco (12 yrs old)
Fourth Prize: Giancarlo Romo (13 yrs old)

junior division winners

Junior Division Winners with judges Randall Avers (left) and Christopher Berg (right)

High School Division Winners

First Prize: Kyle Comer
Second Prize: Tyler Rhodes
Third Prize: Vijay Meunier
Fourth Prize: Avi Medina

high school division winners

Left to right: Kyle, Tyler, Vijay, Avi

Undergrad Division Winners

First Prize: Michael Gratovich
Second Prize: Matt Bacon
Third Prize: Paul Morton
Fourth Prize: Byron Goble

undergrad division winners

Left to Right: Byron, Paul, Matt, Michael

2011 Boston GuitarFest Competition Winners

2011 June 27
by Christopher Davis

The Boston GuitarFest was held June 15-19, 2011. There were two competitions this year: a composition competition and an open division performance competition. Performance competitors had three rounds of mostly free choice repertoire with the exception of a required piece by an Italian composer (or something using an Italian theme).

2011 Performance Competition Winners

First Prize: Edel Munoz
Second Prize: Jerome Mouffe
Third Prize: Alexander Milovanov

boston guitarfest competition winners

Left to Right: Alexander, Jerome, Edel

Watch Winner Edel Munoz Play

This is a video from the final round of the competition.

2011 Composition Competition Winner

Jonathan Godfrey won the composition competition with his work Blue. Night. Pools. Jonathan won a cash prize and his piece will be performed at the 2012 Boston GuitarFest. Be sure to check out Jonathan’s youtube channel.


performance competition
composition competition

The Art of Ignoring Everything

2011 June 23
by Christopher Davis

Let me tell you a secret. Now this secret is extremely powerful. It may even be a little bit offensive. This secret is so good that you might not want to share it. So don’t click that “Like” button at the top of the post unless you’re absolutely sure your friends are ready for this.

Very Few Thing Really Matter

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield gives the distracting voice in the back of our heads a name. He calls it the Resistance. The Resistance is the thing that keeps us from getting things done. It’s the insecurity that causes us to look around for the best solution rather than just jumping it; it’s the fear that keeps you from doing anything.

Very few things are mission critical situations that demand immediate attention. Mostly they are distractions that take away time from getting real work done. Once your sort out what matters and what doesn’t, it’s easy to focus on the stuff that makes a difference. But sorting out what matters is not my job in this article. You’ll have to do that on your own, but here are a few thoughts to get your started.

What Matters in Practice

Because of the internet, a lot of young (in practice years) guitarists fall victim to what is termed analysis paralysis. In other words, they question whether or not they’re doing something the right way.

That’s all well and good when it comes to technique. Try to get stuff right from the start. But jumping around from practice method to practice method is not a way to improve. Consistent, persistent practice is. Stick with one thing until you see that it’s really not working.

One of my students this weekend was working on Carcassi etude number one. The arpeggio section was giving him trouble, but the previous week I assigned stop/go practice . He did it consistently for two weeks and I could tell it was working. Did I hear a perfect performance? No, but his hands were moving better and I could tell the practice method was working.

Things take time. Practicing takes time. And the only way to tell if something actual works is to give it time to do so. You have to ignore the face that your practice didn’t fix everything immediately and have faith that your practice is working.

Business & Marketing

In addition to my guitar playing activities, I work as a marketing consultant. A lot of my clients, especially those with newer sites, lose focus on what matters: building up an archive of useful, unique, engaging content. Information and reputation are the currencies of the web, and, as long as some basic technical stuff is inline, it’s fairly easy to master both.

Analytics and metrics and facebook fan numbers and twitter follower growth measurements are great as long as they don’t distract you from the real work: creating new, unique content. Too many times people get obsessed with data analysis when they should be obsessed with doing something.

The Art of Ignoring Everything

In short, the art of ignoring everything is about consistency. How long can you keep at one thing? Michael Thames knows this. His design and guitars have evolved very slowly and deliberately: he knows that you don’t master anything by jumping around.

How consistent can you be in your practice time? How good can you be at not wasting time online looking for the perfect answer?

Daniel Murray plays Villa-Lobos

2011 June 20
by Christopher Davis

Today we feature Daniel Murray performing Villa-Lobos’ seventh etude. I really enjoy the rubato and color in Daniel playing.

2011 Heinsberg Guitar Competition Winners

2011 June 13
by Christopher Davis

The Heinsberg Festival & Competition was held May 31 – June 4, 2011. The competition itself was one recording submission and three rounds of free choice music. Each round was 15, 20, and 35 minutes respectively, and competitors could not repeat pieces from round to round.

The 2011 Heinsberg Winners

First Prize: Ian Watt (Scotland)
Second Prize: Chia-Wei Lin (Taiwan)
Third Prize: Noriyuki Masuda (Japan)

Ian won 4,000 Euro, a concert guitar valued at 6,000 euro, a carbon fiber guitar case, and several concert engagements.

ian watt classical guitar

Ian Watt

Watch Winner Ian Watt Play

Source and thanks to Bodo for the heads up.

2011 Koblenz Guitar Competition Winners

2011 June 13
by Christopher Davis

The Koblenz Guitar Festival was held June 6-13, 2011. Its competition was three, free-choice rounds of 7, 15, and 30 minutes. Pieces could not be repeated from round to round.

The 2011 Koblenz Winners

First Prize: David Dyakov (Bulgaria)
Second Prize: Chia-Wei Lin (Taiwan)
Third Prize: Ian Watt (Scotland)

David Dyakov won…

3000 euro cash, a concert in Carnegie Hall New York City + $1000 stipend and travel/accommodation expenses provided by D’Addario & Company and the D’Addario Music Foundation along with a three-year supply of D’Addario strings (52 sets a year), CD production with KSG EXAUDIO, 10 concerts in Germany with a payment of 500 euro per concert including the record release concert at the 20th Koblenz International Guitar Festival 2012

Watch Winner David Dyakov Play

Source and thanks to Jurgen for the heads up.