Phase I — The Technique of Primary Skills, Part 1
The serious classical guitarist who wishes to study, play, and ultimately perform on the classical guitar needs a strong technical foundation. This strong technical foundation can be achieved when our hands are working with optimal strength and coordination. Optimal strength and coordination can be achieved by applying bio-mechanical principles to both the positioning and movements that are required to play the classical guitar in an efficient manner.
The benefits of playing with a good technique should be obvious: primary skills, first applied to develop strong scales and arpeggios then mapped into repertoire, will give the player the ability to play at his or her highest level, unencumbered by technical difficulties. Ultimately, the player with a strong technique has more ability to perform with confidence and expression.
Yet another advantage is longevity. While poor technique will slow most players, cause more errors, and require more effort to play than necessary, equally inhibiting can be the effect of the wear and tear resulting from improper technique, often shortening the careers of even the most talented of players.
Upon learning the principles behind the primary skills, you may notice many professionals who adhere to only some, or even very few of the principles. Often their talent rises to herculean levels and they entertain us for decades. Sadly, these same careers are sometimes cut short by decades because of a type of playing that unnecessarily stresses the joints, ligaments, and tendons to the point of injury. That being said, many of us would trade good technique to be able to play at such levels, but for most of us, this is not an option. There are of course those players who possess both great talent and good technique, which is wonderful to see and hear. The Kritzer Method is for those who want to get the most out of their own natural abilities.
In Phase I — Primary Skills, we will explore the primary skills principles by introducing the player to basic movement forms integrated into scales and arpeggios, which will form a long-term technical practice. Once properly adapted to our technical exercises, these skills are then migrated into our repertoire. Imagine defining a few basic right-hand movement forms which comprise virtually all the right hand movements in the repertoire you play, mastering them in technique, and then applying those forms into repertoire. This is the path that will allow the patient and disciplined player to master his or her repertoire.
I’ll first apply the principles to the sitting position and the right- and left-hand positions, and then to two important movement forms — alternation and sympathetic motion (movement forms which comprise nearly all of the right-hand movements required to play the repertoire of the classical guitar). We’ll also work on left-hand placement and movement. Since the primary skills and movement forms are found in our repertoire, it’s vital that you master these concepts in your technique before moving them directly to repertoire. By the end of Phase I, you’ll have a relatively short but extremely effective technique practice that can continue to be used to further your development over many, many years. The time spend learning the exercises and concepts will form the bedrock for your ability to perform repertoire.
Phase I — Primary Skills Table of Contents
- Sitting Position
- Right Hand Positioning and Movement
- Free Stroke
- Simple and Complex Alternation
- String Crossing
- Scale Bursts
- Sympathetic Motion
- Left Hand Placement and Movement
- Rest Stroke
- Active and Passive Fingers in Sympathetic Motion
- Compound Motion
- Sympathetic and Compound Motion Left-Hand Patterns
- Technique Practice Log
- Right-Hand Mapping
Components of Phase 1
It’s important to establish how the Phases work, or better put, how best to work the Phases. This is critical, as the simplicity of these principles belie the effects on one’s playing. Each Phase will be made of the following components.
Lesson logs are delivered to you as components for each part of the Phase. They contain written instructions, embedded instructional videos, and practice-along-with-Scott videos. To access these videos, you’ll need to establish an account on Vimeo and have Internet access.
At the end of each part to Phase I, you are given a practice log that is specific to the exercise, the directives to be focused upon while doing that exercise, and the length of time to be spent doing the exercise. Your Practice Logs also contain developing practice directives for exercises previously learned, to encourage a deepening of the previously learned concepts. It’s important to follow these instructions.
Photographs with diagrams will illustrate the important points in Phase I.
Each assigned exercise will be accompanied by a video showing the exercise and explaining the principles behind the exercise.
The act of watching my hands while you practice solidifies the concepts. You’ll receive practice videos which will follow the practice logs at the end of each part of Phase I. Here we can practice together, while I’ll supply the verbal and visual instruction as well as the proper pacing and amount of time to practice.
*Videos will only be available to those who are studying with me in a variety of formats. To explore these formats go to my page on Teaching.
How to Work the Phases
Most classical guitarists are perfectionists, which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. Although the exercises in Phase I are hierarchical in nature, it’s critical to avoid the tendency to perfect one exercise before proceeding to the next. In fact, sometimes an exercise is better understood once the subsequent exercise is applied. And remember, nearly every exercise you’ll learn in Phase I will become part of your technical or repertoire practice; so, relax, you’ll be doing these exercises for a long time, and mastering them will take some time.
The required practice time per day, and the number of days to practice before adding the next part of Phase I, will be listed in your practice log. The practice times required will be shorter than expected, and it’s important that you adhere to them.
Phase I will be integrating new exercises, and more importantly, new concepts. The question often arises from students: Should I try to implement this in my repertoire? The answer is no. In fact you should specifically avoid this by separating your practice of these concepts from any other music or technical exercises that you’re currently playing. Some students stop playing altogether, and while that’s the safest way to approach this, I don’t think it’s necessary or even that helpful. Integration will take place quite naturally, over time, and specifically when we start working on the Right Hand Mapping at the end of the Phase.
To develop consistency, it’s important to have access to the proper practice space. This should include a space where you can leave your chair, guitar support, music stand, and supplies in one place. If you’ll be using my Practice-Along Videos, you’ll also want your computer available. To monitor yourself, it’s best to watch yourself in a large mirror. While a smaller mirror will suffice, a mirror large enough to see your entire body is preferable. If lieu of a mirror, you can also use a video camera connected to your computer. Ideally you should be able to see your entire body.
Before we get started, let’s clarify some concepts and terminology important for our studies. Here we’ll discuss the basic nomenclature regarding the guitar, hands, and fingers, as well as a general view of the guiding principles of positioning and movement. These will be discussed in greater detail in Phase I — Anatomy of a Free Stroke.
Up Next……Phase I — Terminology