Finger and Throat Workout


This morning, after various duties have been discharged, there remains barely 15 minutes to lay hands on the 6 string, before I have to go off for the day.  Scales are put aside and 3 songs are sung from beginning to end. The first has a fingerstyle accompaniment, the next two involve a plectrum, and include a short instrumental solo section in the middle of each.

This may seem a very perfunctory form of practice, but in fact it is of great value. Fingers and voice have been exercised, and perhaps more importantly, the real mystery of music has briefly been revisited. For the duration of each song, I removed myself successfully from the everyday to the world the song contains. My focus remained exclusively on the guitar, my voice, and the story I was telling.

This is something I try to insist my students do from the get-go. There are too many owners of musical instruments out there who have amassed any number of tricks and clever bits but hardly ever just play a piece of music in its entirety. If from the start, tunes are played all the way through, mistakes and all, then there will always be a context for the developing ability to address. Otherwise it is all meaningless.

When I lived in New York I remember in particular one ex-Berklee student who had achieved an astonishing level of technical prowess, but was quite incapable of playing a simple tune and making that work. A disgusted old timer suggested he drink a lot of whisky and stick to blues and folk music for 6 months.

There is great value in regular exercises of scales, arpeggios and such to improve dexterity. Just dont forget to play some music as well.

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