Old idea: Practice everything slowly.
Newer idea: Never practice at an uncomfortable tempo, ever again.
Last week’s idea: Practice piano like you’re on the surface of the moon.
This week: I’m in North Carolina for a couple concerts, to play songs from To Evening Lands alongside the premiere of my Trio Sonata, commissioned last year by excellent pianist and fine friend Franklin Gross. I’m also making the next Golconda, with Ben. Someone asked me about the name last night. The answer no longer feels honest, in a way. It’s been ten years, and the name has taken on its own momentum. Golconda is a place where I put my efforts as a songwriter. Also, it’s where I make efforts to understand myself as a guitarist. As a pianist and composer I’m overly educated. As a guitarist, almost entirely self-taught, even hermetic.
I try to remind myself that the tendency to perfection, from my classical training, is maybe not endemic here. Folkloric guitar styles are not justified by perfection. There is a different concept of virtuosity at play. Virtuosity of rhythmic feel and color, rather than technical precision. Look at the slide, as an example: slide playing is not supposed to be clean. It’s the guitar struggling to be more like a human voice. There is grit, imperfection, even failure, all embedded in that concept of aspiration.
Nonetheless, it’s difficult. I’ve been working seriously at fingerstyle guitar since 2009. I love its contrapuntal energy. It’s still really hard to voice evenly between the fingers. In 2014 I started to have tendon problems and began to limit the amount of time I spent practicing. Certain tunes I can still only play a couple times in a row before my hand starts to fall asleep.
It hasn’t necessarily helped that I play a resonator guitar. It’s not very forgiving; you hear *everything*.
I started learning guitar because, unlike the piano, it’s portable, and you can play it outside.
It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve learned and understood guitar primarily as an accompanying instrument. This changes the dynamic and the expectation, the vector of virtuosity.
Tonight tonight tonight, in Boone, NC:
• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues