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What to Listen for in Your Practicing

Phrasing - Since legato phrasing is more difficult on the guitar than staccato phrasing, pay special attention to connecting notes that make up a phrase.

Articulation - Separate phrases cleanly. Control the silence between notes. Carefully delineate rests. Make sure accented notes are sufficiently pronounced.

Dynamics - Shape phrases with volume. Delineate sections of pieces with contrasts in volume.

Intonation - Not only do you have to tune your instrument, but you must tune every note. Remember that the guitar is not a fixed-pitch instrument. A slight increase or decrease in finger pressure, or a slight bending of a string can affect intonation. Playing out of tune can indicate unnecessary muscle tension. Make sure your guitar is set up properly; don't fight the instrument.

Tone - Choose the appropriate tone for the piece. A bright, brittle tone might me appropriate for a rock tune or even a Mozart keyboard piece, but might be inappropriate for an excerpt from the Bach cello suites or a jazz ballad.

Timbre - You can control the way the overtones of a note behave by changing the pick angle, the string the note is played on, where you pick the string, vibrato, etc.

Ensemble - In French, this word means "together". If you are playing with another person, make sure you listen. If you are playing an accompaniment, play it with enough commitment that another player would want to play ensemble with you.

Time - Last, and by no means least. In fact, this is first in importance. As Leopold Mozart said, "Time is the essence of melody, and melody is the soul of music."


About the Author
Steve has been performing throughout New England for more than thirty years. He has worked as a sideman with artists ranging from Chicago blues singer Little Walter to song stylists Al Martino and Anna-Maria Alberghetti. During his twenty-five years of teaching guitar at Berklee College of Music, Steve developed his pick-and-finger style playing, borrowing from both jazz and classical music. Visit Steve's website at www.frogstoryrecords.com

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