How to Warm Up on the Classical Guitar – 15 Ways

How do you warm up on the classical guitar? How do you get your practice session off to a great start? There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s important to be intentional about your warm-up.

Warm Up Classical Guitar

Just as an athlete needs to warm up to make sure his body and mind are ready for intense activity, a musician needs to warm up to prepare mentally and physically for the demands of a practice session.

Warming up is not the same as working on the limits of your technique and pushing your speed.

Instead, it is about reviewing the fundamentals, reconnecting with the instrument, and feeling comfortable diving into the more intense work of practice.

Though the warm-up can include scales, arpeggios, and slurs, you need to work through these techniques slowly to warm up. Later in your practice session, you can supercharge your speed.

As you seek to design a warm-up that works for you, consider including several of the following elements:

How do you position your left hand effectively for playing guitar?  Do you need to pay attention to the wrist, the thumb, the fingers, the angle of the hand? What are the important principles to consider? I decided to prepare the video above, explaining this. I have also provided a transcript below.

Video Transcript

How do you position your left hand on the guitar? There are a few principles to remember.

Aligned Wrist

The first one is to keep your left wrist aligned, that is to keep the back of the left forearm in line with the back of the left hand. If you put a pen against the back of both, it should lie flat against both. And this will indicate that you have the proper alignment. Having the wrist aligned is going to allow the tendons to function easily and smoothly, which they might not do if you have the wrist too bent in one direction or another. (more…)

How to Get Ready to Be a Music Major

High school music students frequently ask me how to prepare for majoring in music at a university. The short answer is also the path to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice!

Get Ready Music Major

But those asking the question are looking for more guidance than that. They need to know the different types of musical activities they should pursue to be well prepared. Here’s what I tell them:

How to Improve Right-Hand Accuracy With Planting

Someone asked me recently about the guitar technique of right-hand planting. This technique is often used by classical and finger-style guitarists to create greater technical security, better accuracy, and more consistent tone. But some criticize planting as an obstacle to playing legato. What are the advantages of planting on the string vs. not planting on the string? I decided to prepare a video explaining this. See the following video link. I have also provided a transcript below.

Video Transcript

Recently, I was asked about the topic of right-hand planting, that is, preparing the fingers of the right hand on the strings before playing. I’m going to talk a little about that topic and also about preparing the fingers in front of the strings.

Group Planting

When you’re playing an arpeggio that goes from bass to treble, I usually advise group planting, that is, putting the fingers on the strings as a group. So, for example, if I’m playing p,i,m,a, I’ll put the i-m-a down as a group, then I’ll play the fingers one at a time, then I’ll set the thumb back on the bass string. So, thumb plays, i-m-a gets ready. i plays. m plays. a plays, p gets ready. p plays, i-m-a get ready.

So this is group planting. Some would call that full planting, but I don’t usually use that term unless you’re actually placing all the fingers on the strings.

A group plant could be only p,i,m, for example, where you just place i-m together as a group. And typically the thumb is not placed at the same time as i-m or i-m-a in a p,i,m or p,i,m,a arpeggio.

How to Communicate with Your Music Students’ Parents

If you teach young music students, you’ll find that parents are a big factor in your students’ success. It’s important to communicate with parents and build a relationship with them.

Communicate Music Students Parents

But how do you do that? Here are some ideas:

Know Your ABCs

 

A. Always Be Communicating

If the only time you talk to parents is when there’s a problem, you’re part of the problem. The good news is you can also be part of the solution. Frequent communication helps build the relationship over time.

B. Be Positive

Even when there’s a problem, emphasize the best qualities of the student. “Even though little Billy licks his guitar strings and refuses to do anything I say, I can see that he’s very creative.” Okay, not quite like that, but you know what I mean.

C. Care

Recognize that it’s a privilege to serve students and parents. Make clear that you value the student as a person, and give any critique or feedback in that context.

But what method do you use for communicating with parents? Try some of the following:

How to Take Music Reading to the Next Level

Recently, a friend contacted me on Facebook expressing frustration that his music students did not read staff notation well. They used the written fingerings on the page as a crutch. They read the first note and then relied on finger numbers rather than notes.

How to Take Music Reading to the Next Level

This is a common challenge. Reading staff notation is a complex skill. Many students shy away from the mental effort involved.

How do you deal with this challenge? How do you help students deeply engage with staff notation? Here are some approaches that will help:

How Do You Start a Music Teaching Studio?

Many young musicians ask me how to start a music teaching studio. They’re looking for a steady income. They think teaching music will be fun.

Start Music Teaching Studio

In reality, you can make a steady income teaching music. And you can have fun. Perhaps more importantly, you can enrich the lives of others as well.

But how do you start? If you’ve never taught a lesson before, just do it! Get a couple of students. If necessary, teach your friends for free to get some experience. Once you’ve been teaching for a few weeks, you’ll have lots of questions. You’ll be ready to take the next step. Seek out an experienced teacher and ask for their advice. Here’s what they’ll tell you:

Why You Should Want To Be Like Segovia

There was a time when it seemed that everyone in the classical guitar world wanted to be like Andrés Segovia. To imitate his technique. His fingerings. His tone. His interpretation. EVERYTHING about him.

Why You Should Want to Be Like Segovia

And there were good reasons for this. Segovia was a visionary who convinced a generation of composers to write music for guitar. To arrange music for guitar. He took classical guitar to a new level and earned respect in the top concert halls of the world. He connected with a broad audience. He refined technique and tone production and fingering. He made bold and innovative interpretive choices in a way that captivated the listener. He inspired several generations of classical guitarists through his master classes.

And then came the backlash. Many guitarists started rebelling against Segovia’s dogmatic attitude. If a student came to a masterclass and ignored Segovia’s fingerings, Segovia might kick them out of the masterclass. Segovia communicated to aspiring guitarists that his way was the only way.

In response, some guitarists and teachers went out of their way to do the opposite of Segovia. To make it clear that they were not standing in his shadow or seeking to emulate him.

I think most classical guitarists today have arrived at a healthier attitude. A place of learning from Segovia without blindly accepting all he did. Or blindly ignoring him.

I think, however, that the classical guitar world’s relationship with Segovia illustrates a broader point. How do aspiring musicians relate to the great legends? How do we learn from what they did without merely copying them?

How to Solve Problems on the Guitar

How do you solve problems when you play guitar? I know, you don’t have any problems, but if you did. Or maybe you have this friend who has problems with their guitar playing…

Solve Problems Guitar

When you practice, you start at the beginning of a piece. You keep going until that one part you can’t play well. Now what? Do you just start over at the beginning and hope for the best? Maybe you’ll get lucky this time.

Is it fun to run through a piece? Sure. Running through the whole piece is fine for a piece you have learned well. It can be an important part of preparing for performance.

But simply playing from the beginning isn’t always the most effective approach. Sometimes you need to solve problems. Scott Tennant says that if you can spend 30 minutes solving a problem so that you never have the same problem again, that is time well spent. So what does this mean?

It means taking something you can’t play and converting it to something you can. Changing inconsistent to consistent. Transforming lackluster to exciting.

Be intentional about solving problems in your playing. Make it part of your practice approach. How?