Welcome to the Vault
Comprehensive Guide to Classical Guitar Technique
Doug's Secret Vault of Classical Guitar Technique Tips
The only reason for mastering technique is to make sure
the hands do not prevent the soul from expressing itself.
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- Chasing Rainbows If you are unable to play a passage after months or years of practicing it, something is wrong. Playing the guitar should be fun and rewarding, not an exercise in endless frustration. If you have ever felt like throwing something across the room after messing up a passage you've been practicing forever, you need to read this tip! Part 1 focuses on the LEFT hand. July 2019
- An Important Principle of Left-Hand Fingering This important principle of left-hand fingering will make your playing sound much smoother. It will also reduce mistakes. The concept is not complicated. And, you will find it easy to apply the principle to your pieces. March 2018
- The Keys to Consistent Classical Guitar Playing, Part 1 of 2. Do you practice a song or a passage over and over but you still don't play it right all the time? Or, do you isolate the difficult parts of a piece and practice them over and over, but when you try to play through the entire song, you blow the whole thing? Do you play it well when you are alone, but then mess up when someone else is listening? Drives you nuts, doesn't it? Good news! I will show you known strategies, tried and tested, that can be used to improve your consistency in playing the guitar.
- Classical Guitar Fingernails. How to Shape, File, and Polish Your Fingernails. The most complete and detailed information anywhere on determining the correct nail length and shape for you, and how to file, shape, and polish your classical guitar nails.
- Classical Guitar Fingernail Health. Why are my guitar nails so thin? Why do my nails break so easily? How can I get my classical guitar nails to grow better? My fingernails keep splitting, what can I do? These are frequently-asked questions by classical guitarists. I will give you some answers.
- Best Artificial Guitar Nail System Yet. You say you broke a nail? Can't grow fingernails? You have bad nails, period? Man up. It isn't a big deal any more.
- Tone Color, Part 1 of 3. The great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia once described the guitar as a miniature orchestra. This technique tip will teach you how to produce an incredible variety of tone colors to bring out the best in your guitar playing. In Part 1, I explain and demonstrate seven parameters you can learn to use to change the color of a plucked note. Each is illustrated with a beautifully produced video.
- Step Practice. This month I demonstrate a practice technique that can help you learn almost anything, from sophisticated pieces like the Bach Chaconne to the guitar part of Peter, Paul, and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon! Some call it the "step-practice" method. It is a simple concept, but effective.
- Classical Guitar Scales. "The practice of scales enables one to solve a greater number of technical problems in a shorter time than the study of any other exercise." These are the words of Andrés Segovia, the greatest guitarist of the last century. This month's tip is a guide to why you should practice scales, how to practice them, and a list of 19 technical maladies that they can cure. In Part 2, I will demonstrate in a video how to fix those 19 problems.
- Practice Routines, Part 1 of 2. Practice routines are important. A practice routine is a habit that determines your progress. A good practice routine can make your abilities as a guitarist grow very quickly. A bad routine will result in slow growth and little improvement. Guitarists who practice well, play well.
- Cross-String Ornaments, Part 1 of 3. Many guitarists love cross-string ornaments. They like their clarity and brilliance. Others think they sound like "two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm." This group much prefers slurred ornaments. This month I will explain the pros and cons of both and let you hear the differences. And, I will explain the "Fast-Practice Technique" of learning cross-string ornaments.
- How to Master the Classical Guitar Tremolo, a sample from Part 1 of 4. This is the most complete information you will find anywhere on mastering this wonderful technique. But you really have to read all four parts to learn the technique. Reason enough to subscribe.
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5. His arrangement of the beautiful Celtic song Skellig.
6. Doug's comprehensive step by step guide: How to Master the Classical Guitar Tremolo.
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Once you subscribe, you will be able to search and choose tips to read by:
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2. Name of piece.
For example, are you learning to play Leyenda? You will be able to use this index to find all the technique tips Doug has written that discuss techniques you need to know to play Leyenda at a high level of proficiency with live links to all the articles.
3. Name of composer. This index lists all the composers referenced in the technique tips. Again, live links will take you directly to the articles.
CLASSICAL GUITAR LESSONS:
Left-Hand Classical Guitar Technique Tips
- Bar Chords. The Secret ("Little Jennifer's Secret") of How to Play Clear Bar Chords. Many guitarists have trouble with bar chords. This guitar lesson will help.
- More on Bar Chords. How to Learn to Play a Bar Chord in Under 2 Minutes. Plus, watch Doug's video spoof, "Bar Chords—The Ginsu Knives of Guitar Playing."
- Chord Changes. The Little-Known Secret of Connecting Your Chord Changes Smoothly. When you're changing guitar chords and it sounds disjointed, use this secret.
- Guide Fingers. More than you ever wanted to know about guide fingers.
- Slurs. ("Hammer-Ons" and "Pull-offs") When you learn how to play the guitar, your slur technique must be top notch. It's an important part of classical guitar technique. This tip contains high-def guitar videos.
- Playing in High Positions. Conquering Guitar Acrophobia: Playing in the High Positions Past the 12th Fret.
- Nasty Habits. Top Ten Nasty Habits of Guitar Technique Part 1: Allowing Left-hand Fingers to Help a Bar Chord. If your bar chord technique is weak, this is what happens.
- Nasty Habits. Ten Top Nasty Habits of Guitar Technique Part 2. Allowing the Helpless Pinky to be Pushed Around.
- String Squeaks and Romeo and Juliet. How to get rid of string squeaks.
- Vibrato. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On: How to Execute Vibrato, Part 1. These are advanced guitar lessons on this essential classical guitar technique. Very few guitar lessons go in depth to this degree. This series on vibrato contains many high-def guitar videos.
- Vibrato. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On: How to Execute Vibrato, Part 2
- Vibrato. Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On: How to Execute Vibrato,Part 3. The stunning conclusion--includes what to do if confronted by a HIPPLF. A must read!
- Shifting. Hey Bud, Look Where You're Going or, Look Before You Leap. Here is a guitar technique tip that is very simple but has the potential to improve your playing a lot. It is one of those things you think, "Wait, that's too simple. There has to be more to it than that."
- No Girly-Men Guitarists Here. Develop your hand strength by practicing Macho-Monster Bar Chords.
- Stretching exercises. Good for everyone. And they make life easier for the player with short or stiff fingers.
- How to Use Hinge Bars as Guide Fingers.. This technique will enable you to play difficult passages containing consecutive bars securely and accurately with less hand fatigue and less string noise.
- Specialty Bars Part 1: Hinge Bars.. There are more types of bars to master than just the basic bar. I call them specialty bars. This tip tells you everything you need to know about hinge bars.
- Specialty Bars Part 2: Cross-Fret Bars.. There are more types of bars to master than just the basic bar. I call them specialty bars. This tip tells you everything you need to know about cross-fret bars.
- Specialty Bars Part 3: Partial Bars.. There are more types of bars to master than just the basic bar. I call them specialty bars. This tip tells you everything you need to know about partial bars. Learn the valuable lesson I learned from the Rolling Stones about playing partial bars. And find out why I give thanks to the Rolling Stones every time I play Francisco Tárrega's Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
- The Left-Hand Position. This month it's back to the basics: the left-hand position. This is an all-video tip. It is a nearly one-hour comprehensive guitar lesson on positioning your left hand. I explain the parallel and slanted hand positions, pros and cons of each, when to use them, and how to use and position the left-hand thumb. But this isn't just for beginners. Even if you've been playing a long time I think you will learn something new.
- The Spider Exercise. The spider exercise is a valuable exercise for every guitarist in the late-beginner to early-intermediate stage of playing. It is one of the best exercises for developing both the independence and synchronization of movements of the left-hand fingers. For the late-intermediate to advanced guitarist, it is an excellent stretching and warm-up exercise. Read the tip and watch my comprehensive 28-minute video on how to master this great exercise.
- Playing on the Tips of the Fingers. Question from subscriber: "Should I try to be so precise with the left hand that I not touch adjacent strings ever? I mean, sometimes it does not matter because the adjacent string is not involved. But then again, I am still touching an adjacent string. What should I be trying to do in practice?" The answer is both. Read on and watch the videos to understand why.
- THE BEST EXERCISE YOU CAN PRACTICE FOR THE LEFT HAND, Part 1 of 2. Don't you wish there was an exercise for the left hand that would give you speed, accuracy, agility, finger independence, strength, and endurance? Wait a minute...There is one! Read on.
- THE BEST EXERCISE YOU CAN PRACTICE FOR THE LEFT HAND, Part 2 of 2. Practicing for speed.
- The Left-Hand Thumb. Learn the number-one concept you must know to use the thumb properly. This concept will help your left hand work much more efficiently.
- How to Reach Difficult Stretches and Nasty Chords. I give you eleven techniques you can use to conquer any difficult stretch or nasty chord that dares to show its face on your fretboard. To help you out, I provide 47 musical examples and 21 short videos.
- Practicing Intervals: 3rd, 6ths, Octaves, and 10ths in First Position, Part One . Sor, Giuliani, and many others included the practice of intervals in their guitar method books. Mastering the playing of legato intervals is an essential skill and will do a world of good for your guitar playing. This tip includes 10 videos (over 45 minutes), text, and 30 musical examples to help lead you to mastery. May 2017
- Practicing Intervals, Part 2. How to Master Playing Broken Intervals in Connected Legato Style. In Part 1 the focus was on plucking the two notes of a 3rd, 6th, octave, or 10th simultaneously and connecting passages of consecutive intervals seamlessly in legato style. In Part 2, we are going to step it up a notch to learn to play broken intervals seamlessly in legato style. The mastery of this technique will make passages of "BROKEN" intervals in your pieces sound fantastic. It will also improve your left-hand finger independence significantly. June 2017
- Secrets to an Effortless, Relaxed Left-Hand Classical Guitar Technique. Part 1 of 2. Are you searching for the secrets to playing with a relaxed left hand? THE BEST PLAYERS DO NOT PLAY WITH A RELAXED LEFT HAND. They have EFFICIENT left-hand techniques that use only the effort needed to execute a passage of music. Learn how to apply minimal effort for maximum efficiency. January 2018
- Secrets to an Effortless, Relaxed Left-Hand Classical Guitar Technique. Part 2 of 2. As I pointed out last month, the best players do not play with a relaxed left hand. They have EFFICIENT left-hand techniques that use only the effort needed to execute a passage of music. In Part 2 (the conclusion), I provide more ways to achieve the goal to apply minimal effort to produce maximum efficiency in everything we do with the left hand. February 2018
- Learn to Collapse Your Left-Hand Tip Joints. Collapsing or straightening the tip joint of a left-hand finger has the potential to: 1. Provide an anchor to stabilize a chord formation. 2. Provide extra leverage to successfully execute a pull-off or an ornament containing a pull-off. 3. Prevent pulling a string into another string thereby maintaining optimal string spacing. It's an important technique. September 2017
- An Important Principle of Left-Hand Fingering This important principle of left-hand fingering will make your playing sound much smoother. It will also reduce mistakes. The concept is not complicated. And, you will find it easy to apply the principle to your pieces. March 2018
- How to Play Shifts on the Classical Guitar and Improve Your Shift Technique. Everything, and I mean everything you need to know about shifts and shift technique for the classical guitar. November 2018
- How to Get Rid of Fret and Finger Buzzes on the Classical Guitar. Fret buzzes are not subtle flaws in the sound of your playing. They are obvious, annoying, and instantly noticeable to your listeners. There is more to getting rid of them than just pressing harder. Learn more. December 2018
- Left-Hand Finger Preparation. Left-hand finger preparation is a key part of an effortless left-hand technique and playing without mistakes. Our principle we learn this month is to NEVER just lift a finger. Always lift it to where it is needed next. I have ten video tutorials for you with numerous musical examples. September 2019
- How to Play Rhythmically-Even Slurs. Learn how to execute rhythmically-even slurs (hammer-ons and pull-offs) in the pieces you play. I know. It doesn't sound like a page-turner. But rhythmically-uneven slurs can ruin a piece and make you sound like an amateur, even to the casual listener. Stop mangling your slurs! November 2019
CLASSICAL GUITAR LESSONS:
Right-Hand Classical Guitar Technique Tips
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 1 of 4. This is the most complete information you will find anywhere on mastering this wonderful technique. But you really have to read all four parts to learn the technique. Reason enough to subscribe.
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 2 of 4.
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 3 of 4.
- How to Master the Tremolo Part 4 of 4.
Fast scales, Arpeggio Technique
- Arpeggio Exercises. Want to DRAMATICALLY improve your classical guitar right hand technique on arpeggios? Forget the Giuliani 120 studies or the Carlevaro 230—they're for people who enjoy root canals and filling out income tax forms. This is a much better way to improve your basic classical guitar technique.
- Fast guitar scales with "ami". Do you dream of one day being able to play lightning-fast guitar scales like nobody's business? Well,lucky you, your day has come!
- Right-Hand Planting Technique for Arpeggios.
Tone Quality, Fingernail Care
- How to Shape, File, and Polish Your Fingernails. The most complete and detailed information anywhere on determining the correct nail length and shape for you, and how to file, shape, and polish your fingernails.
- Best Artificial Nail System Yet. You say you broke a nail? Can't grow nails? You have bad nails, period? Man up. It isn't a big deal any more.
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 1 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone on the Treble Strings with Rest Stroke. This tip has fantastic video and text explaining seldom-explained details on producing a beautiful rest-stroke tone.
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 2 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone on the Treble Strings with Free Stroke. This tip alone is worth the price of a subscription.
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 3 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone with the Fingers on the Bass Strings. When you use the fingers on the wound basses is your tone thin? Getting lots of scratchy noise? This tip explains how to get a full tone and get rid of the "scratchies".
- How to Produce a Beautiful Tone, Part 4 of 4. How to Produce a Good Tone with the Thumb on the Bass Strings.
- Fingernail Health. Why are my nails so thin? Why do my nails break so easily? How can I get my nails to grow better? My nails keep splitting, what can I do? These are frequently-asked questions by guitarists. I will give you some answers.
- How to Find the Best Length and Shape for Your Thumbnail. We classical guitarists pay close attention to how we shape and file our fingernails. After all, we want to produce as beautiful a tone as possible. But the thumbnail is often neglected. In this technique tip I will explain how to figure out what thumbnail length and shape is best for you.
- Right-hand Position. How to Find a Good Right hand Position for the Classical Guitar.
- How to Roll a Chord, Part 1 of 2. How to properly execute this commonly-used but tricky technique.
- How to Roll a Chord, Part 2 of 2. More in-depth detail on how to properly execute this tricky-to-learn technique.
- The Tambor Percussion Effect. Watch the high def video demos of this multi-faceted classical guitar technique.
- Rest Stroke Follow-through.. Basic classical guitar right hand technique.
- Right-hand String Crosses. Good String Crosses Gone Bad. Setting up your right-hand fingering to produce good string crosses.
- The anchor-finger technique. More than you may want to know about this classical guitar right hand technique.
- Interval and Chord Balance Part 1 of 4. Part 1 describes how to learn to control the relative volume between two notes played simultaneously as an interval. A crucial element of classical guitar technique.
- Interval and Chord Balance Part 2 (of 4). Part 2 describes the guitar technique of how to bring out an individual note of a three or four-note chord.
- Interval and Chord Balance Part 3 (of 4). Part 3 describes techniques using the thumb to bring out an individual note of an interval or chord.
- Interval and Chord Balance part 4 (of 4). Part 4 shows how to use the guitar techniques described in Parts 1-3 on Luis Milan's Pavane No. 1.
- Right-Hand Finger Alternation. To Alternate or Not to Alternate—THAT Is the Question.
- Interval and Chord Balance Update. This video is just like having a private guitar lesson with Doug Niedt. This is an update to the articles preceding. Doug shows a very cool way to learn to control interval and chord balance.
- How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings, Part 1 of 3. When we learn a piece, we tend to focus on left-hand fingerings. In fact, many guitarists let the right hand "find its own way" making few conscious decisions about specific fingering. That is a grave error. Bad right-hand fingering can cause dysfunctional tension in the hand, inaccurate playing by the right hand, inaccurate playing in the left hand, loss of speed, and poor tone quality. In this month's technique tip, I will give you some guiding principles to help you choose good right-hand fingerings.
- How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings, Part 2 of 3. In Part 2 of How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings we look at how several elements determine fingering choices. For instance, playing on the wound bass strings with the fingers vs. the thumb. How voices in a piece determine which fingers to use to play each voice. And two big ones, finger alternation and string crossings.
- How to Choose Right-Hand Fingerings, Part 3 of 3. Thumb-Index fingering, using the little finger, playing 5 and 6-note chords, playing intervals on the bass strings, fingering for harmonics, tremolo, fast scales and more!
- Rasgueados, Part 1. Rasgueado technique for the classical guitarist. Doug begins with the basics to teach you to play several impressive rasgueados. This is an amazing amount of information not available in one place anywhere else.
- Rasgueados, Part 2: Blended Rasgueados. This is the style of rasgueado used by classical guitarists. Try it in Leyenda or many other pieces.
- Rasgueados, Part 3 (the conclusion) covers The Rasgueado Redondo, which is the continous or rolled rasgueado. I demonstrate the way classical guitarists execute it and also the flamenco version. Finally I give you a glossary of many different rasgueado patterns used in flamenco. These can be used by the classical player for exercise to improve right-hand finger speed, relaxation, endurance, and independence.
- The Right-Hand Little Finger, Part 1 of 2. The movements of the right-hand little finger are something most of us rarely think about or notice. It is time to change that!
- The Right-Hand Little Finger, Part 2 of 2. I explain how and where the little finger can be used in the classical guitar repertoire.
- A Secret to a Relaxed Right Hand: The Pluck-Return Free Stroke. Our right hand probably uses free stroke (tirando) at least 95% of the time in playing pieces. If we can learn to play free stroke with minimal effort, we can make a huge step to achieving a relaxed right-hand technique. One secret to achieving a relaxed right hand is the use of the Pluck-Return free stroke. Read more. October 2017
- The Double Thumb Stroke Never heard of it? It is used in a number of pieces in the standard classical guitar repertoire so it is a technique you should master. Read on! December 2017
- How to Use Rest Stroke with the Fingers to Bring Out a Melody Within an Arpeggio, Part 1. We often come across passages where the melody is part of an arpeggio. How do we play the passage so that the melody is clearly heard and the arpeggio stays in the background? Read on for the answer. August 2018
- How to Use Rest Stroke with the Fingers to Bring Out a Melody Within an Arpeggio, Part 2. In Part 2, I address the "elephant in the room" of how to deal with the situation where you must play the melody rest stroke at the same time the thumb plays free stroke. I have a step-by-step method to master it. September 2018
- How to Master String Crosses or String Crossings or String Changes on the Classical Guitar, Part 1 of 2. The mastery of right-hand string crossing is fundamental to basic classical guitar technique. String crosses occur in nearly every piece in the classical guitar repertoire. This month I explain how you can master them. January 2019
- How to Master String Crosses or String Crossings or String Changes on the Classical Guitar, Part 2 of 2 (conclusion). The mastery of right-hand string crossing is fundamental to basic classical guitar technique. String crosses occur in nearly every piece in the classical guitar repertoire. This month, in Part 2, I conclude my discussion of how you can master them. February 2019
CLASSICAL GUITAR LESSONS:
Performing Techniques for Classical Guitarists
- What Do Yo-Yo Ma, Christina Aguilera, and The Pussycat Dolls have in common?. Performing With Energy, Passion, and Excitement: It's All About Communication.
- Pre-Planting At The Beginning of a Piece. Want to have a boffo beginning? Prep the fingers AND the brain. This one is obvious, but VERY useful.
- Adrenaline and Altered Perception of Tempo. Reading this tip should improve your performances nearly 100%. A major cause of performance difficulties is playing too fast--and not knowing it.
- FOR MEN ONLY. No hairy arms or ankles.
- Using Dynamics in Performance.. How to be sure your dynamics come across in a concert hall or other performing space.
- Where Do I Put The Darn Dynamics? This is a follow-up to the previous tip.
- How to Give a Performance Without Making a Complete Fool of Yourself. This tip has a large amount of practical information for the aspiring performer.
- How to Stabilize Scordatura Tunings. It can be difficult enough to tune a guitar in standard tuning, especially during a performance. Here is how to handle altered tunings.
- How to Play Loud on the Guitar. Want to add more drama to your playing? Increasing your dynamic range (the range of volume from soft to loud) is the way to do it. Playing the classical guitar quietly is easy. Playing loud without distorting the tone quality is difficult. In this tip, I tell and show you how to do it with text and a dozen riveting videos to help you out.
- How to Control Stage Fright (Performance Anxiety). There is no cure for stage fright or performance anxiety. However, there is one very effective way to control stage fright or performance anxiety to enable you to give the best performances you have ever given. It will work for almost everyone.
- How to Start a Piece at the Correct Tempo. One of the key elements needed for a successful performance is that you begin a piece at the right speed—that is, the speed that is appropriate for your technical ability. The most common error is to begin too fast. That tempo may sound great for the opening, but then when you come to a difficult passage in the piece, you crash because you can't play that passage at the tempo you started at. In this tip I explain exactly how to find your ideal target tempo for each piece you play. July 2017
- The Quest for Perfection. The Quest for Perfection—Hopes and Realities. December 2019
CLASSICAL GUITAR LESSONS:
Practicing Strategies for Classical Guitarists
- Memorizing Music. How to Never Ever Forget a Piece of Music Again.
- A New Year's Resolution. Keeping Yourself on the Practicing Track. An inspirational essay to help you get on track with practicing the guitar every day.
- Practice Goals. Practice smart. To get great results out of your classical guitar practicing routine, it must have focus. Here's how to set goals for every practice session.
- Practicing in Altered Rhythms. Learn how Itzhak Perlman's accompanist practiced. Practicing In Altered Rhythms will turn your playing around!
- Practice With Your Eyes Closed. There's a reason people close their eyes when they kiss.
- "The Old Kleenex Trick". A very LOW-tech solution to hearing yourself better.
- Talent is NOT the Answer. This month I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that if you follow all my tech tips and do everything I recommend, you can master the guitar. The bad news is that it will take 10,000+ hours of focused, deliberate practice to do it. Face the brutal facts of reality here.
- Sight-reading. How do you get a guitarist to be quiet? Put a piece of sheet music in front of him. Not good. Develop your sight-reading skill. This is a must for every guitarist.
- "I've Practiced That Spot A Hundred Times. But when I play for someone, I still mess it up." Heard yourself say this a few times? This may be the missing element in your classical guitar practicing routine.
- How to Use Reflex Bursts to Learn a Fast Scale. Learn to play scales effortlessly at warp speed with this great practice technique.
- How to Use Reflex Bursts to Master Fast, Difficult Passages Other Than Scales. Use this wonderful practice technique to master a variety of difficult passages.
- Scales, Part 1 of 2. "The practice of scales enables one to solve a greater number of technical problems in a shorter time than the study of any other exercise." These are the words of Andrés Segovia, the greatest guitarist of the last century. This month's tip is a guide to why you should practice scales, how to practice them, and a list of 19 technical maladies that they can cure. In Part 2, I will demonstrate in a video how to fix those 19 problems.
- Scales, Part 2 of 2. Last month's tip was about practicing scales. At the end of the article, I cited 19 technical problems one could cure with the careful practice of scales. This month's tip is a video explaining each problem, followed by a short segment demonstrating how to use scale practice to fix it. The video runs 38 minutes, so you might want to watch it in small doses.
- Practice Routines Part 1 of 2. Practice routines are important. A practice routine is a habit that determines your progress. A good practice routine can make your abilities as a guitarist grow very quickly. A bad routine will result in slow growth and little improvement. Guitarists who practice well, play well.
- Practice Routines Part 2 of 2. In Part 2 I explain what to do after you have warmed up and practiced your technical exercises.
- "Know What You Are Playing" SING! To play a piece of music well, one of the most important things is to "know how the song goes". Perhaps the most basic element of knowing "how the song goes" is to know the melody of the piece. Surprisingly, many students do not know the melody of some of the pieces they play! Fortunately, there is an easy cure for this: SING.
- The Step-Practice Method This month I demonstrate a practice technique that can help you learn almost anything, from sophisticated pieces like the Bach Chaconne to the guitar part of Peter, Paul, and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon! Some call it the "step-practice" method. It is a simple concept, but effective.
- Mark Up Your Music. Marking up or annotating your music—in other words, writing things down, helps keep your practice sessions efficient and your playing consistent. It helps you keep track of everything and all the changes you make as you are learning a piece. I list and explain 15 essential items to mark in your music. Learn more about this obvious and simple but valuable practice tool.
- The Keys to Consistent Classical Guitar Playing, Part 1 of 2. Do you practice a song or a passage over and over but you still don't play it right all the time? Or, do you isolate the difficult parts of a piece and practice them over and over, but when you try to play through the entire song, you blow the whole thing? Do you play it well when you are alone, but then mess up when someone else is listening? Drives you nuts, doesn't it? Good news! I will show you known strategies, tried and tested, that can be used to improve your consistency in playing the classical guitar.
- The Keys to Consistent Classical Guitar Playing, Part 2 of 2. More of the crucial elements you need to learn to improve your consistency in playing the classical guitar.
- Counting Out Loud. This is an element of basic musicianship. It is especially important for the beginning and intermediate guitarist. In fact, this skill will improve your guitar playing more than anything else you can do. Read on.
- The Metronome is Your Friend! Part One. You probably do not want to hear this, but the metronome is one of your best allies in improving your guitar playing. April 2018
- The Metronome is Your Friend! Part Two. The saga continues. How to use the metronome with subdivision to make your arpeggios and tremolos even, to understand complex rhythms, and more. May 2018
- The Metronome is Your Friend! Part Three. The saga continues. How to use the metronome to improve the pieces you are learning. June 2018
- The Metronome is Your Friend! Part Four (conclusion). How to use the metronome to improve rubato, fix problems caused by ornaments, improve your ensemble playing, and more. July 2018
- Hemiola: Switching from 6/8 to 3/4 Meter. Do your performances of Spanish and Latin music fall flat? Are they missing that special swing? Most likely, your hemiola is out of whack. No, it isn't a disease. I will explain what it is and how to fix it. August 2017
- How to Maintain Pieces in Your Repertoire. Here is the problem: As you finish learning pieces and want to move on to learning new repertoire, how do you keep those pieces you just learned in good shape? How do you keep them in good enough condition, so you can play them anytime, anyplace without having to play them every day? After all, for most of us, there isn't time to practice every old piece every day, plus have time to learn new pieces. This tip gives you the solution. November 2017
- How to Practice the Classical Guitar: Take a Break! A practice concept that will reap tremendous benefits is a simple one: TAKE A BREAK. Taking a break is beneficial both mentally and physically. Three types of breaks are very effective. Learn more. October 2018
- Chasing Rainbows, Part 1 of 2. Have you ever practiced a passage in a piece for weeks, months, or years? And you still can't play it? Playing the guitar should be fun and rewarding, not an exercise in endless frustration. This month, learn how YOU can stop chasing rainbows, master the passage, and move on. July 2019
- Chasing Rainbows, Part 2 of 2. In Part 2 of "Chasing Rainbows" I demonstrate how changing the right-hand fingerings can make a troublesome passage playable. Remember, if you are unable to play a passage after months or years of practicing it, something is wrong. Our goal in playing the classical guitar is to experience enjoyment and fulfillment; not endless frustration. If you have ever felt like throwing something across the room after messing up a passage you've been practicing forever, you need to read this tip! August 2019
CLASSICAL GUITAR LESSONS:
- Marsha to Doug: "You need a bath." Hand Contrast Baths. Having problems with muscle or tendon pain? Try this.
- Put An End To Your Guitar's Lap Dance Now. A great way to keep your classical guitar in a stable playing position.
- Should I Listen to Recordings and Performances of Other Guitarists?
- Metronome Tempo Markings. File under: "Lies My Classical Guitar Teacher Told Me." Or, more charitably, "Things My Classical Guitar Teacher Forgot to Mention--Or Assumed I Knew."
- Connecting A Single Melody Note To A Strummed Or Arpeggiated Chord. Not too many guitarists do this classical guitar technique correctly.
- Harmonics. These high-def videos show you all the ins and outs of playing natural harmonics, right-hand harmonics, and artificial harmonics. A very fun guitar technique.
- Cascading Harmonics for Classical Guitarists. This is probably the best tutorial to be found anywhere on cascading harmonics. Thirty musical examples and 14 video clips demonstrate in great detail how to execute this wonderful guitar technique.
- How to Make Harmonics Louder on the Classical Guitar. How do you produce louder harmonics? What is the best way to pluck a natural harmonic? What is the best way to pluck an artificial harmonic? Should you use rest stroke, free stroke, play straight onto the nail, left side of the nail? Should you use the thumb? If you use the thumb, should you use flesh/nail or just the flesh? All the answers are here. October 2019
- How to Nail Harmonics Past the 19th Fret. It's really simple.
- How to Read Harmonic Notation. This 28-page guide will help you navigate the murky world of harmonic notation and its contradictions and inconsistencies.
- Doug's Rule of Life #17. This rule can be applied to your entire life.
- How to Tune Your Guitar. The best way to tune your guitar. Plus, lots of facts you never knew. Why you can never be in tune with a piano. Why you should never play in a room with a fan. And more. For the intermediate and advanced guitarist.
- How to Buy a Guitar. How do you choose a guitar? What do you look for? This article tells all.
- How to Count the Rhythms in Songs Written in Multiple Parts. Most of the music we play has a melody, accompaniment, and bass part. In other words, it is written in multiple voices. I find that many beginners and even intermediate guitarists sometimes have difficulty counting pieces written in multiple parts. This month's tip explains how multiple voices work and how to figure out how to count them. You may especially be interested in the video towards the end of the tip. I explain how the voices work in Fernando Sor's very popular Study No. 5, a piece many of you probably play or want to learn.
- Pizzicato. This tip is about the pizzicato effect, a very interesting sonority that appears in many classical guitar pieces. Most method books explain it in a paragraph or two. But there is a lot more to playing pizzicato than a paragraph or two. My technique tip includes 12 pages of detailed instructions, several musical examples, and 6 videos including one 30-minute video that shows every aspect (and then some) of playing pizzicato.
You will learn not only the details of the traditional pizzicato, but will also learn why Fernando Sor would never cut it as a heavy-metal guitarist, how to produce the California surf music guitar pizzicato, and even how to imitate the 60's fuzz tone of the opening riff of the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction on the classical guitar. Only here will you find info like that, folks!
- Cross-String Trills and other Ornaments, Part 1 of 3. Many guitarists love cross-string ornaments. They like their clarity and brilliance. Others think they sound like "two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm." This group much prefers slurred ornaments.
This month I will explain the pros and cons of both and let you hear the differences. And, I will explain the "Fast-Practice Technique" of learning cross-string ornaments.
- Cross-String Trills and other Ornaments, Part 2 of 3. In Part 2 I explain the "Slow-Practice Technique" for learning cross-string ornaments. I also explain the role of the left hand in executing cross-string ornaments.
- Cross-String Trill and other Ornaments, Part 3 of 3. In Part 3, I show examples of how to use cross-string ornaments in real-life repertoire. First, you will learn how to use them in a Baroque piece, the well-known Bourrée by J.S. Bach. Then, I will demonstrate how to use them in Romantic piano music, specifically La Maja de Goya by Enrique Granados, and guitar favorite Leyenda (Asturias) by Isaac Albéniz.
- How to Play Staccato, Part 1 of 3. Text, musical examples, and 45 minutes (!) of detailed video instruction on left and right-hand staccato. How to play varying degrees of crisp staccato with minimal extraneous noise.
- How to Play Staccato, Part 2 of 3. Maintaining clean, short staccato on passages with string crossings can be very tricky to do. I guide you through it step by step. I also cover the technique of executing staccato with the back of the right-hand thumb.
- How to Play Staccato, Part 3 of 3. In Part 3 (the conclusion) I cover how to use staccato and legato at the same time in separate parts of a passage to add interest and contrast. I also discuss how to use staccato in contrapuntal and even popular music. To illustrate my points, I demonstrate with videos of passages Rossiniana by Mauro Giuliani, Sor's Grand Solo by Fernando Sor, Malagueña by Isaac Albéniz, and even Mr. Bojangles.
- String Damping, Part 1. Have you ever learned a piece and even though you are playing it quite well, noticed that something still doesn't sound quite right? You are playing all the right notes and the correct rhythms, but it just doesn't sound clean?
One of the steps of polishing a piece that you might have missed is the application of string damping throughout the piece. It is one of those details that contributes to the overall impression of how you sound.
Part 1 dives in with several musical examples and 8 videos to get you started on this important technique.
- String Damping, Part 2. Part 2 describes how to use the back of the thumb for string damping. Also learn why you might have to consume mass quantities of donuts, potato chips, cheeseburgers, Twinkies, Oreos, and cupcakes to improve your back-of-the-thumb string damping technique.
- String Damping, Part 3. In Part 3, we learn how to damp going from a higher to lower bass string. We will then be able to play any piece with an absolutely clean, linear bass line.
We also learn to damp melody lines going from a higher to lower string. Hang in there, next month Part 4 will wrap everything up.
- String Damping, Part 4. Part 4 is the conclusion of my string damping tips. This part covers right-hand string damping, using string damps to observe written rests, controlling resonance and overtones, thumb damping, using string damping to clarify endings of phrases, and how the style and context of the music affects the use of string damping. All explained in 32 pages with 34 musical examples, and 14 high-def videos demonstrating exactly how to execute all these great techniques.
- Do I Play the Repeats in My Music?. A subscriber emailed me a question about playing the written repeats in the music he was playing. He said he had gotten into the habit of not playing the repeats because he thought it sounded boring. So how about it? Why do composers put all those repeats in their music? Do we need to observe them? I think the answer is really interesting.
- An Easy Way to Add Fret Marker Dots to Your Guitar. If you want to add fret marker dots to your guitar (and I will explain why you might want to do that), here is an easy, neat, and professional-looking solution. Be sure to watch the step-by-step video.
- Tone Color, Part 1. The great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia once described the guitar as a miniature orchestra. This technique tip will teach you how to produce an incredible variety of tone colors to bring out the best in your guitar playing. In Part 1, I explain and demonstrate seven parameters you can learn to use to change the color of a plucked note. Each is illustrated with a beautifully produced video.
- Tone Color, Part 2. In Part 2, I explain additional special tools for changing tone color and how to make left-hand fingering choices to effectively color motifs, sections, and even entire pieces.
- Tone Color, Part 3 (conclusion). In Part 3, I explain the big topic of how to choose tone colors. Additional goodies include Fernando Sor's techniques for imitating the horn and trumpet(!), and how to "orchestrate" your guitar pieces.
- Injury Prevention for the Classical Guitarist. The injury rate for classical guitarists is very high. This month's technique tip gives recommendations on what to do to play more comfortably and to avoid injuries. I also give you an excuse to eat more chocolate!
- The Snare Drum Effect, Part 1 of 2. One of the most fun percussion effects almost anyone (including beginners) can produce on the guitar, classical or otherwise, is the snare drum effect. It is a real showstopper. Non-guitarists especially, will be in awe of you! You will rule.
- The Snare Drum Effect, Part 2 of 2. This is Part 2 of the Snare Drum Effect. I give examples where the effect is used in the guitar repertoire and show how it is notated by various composers and guitarists.
- The Campanella Effect, Part 1 of 2. The Campanella is a delightful effect that can bring a passage to life with its striking mish-mash of resonance, sustain, and pleasing dissonance. This Technique Tip is in two parts and will explain everything you need to know to use it in the pieces you play. March 2019
- The Campanella Effect, Part 2 (conclusion). The delightful Campanella Effect can bring a passage to life with its striking mish-mash of resonance, sustain, and pleasing dissonance. Last month I went over the preliminaries in Part 1. This month I tell you the rest of the story. April 2019
- The Many Amazing Things We Can Learn from Mauro Giuliani, Part 1 of 2. I was teaching an intermediate study by Mauro Giuliani to a student taking an online video lesson. It struck me how many techniques and musical concepts Giuliani covers in just one short piece. You will be amazed! May 2019
- The Many Amazing Things We Can Learn from Mauro Giuliani, Part 2 of 2. The conclusion to last month's tip. It has taken me 40 pages of text, 46 written musical examples, and 17 videos to explain everything Mauro Giuliani teaches us in only one page of music! June 2019
- How Classical Guitarists Can Alleviate, Treat, and Eliminate Low Back Pain. I explain how to be more comfortable when playing the guitar by carefully choosing a good chair, sitting position, guitar support, and practice routine. I also provide information on diagnosis, treatments, and effectiveness of treatments used in both Western medicine and "alternative" medicine.
- List of Classical Guitar Supports and Straps for Classical Guitarists. Excerpted from the tip above, this is a concise listing of guitar supports and guitar straps for the classical guitarist. January 2019
- Transcriptions and Arrangements. What is essential, is invisible to the eye.