Practice Diary 2023 - Jim King

I am starting this practice diary so I may record videos of myself of various pieces that I am working on for others to view and comment.  I look forward to receiving your comments for my improvement.

By way of background, I first learned to play guitar in the summer of 1968 through a summer program offered by our local school board during for students going into grade 7 or 8.  That summer I decided to take up guitar.  The program provided group lessons provided over 20 days.  By the end I could play a few open chords.  I messed around with that on my own for a few years, never advancing beyond those open chords.  After that, life got in the way and I stopped playing.

Now, jump ahead to my retirement in 2020.  Decided that with retirement and the pandemic that I would pick up the guitar again.  I followed a subscription program over the internet and learned to play again.  In 2022, through the program I was using, I developed a liking for playing classical music.  So, in November 2022, I joined Tonebase.  Since then I have completed both of the beginner courses and some of the level 1 material.  I am also working on the level 2 material now.  Also, within the last month (July 2023) I have found Bradford Werner's site where he has a program for teaching classical guitar.  I am finding that his material is helping me with various techniques.

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    • Jim King
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    • Jim_king
    • 2 mths ago
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    This is an update to an earlier posting of Landslag I.  I have been working with this piece off and on over the last several months.  Over the last couple of months, I have used this piece in a course on performance.  Here is the result.

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      • Jim King
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      • Jim_king
      • 2 mths ago
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      Andre Bernier Thank you Andre, much appreciated.

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      • Jack Stewart
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      • Jack_Stewart
      • 2 mths ago
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      Jim King That was great, Jim. It really captured the atmosphere beautifully. It felt like floating down a fjord in the deep fog. I had visions of different scenes gently coming in to focus and the gradually disappearing. To that effect I think it might be fun to try and capture that effect by gradually bringing up different voices and then letting them drift away as another voice comes forward, rather than maintaining a more melodic flow. I am not sure how that would sound and I don't know what Bjornsson had in mind or how he scored this, so certainly take this suggestion with a grain of salt.

      But this was wonderful as played. Really impressive improvement!

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      • Jim King
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      • Jim_king
      • 2 mths ago
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      Jack Stewart I like the imagery you conjure up in your description of how you felt listening to my play.  I have never had anyone say anything like that from anything I have played, so your comments mean a lot to me. 

      You also bring up an interesting idea about what could be done with this music.  As I see it, I am of the impression that there is only one voice throughout this piece, but perhaps something can be done by varying the dynamics more than I have done.  This is the first piece that I have varied the dynamics based on how I felt.  I will need to play with it a bit more to see if there can be more ebb and flow to it.  Thank you for the idea.

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      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 2 mths ago
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      Jim King I agree with Jack - you're doing a great job capturing the mood here. I'll point out one detail that you need to give more attention to, though - the counting. You begin correctly, with six iterations of the repeated triplet figure. But from measures two through five, you add (I presume unintentionally) an extra iteration. And towards the end, there is a measure where you play only five iterations  (It's very easy to get 'lost' in a piece like this - I certainly had the same problem when I first looked at it.) I think you will find it helps if you think of each measure as having two groups of three of the basic triplet figures. (This is how the piece is notated, though strangely, the time signature is indicated as 9/8 which implies three groups of two.) So, if you are counting, the accenting would be ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six. (You may not want to actually (physically) accent the 'four', but if you imagine it this way, you are less likely to lose track of where in a measure you are.) Like Jack, I hear more than one voice in this piece. Actually, I hear three - a top, a bottom, and a middle, all moving independently of one another. To put it differently, what I hear is counterpoint rather than purely harmonic movement. Of course, if you hear it differently, there is nothing wrong with that - I don't think there's ever a single 'correct' way to understand music. Anyhow, you're making great progress! Are you planning to play the second "Landscape' in this series?

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      • Jim King
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      • Jim_king
      • 2 mths ago
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      David Krupka Thank you for your comments David.  Much appreciated.

      As for counting, you would think that I should be able to count up to 6 given that I was an accountant during my working life.  However, that is obviously not the case!  LOL!  Actually, I seem to have a lot of thoughts going through my mind each time I start a group of six arpeggios that I don't start my counting until rep 2 or 3.  This just allows mistakes to creep in.  My bad.  I need to have a clearer mind when playing.  Getting there but more practice is needed.

      As for the number of voices, thank you for your explanation.  Thinking about it, I never considered this piece having three voices.  If I compare it to something like Sor Op. 60 No. 9, where there are clearly 3 voices there, the melody, bassline and arpeggios in the middle, I never considered Landslag I as being comparable.  Accordingly, I just considered it being one voice.  The comments from you and Jack Stewart give me cause to reconsider this viewpoint, which is a good thing.  Not sure if this is something that is taught or if one picks this up on their own.

      As for Landslag II, I did start learning it several months ago but then put it aside until I completed Landslag I.   So I already have the chords and and fingering plotted out on my copy of the music.  I will likely pick it up after a bit of a break from this series.

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      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 2 mths ago
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      Jim King I'm reminded here of old story about Einstein. Einstein, as you may know, was a lifelong devotee of the violin. For many years,, musical friends would gather on Wednesday evenings at his home in Princeton, NJ, and together they would play chamber music. On one such occasion, an esteemed relation of his, the musicologist (and Mozart authority) Alfred Einstein joined in. The piece they were rehearsing was apparently unfamiliar to the host, and he kept missing his entries. Finally, exasperated, the musicologist threw up his arms and exclaimed: 'for goodness sake, Albert, have you not even learned how to count!?'

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    • Jim King
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    • Jim_king
    • 1 mth ago
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    Here is a version of The Spanish Pavin that I recently recorded. 

    By way of background, a Pavin is a dance of Italian origin and was popular in Europe in the 16th Century.  At the beginning of that Century, a Pavin was played at a fast tempo.  However, over the 16th Century dance tempos were slowed down.  Consequently, a Pavin was slowed down to a tempo that was more suitable for a processional march. 

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    • Jim King Well done Jim. Is this piece part of the Bradford Werner's course curriculum?

      Did you register for the 2 weeks intensive on video recording with Martin?

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      • Jim King
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      • Jim_king
      • 1 mth ago
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      Andre Bernier Thank you Andre. Yes, this piece is from Bradford Werner鈥檚 Grade 1 book. I also enjoyed hearing various versions of this piece on YouTube. Hearing it played on a lute makes it sound more like it is from the 16th Century. 
      Also, yes I did sign up for the 2 week intensive. Looking forward to the course. We should hear something about it and our group assignments soon I assume. 

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    • Jim King
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    • Jim_king
    • 1 mth ago
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    Since the Sor Challenge several months ago, off and on I have continued to work on the piece I submitted in that Challenge, Sor Op. 60 No. 9.  Here is a recording of a recent play of this piece.

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    • Jim King  Nice play Jim. You are making great progress in your journey. 馃憤

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      • Jim King
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      • Jim_king
      • 1 mth ago
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      Andre Bernier Thank you Andre.  Time now to put this one away so I can concentrate on other pieces.

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    • Jim King  Just one question Jim. In your approach; do you plan some practice time to go back to previous pieces you learned or do you just put them away forever?

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      • Jim King
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      • Jim_king
      • 1 mth ago
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      Andre Bernier Unless I specifically mark a piece as one that I want to return to in the future I usually don't go back to previous pieces.  I currently have 3 pieces marked as ones that I want to work on in the future to improve, including Sor Op. 60 No. 9. 

      It has come to my attention recently in a course on practicing that we should re-visit pieces we have completed.  Now I need to push myself to put together a list of those pieces that I wish to maintain and note where to find those scores. 

      When I think back to when I played some rock or blues tunes, I just automatically maintained certain pieces.  Just haven't done it with any classical music yet.  Not sure why when there are some pieces that I would like to maintain.  Perhaps I'm always in a rush to move onto new material.

      Do you have a system for identifying those scores you wish to maintain?

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    • Jim King You are right Jim. I recently watched some videos from the ''Guitar Tricks'' site on two aspects  of practice .

      1- When you should move on ?

      • You should move on NOT when you play them perfectly.
      • You should move on much earlier when you have a good control of the piece.

      2- What you should practice:

      • One of the items of things we should practice was that we have to keep practicing previous pieces we learned for 3 reasons:

            - Keep practicing and improving the technical aspect of the piece.

            - Improving the musicality of the playing.

            - Keeping the piece fresh in our memory.

       

      So far, When I finish a piece; I just add it to the list '' Pieces to keep and improve" and I am trying to finish my regular practice time by reviewing one or two pieces of that list. So far I have 10 pieces on my list. With practicing only one per day; I can go through the list about 3 times per month.

      I am doing the same approach with my acoustic guitar program.

       

      Having said that; I know well that eventually the list will get too long and I will have to put some away for good. For me; this will be probably when I will get over 20 pieces.

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    • Jim King
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    • Jim_king
    • 1 mth ago
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    Andre Bernier Thank you for your comments Andre.  They have been quite useful in that they have made me think some more about my practice routine. 

    I do have a question for you about the playing of old repertoire.  You mention that the 10 pieces in your "keep and improve" list are played over a period of days resulting in you playing any single piece once every 10 days on average.  Does that long period of spacing impair the ability to improve a piece?  My limited experience in playing older pieces is that I needed to spend some time bringing it back to where it was, never mind actually the time need to improve the piece.  Or are you able to retrieve it sufficiently to quickly bring it back to the level of playing previously achieved?

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    • Jim King  Well Jim, you are raising good questions or concerns.

      • Generally I can work more than one piece per day because most of them are fairly short and I often have more than one practice a day. Let's say that i can go through the list once a week or roughly 4 times a month.
      • As most of these pieces are less than 2 min; I can play them several times in the 15 min or so dedicated for that. I start with the score at a very slow speed to refresh my memory. Normally, I can bring it back to the previous level in 2 or 3 playing. From there; I continue to practice 2 or 3 more times with different goals (technical aspect, speed, musicality) depending on the piece.

      I came with that approach from my program on acoustic guitar with ''Guitartricks.com'' . Each lesson you learn a new technique and the lesson always finishes up with a short piece written with the goal to practice that new technique. For example there is a lesson on the basic ''Travis picking'' with a practice song that should be played at 146 bpm. Well it will take years to get to that speed. If you wait to get to that speed before to move on to the next lesson; you may discourage yourself and give up. I decided to move on with a speed of 90 bpm. However, over the last 3 years I have been going through that piece of music on a regular basis and I am now able to play it at over 120 bpm. I still have 20 pieces of that program that I work on on a regular basis.

       

      All that is probably good but I am not sure yet of what is the right number of pieces I should keep and I understand that one day I will definitely have to drop some of these pieces.

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      • Jim King
      • Retired
      • Jim_king
      • 1 mth ago
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      Andre Bernier Thank you for the further information and clarifications Andre.

      In your response you discuss about not bringing pieces that we learn in a lesson up to tempo before we move onto the next lesson.  I fully agree with your approach in that once one has control over the piece that it is best to move on to the next lesson so one does not get bored with what they are playing.  This is what I have been doing over my time in playing guitar.  I also assume that not every piece from a lesson ends up in your "keep and improve" list for future practices.  My thinking is that only if the piece interests me so that I want to develop it into a performance piece that it should be on the "keep and improve" list.

      As I mentioned before, now I just need to go back and assemble my own "keep and improve" list.

      Thanks.

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    • Jim King
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    • Jim_king
    • 3 wk ago
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    Julio Sagreras (1879-1942) was a guitarist from Argentina.  He was best known for his guitar instruction series.  Here are 2 of the pieces from that series, Lecci贸n 70 and Lecci贸n 75, that I have recorded earlier this week.

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      • Andre Bernier
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      • Andre_Bernier
      • 10 days ago
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      Jim King Nice work Jim. Two beautiful pieces from a composer I did not know. You are playing both very well 馃憤

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      • Jim King
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      • Jim_king
      • 9 days ago
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      Andre Bernier Thank you Andre.

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