Thursday, September 28, 2017

Guitar Fingering Hurts My Brain

As a pianist learning classical guitar, one of the challenges I've had to face is guitar fingering. I think I've written about this before, so I may be repeating myself, but guitar fingering drives me crazy!

Here is the fingering I learned at age 6 and have known all my life:

From thumb being 1 to pinky being 5, piano fingering is what makes sense. I don't have to think about piano fingering when reading music. It's just there and I know it and I move on.

Guitar fingering is all weird:

On the left hand, the forefinger is 1 and the pinky is 4, while the right hand has p, i, m, and a. The left thumb and the right pinky don't have names at all. (The right pinky does, but it's not typically used.)

So when I'm trying to read guitar music and follow the fingering, I'm having to translate: "3 ... okay, that's piano 4. And "m," that's um, 3." I am literally having to translate into another language as I read and play. This is one instance where knowing piano has worked against me with guitar. It's almost like I'm having to unlearn what I've known all my life.

This morning I got tired of translating, so I wrote in piano fingering:

Even having it in parentheses was confusing, so on another piece I just scratched out the guitar fingering:

I don't know if this is a good practice in the long run, or if it matters. Part of me thinks that, in order to be a good classical guitarist, I need to use the classical guitar finger names. But does it matter, beyond the inconvenience of having to write over the available fingerings (which pianists do anyway, all the time, in piano music)?

I don't think it does. But time will tell.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Classical Guitar Update

I really shouldn't differentiate between "classical guitar practice" and "acoustic guitar practice" because classical is pretty much all I care about these days. Though, if you'd been watching my life for the past few weeks, you'd think I didn't care about music at all. I sliced the fingertip of my left hand while chopping vegetables a few weeks ago, and that took some time to heal. And then I had a bit of life stress and chewed up my fingernails on both hands until my poor fingers were bleeding, literally. So any kind of pressure to the fingers was pain for a couple of weeks. And I couldn't get a manicure with fake nails (my usual solution to nub-bitten nails) because of the open wounds.

Finally, finally, I got some fake nails this past Saturday. I had to drive to Asheville for a couple of days after that so no time to practice guitar. At my in-person guitar lesson on Monday, my teacher restrung my guitar since (1) I hadn't practiced in three weeks and (2) the guitar needed it.

So now I have a nice, recently restrung Alvarez Yairi, and I'm ready to start practicing again.

This morning's goal: To reacquaint myself. At my request, I backed up to start Suzuki Book 1, and it's been good for me for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the repetition of notes with different fingers. As a pianist, I've had such a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of (1) playing the same string with different fingers and (2) having that string make the same sound, or different sounds. It's hard to explain. When you repeat the same note on piano in quick succession, you always use alternating fingers, so that's nothing new. But with guitar, I've hit a block. The Suzuki "Twinkle" variations have been good exercise because I'm playing the same string with different fingers (i and m, or my index and middle fingers). I can't explain why it's been such a good exercise, but it has.

I downloaded the Suzuki Book 1 mp3 to help me get a mental representation of just how my playing should sound. After listening, I played it myself and noticed a couple of things I can improve:
  • Sometimes I don't pull my fingertip away after plucking a string, and I end up half-plucking the string above it.
  • The volume, tone, and clarity of the notes aren't consistent.
So I slowed down and worked on playing a single note at a time. And on achieving greater consistency. That took a good 30 minutes.

My guitar teacher was concerned that I'd be bored by these super-simple pieces, but I'm not. Working to achieve good technique is never boring, though it is slow work and probably not so exciting to a bystander. But I love it.

Tomorrow's practice goals: Work on technique some more, but branch out to the other simple songs I've started: "Lightly Row," "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," and "Song of the Wind."

Thursday, September 7, 2017


For someone who is supposed to be a free spirit, I've always been fascinated by cubicles. Yes, I'm talking about office cubicles--those little ceilingless structures that are the bane of office cogs everywhere.

I love them. I love the idea of having a space cut off from everyone else. My own little space. While a room of my own is nice, all I really need is a cubicle. A spot in an unassuming place, on the walk from the window to the water cooler, that I can call my own.

Lately I've felt a great desire to put the different parts of my life into cubicles. To visit each cubicle for a bit each day, and then move on to the next one. Once I step into a cubicle, I forget all the others. I focus on the work at hand in that cubicle, do what needs to be done, and then I go to the next one.

This morning I visited the Exercise Cubicle, and then I spend a few minutes in the Classical Guitar Cubicle. Now I'm in the Writing Cubicle--one that doesn't get visited so often anymore, I'm afraid. Next will be the Family Cubicle--getting Anne up and ready for school--and then onward to the Work Cubicle, which itself is divided into mini-cubicles. Then the Mom Cubicle--cooking dinner, thing bringing Anne to her drum lesson, then harping after her to do her homework. At some point, I may fit in the Self-Grooming Cubicle, which includes showering and getting dressed in something other than these sweaty workout clothes.

At night, I feel cubicle-less. Nights are random. Wash dishes, maybe clean some house, mostly just whine about how tired I am and try to get my daughter to go to sleep. I really hate evenings. Everyone is home, and I feel as if life has no order. No neat cubicle. Finally, late, too late, I might stop into the Reading Cubicle for a bit.

I miss so many cubicles during the day. The Piano Cubicle. The Voice Cubicle. The Running Cubicle. The Meditation Cubicle.

So if my life was an office building, it would have a lot of dusty, neglected cubicles, along with a few that are worn from so much use.

I need to rearrange the cubicles.

I'm doing better, though. I've been exercising every morning--that's one cubicle that's gotten a lot more use lately. I'm also planning meals, which takes more time, but it's better than falling into a rut, which is what we'd done.

And now it's 7:12 a.m. and my Writing Cubicle is about to close for the day. Time to move on to the Family Cubicle.

Blogging Elsewhere

Hi, Strangers! I've been blogging with my friend Anh over at Then a Gentle Whisper . Check it out!