Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Guitarra Mía

At last I feel as if I'm making headway; for a number of years now I'd made repeated efforts at cracking the guitar and tres; and although each time I tried I succeeded in making some progress, I never generated enough momentum to see it through. It was shaping up to become one of life's regrets. Thankfully this time it's different; and I put it down to having invested an inordinate amount of thought into drawing up a detailed plan AND sticking to it like a pit-bull to a postman's shin.

I had set a final target of a six song mini-set: varied but with mutually complementary numbers, covering the range of styles and absorbing the techniques that I wanted. The styles are típico to modern, and the techniques were designed to allow me to play the guajeo style of Arsenio Rodriguez over a complementary AfroCuban bassline adapted from the Travis method. In the faster tempo numbers where this might not be possible, I've been inclined to use chords and arpeggios with percussive counterpoint on the soundboard.

I'm finding it tough to get going on some days; there's such a lot of material to cover that it takes ages for things to come together. A sense of decision paralysis seems to like lurking nearby. But four months plus and this guitar-player wannabe's still at it - with all the songs in place albeit in various states of repair. Overall it's been a summer well spent.

This process has been just as valuable to me as an educator. Why am I succeeding this time when I didn't in the past? Is it in having spent the time establishing the final context? I think so, as now, every practice has a setting, every success is perceivable, every advancement makes clearer the way ahead.

Mosts of all, the guitar has taught me not to be greedy. To recognise that in order to achieve success, one needs to be brave enough to say "no" to those seductive "really nice to have but not at all essential" things; and to recognise them in their different guises.

Obtaining early results is a cornerstone of effective teaching, and learning to play this instrument has revived my understanding of its significance.

Yeo Loo Yen

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