Overview: My individual performance will be the classical guitar piece, “Robinson’s May”.
Week 1: This week, we have just chosen our solo performances.Because we have not had much practice time, my goals for this week are not very ambitious, as there are a lot of minute details and techniques that will be too confusing and difficult to try to do from the start. My first goal is to be able to play the song from beginning to end without making an obvious error and without looking at the sheet music. For now, quality is not important. It is more important at this point to have a solid foundation that I can build up on in the upcoming weeks. Also, for next week I would like to improve my warm-ups through research or other sources. Because I have not had too many lessons or teaching with guitar, I am not knowledgable about many of the “ritualistic drills”. To increase not only my rate of improvement, but also the overall success or execution of the piece, doing these drills may be a huge help.
There are two main warm-ups or practice parts that I will be doing in order to be able to play the whole song. The first phase is the “sheet music” phase, which is when I will focus on note and rhythmic accuracy, reading the notes on the manuscript paper as I play. In order to play this song, I will have to be able to do finger sliding techniques and playing strings with specific fingers. The warm-ups for finger siding are specified in the video. They are useful generally speaking with similar techniques like hammer-ons and pull-offs that will make me a better guitarist overall. These techniques are also directly linked to the finger sliding technique in the song with finger sliding practice.
Once I am able to play the song well enough, then the next phase is the “memorization” phase, which is when I will focus on committing the song to memory. To memorize any piece is mostly trial and error. When I can’t remember a part of the song, I will peek at the sheet music and make a mental note in my head to focus on that particular part of the song.
Week 2: As outlined in last week’s plan, I was able to use both warm-ups to learn the song both reading the sheet paper and from memory. The slides were a little bit hard to get used to because there are small technical details that determine how good the slide sounds, which differs depending on the desired sound. The speed of the finger slide and the pressure or force on the strings were the two main details I could pick out. More importantly, I achieved my main goal of being able to play the song through completely by memory.
For this next week, my goal is to make the finger slides sound nicer. In order to achieve this goal, I need to learn the basics about finger sliding technique. This is my first time experiencing the finger sliding technique, so I found a very comprehensive video that is in-depth while being very easily understandable for a beginner guitar player such as myself. It suggests practicing techniques as well as ways to compensate or make it easier, then increasing the difficulty as I progress. The suggestion to practice different fingers in the video is very, very useful because in my piece I am required to slide with multiple fingers, including trickier fingers like the pinky finger and ring finger.
Once this is done, I’m going to do additional finger slides mentioned in a different video which outlines an a-minor pentatonic scale. I will practice doing these slides in the video while also doing the specific slides that are found in the piece to make sure that the warm-ups have a direct impact on my ability to play the slides in the song.
Week 3: This week, I decided to make a drastic change to the individual performance. Instead of performing the song “Love Affair”, I will be performing the song “Robinson’s May”. There is enough time between now and the performance date to be able to accomplish this. The two reasons for the change are that I thought that “Love Affair” was not sufficiently challenging and that the vibe did not completely fit the setting and the audience. “Robinson’s May” is both more challenging and is a more upbeat and, I think, suitable vibe.
I have already learned part of the song with my guitar teacher. In this song, it is very important to understand the phrasing and the flow of the song in order to be able to play it. In my case, I have clearly indicated on the sheet music where the phrases are as shown below. This has helped me understand the flow much better.
Two other issues that I have been using similar sheet music tactics for is dynamics and duration of notes. In my piece, there are many instances where bass notes or other random notes are held as other notes are being played on top of them. Sometimes, it’s confusing to remember which instances I am supposed to hold the note for longer. I have notated my sheet music like so.
My goal for this week is to be able to play the whole song fluently. At the moment, I can play 1/2 to 2/3 of the song well. In order to become fluent, I am emulating this video. As a warm-up, I am also playing other classical songs that I have learned, like “Love Affair” and “Spanish Romance” to warm-up my classical guitar muscles before learning more of the piece and trying to refine my playing of the piece.
In music class today, me and yongi played our individual performances to each other and gave each other constructive criticism. Two opinions are always better than one opinion, and in this case yongi and I are on a similar level, so it was a good experience for both of us to play to each other. Also, his overall impression of my play has given me a bit of confidence as well.
Week 4: This week was a bit of a hectic week. With our group performances and our pre-Spring Break workload, which was quite heavy to say the least, it has been significantly harder to allocate time to practicing my song. Although I have made progress from last week and I can say that I accomplished last week’s goal of being able to play through the song, progress has been stunted a bit. The song is a little rusty still in a few places, so my goal for this week is to get back on track and be able to play the piece with even more fluency. I will practice the same warm-ups as last week.
As I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things, I have noticed a bad development that I need to fix immediately. In the piece, the endings to many of the phrases are chords that are held for a significantly longer duration than the others (usually half notes). Recently, I have not been able to hold these chords consistently for the right duration. I feel as though I am always guessing the duration. Here are is one example (where “E7” is written) of what I am talking about.
To rid myself of this musical malady, I am going to use a metronome to keep a steady beat. When I near one of the parts that I have not been timing well, I will look at the manuscript and start counting the rhythm out-loud ,”1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”, to make completely sure that I understand the duration of the note and to be able to update my understanding of the song, so to speak. Eventually, I should move on from counting out loud, to just saying it in my head, to saying it with my head without the metronome, before finally being able to play it correctly witInhout exertion. So, an additional goal for this week is to be able to get the timing of these notes correct.
As far as warm-ups go, I wanted to find one that could help me for a specific part of the piece that I have been finding difficult to play fluently.The reason thatI have identified for why I have struggled with it is the positioning of the hand/wrist. Generally speaking, it is good and necessary to have one’s wrist just out when playing the guitar. For this specific part, however, it is a tough stretch of the hand that requires even more jutting out of the wrist along with quickness of the hand to play well. In order to help be able to play this part (which comes at the very end of the song), I will include these stretches in my warm-up.
This week directly follows the spring break of two weeks, so my technique and fluidity is a little bit rusty as I was a bit lax about my guitar regiment. However, I am confident that I know what I need to do in this following week to not only play notes cleanly but be able to play the song well on performance day. Because performance day is coming up very soon, my practices will not be focused at all on useful things irrelevant to my song, like chords or picking, but will be focused only on song fluency and expression.
So far, I have been practicing by myself either in class or at home. The most crucial parts in my song are the transitions between some of the phrases, especially when the notes are quick and/or in tough positions. When I’m practicing my piece, I will focus on these parts and commit it to muscle memory so that over time I can increase my playing speed without sacrificing fluidity.
To be able to be able to play in front of the music class in a performance setting, however, I will need to practice in a similar environment. Once I feel proficient enough in my song, I will start to practice at least once a day, possibly after dinner or during breakfast, in front of my family. Having an actual audience will put extra pressure on me and I will make mistakes. If I am able to play under these conditions, it should be good preparation for the actual performance day.
Before the performance itself, the best way I can prepare for the performance is by staying calm and not worrying. Worrying only leads to unnecessary baggage and increases the chances of making mistakes in the performance. To stay positive and not worry, the only real remedies are A: Being aware of stress levels/attitude and trying to be calm and B: Be prepared enough so that I can be confident. Before the actual start of my song, I will think of the first measure in my head before I start to play. I’m pretty sure you (Mr.Johnston) was the one who recommended this to me and I found it very useful at the Play, Perform, Create performance.
Review of this Week: I was able to follow the regiment that I outlined. Not only was I able to practice in front of my family, I was also able to play it for my guitar teacher, who gave many good tips on dynamics and expression. I played in front of him and another guitar teacher I do not know as well, which made me feel quite nervous and so was good preparation. During the performance itself, I was surprisingly calm and felt relatively confident, and I think it was reflected in the performance. I am quite satisfied with how the performance went.
Reflection on the Performance Process
Overall, I think that my performance process went quite well this time around and was better-executed compared to the last performance process. This time, I felt like I did a good job of picking apart the piece and mastering each piece with various drills and practice regiments. I managed to learn the song part by part until I had good individual parts that I connected with the help of my guitar teacher. The best part of this year’s process, which Mr.Johnston recommended to us after the last performance, was practicing in performance-like environments. Playing in front of my family and guitar teacher and his friend prepared me well for the actual performance. I felt surprisingly calm and was able to maintain good articulation and tone. The last piece, Spanish Romance, I remember my nervousness making my hands feel a bit weaker and less confident.
However, there were still parts about my process that were not so great. The major fault that I found was that there were still times where I regressed rather than progressed. It always happened when we went on a trip somewhere or I had been busy and not concentrated on guitar. Although it is mostly out of my control, I still think I could have done a little bit more to at least mitigate the regression a little bit. For example, I could have recorded me playing it and listened to it to critique and breakdown, or listened to the good guitar player that I found play it to try and absorb/observe his style and ability. I also could have brought my music sheet and even visualized/imagined playing it or double check rhythms and pitch in my head so at least I can jump right back in the practice process.