"Do I have
it ?" You must have asked yourself this question many times.
Especially if you are working hard at the guitar. My students' parents
ask me this question as soon as the first class is over. I know that parents
want the best for their children, and I believe a teacher has to be a parent
as well as a teacher. Eventually, we all want to make sure that we are
doing what we were designed to do. Doing that, is the only way we
will really be happy and parents want us to be happy. Who are we
asking the question to ? or, who do we think has the answer to the question?
venture in answering this question, let me give you an insight into some
very important "guitarristic" matters that you have the right and obligation
to know, matters which I' ve matured throughout my life experience and
education. All these matters point in one direction: Find out exactly
what role you and your music will be "playing" and make sure you
know yourself very well because the better you know yourself, the more
likely it is that you will be "a happy guitarist".
I would not
be writing this and we would not know a classical guitar world if it were
not for Andres Segovia. We are not just talking about "a" guitarist, we
are talking about a man who lived the whole twentieth Century (Segovia
died in 1987), the one century that has seen more changes than any other
century before or since. If you were born anywhere between 1893 and 1987,
you can say with all certainty that you were a Segovia contemporary.
For most of
the 1990s, the classical guitar world was pretty much divided like this:
those who "dared" to criticize the maestro, those who wanted
the man "beatified" (the step prior to becoming a Saint), and those
who used the Segovia name to get somewhere.
I know Spaniards
very well. For one thing, a good percentage of my blood is Spanish (My
grandmother was De Niquesa Bellucci).
and a Spaniard. That translates into incredibly
and poetic. Then, of course, he was also a man.
From age 7
to 16, the only guitarists I knew were: Segovia and my teacher Vincenzo
Calsolaro. The only guitarist my teacher Vincenzo seemed to know was Segovia
(at least that seemed to be the case..."Segovia this, Segovia that..").
The only concert I attended was...of course ! a Segovia concert in
Bari ! No need to say that by the time I was 17, my life's goal was to
meet the MAESTRO !! I did, 5 years later in Madrid. This was the
heavyweight sentence in all my resumes. "Renato studied with Segovia !!".
After all, who knew Calsolaro - or Carlevaro for that matter - to even
bother including them in the resume? How could you possibly dream to make
it as a guitarist without Segovia's approval?
Time and a
great musicianship have made Segovia a really gigantic figure and it is
under this light that I will continue writing. Justice has to be made and
justice must be blindfolded.
I knew the
man in his nineties! He was soft and gentle, and everything I can say concerning
my personal experience with him is good. I certainly got the best
from him: words of wisdom and a clear idea of what I did not want for a
life. But there are many not so happy student-teacher anecdotes that almost
never make it to the guitar magazines and are as real as the ones that
do make it to the magazines or guitar books. It seems that most of my colleagues
are still afraid that the maestro might hear them from "beyond" and disapprove.
Wade's book Maestro Segovia you read the following anecdote
on page 72
Now ask yourself:
Is this the "maestro" I want to become? The "Mexican guitarist"
had a name and a dream, which were probably shattered that day, beyond
the amusement that it may cause to you or me when reading the anecdote..
In the past
2 centuries (see the classical guitar timeline), the music profession
has undergone some of its most dramatic changes. Musicians in turn, have
had to cope with some almost inhuman situation, or to be more precise,
unmusical situations both instrumentally and in their lifestyles in order
to cope with these changes. There are some historical facts that have certainly
played a key part in reshaping musical life. The always more diminished
role of the Church, and spiritual life in general, in secular matters
is definitely one of the most influential. The one thing that has not changed
is human vanity. Vanity, ego, moi etc., are in a way, survival instruments.
When these are untamed or out of control, then the result is a monster.
This is so much true that I spent my first 14 years as a guitarist thinking
that success or personal achievement and prestige were to be measured according
to the amount of "fame" or public recognition that the profession carried
with it. What an horror !
are some of the most important considerations to be made by the aspiring
Or hear the short
clip below of John Williams himself clarifying the issue at a recent concert
If you want to
be a famous guitarist, remember that there is no such thing as a "school
for famous guitarists". If you want to be famous, then you are probably
in your teens or twenties at most. If you are in your thirties or forties
I suggest you see a priest or psychiatrist.
Segovia is dead and recording a CD with his mediocre compositions today
will not give a "push" to your career but a kick good bye.
If you think John
Williams is famous, then you ought to know that people attending his concerts
often think that they will hear John T Williams, the film score composer.
I received this e-mail today -Dec 25th 2002- from China:
"Hi, first of all great job! Your page is soooo fantastic, it delivers
everything I wanted to know about tremolo and mangore! I detected that
a guitarist named John Williams recorded "La Catedral". But there is also
a well known film composer named John Williams (Star Wars, Superman). Are
these two persons the same person??? Merry X-Mas!!!."-
has ever been famous except for Andres Segovia and no other guitarist will
ever be that famous again. There will continue to be brilliant players
with a number of faithful followers but none of them will be "Segovia
famous"... Maestro Segovia too will be forgotten and his name
will only survive in guitar circles for as long as there will be guitar
circles ( I am 40 and I am still not sure what a guitar circle is, if it
is what I think it is, I am glad I don't belong to any).
You might reconsider
the whole matter in the light of what I wrote before, fame brings a whole
package along with it and selling your soul to the devil will only get
you to hell (or where do you think evil people go?). The market
that makes famous musicians is exactly that: a market. Rap and rock will
probably get you there but you will probably end up in a rehab center
if you are lucky or die from an overdose of something. The key is to remember
this: What is born big is a monster .
How many of these
pseudo teachers are still making so much noise with their left hand squeaks
that a chain saw seems like a canary in comparison ?! They tell you "play
the scale like this" and go: DO -string squeak- RE MI
-string squeak- FA SOL -string squeak- LA SI -string
squeak- DO... Boy, I was mad when I received that mail !! The guitar
will not be in any better place than it is at present if the guitar school
does not change dramatically. Guitarists are not great sight readers. They
are readers at best. The only ones talking about sight reading are
the few ones who were locked in a room by their parent with a music sheet
and a guitar for hours. They sight read... wow !! Any 3rd year violin player
sight reads better than 20 guitarists put together. But he better !! He
has a million masterpieces to chose from and if he does not progress fast
at sight reading he will miss his life achievement !! We guitarists want
to play: Recuerdos, Cavatina, Asturias ....uhm...what else....La Catedral....
You do not need to be more than a reader to achieve that. Or why do you
think that tablature is as far as many players will go when it comes
to musicianship? Then again, do not forget that we are not even great
music writers, our music writing is not representing what we play...we
miss by an OCTAVE !!
career demands years of dedication and the music profession ought to be
exactly that: a profession made of countless hours of silent dedication.
Sudden stardom is a human being's doom, the monster. Think in terms
of your parents, your, brothers and sisters, your friends, your classmates,
your neighborhood or community, your country, small or big, and you will
realize that you are already famous in that world, the only world that
really matters because it is the world that God wants you to work in. Do
not disappoint these persons because they are the only ones that really
matter and they count on you because they see you as their hero and, if
you ought to make it passed your county or country it will be thanks to
So that you know,
maestro Segovia broke the heart and lives of 3 women (his wives) -he even
made fun about this -again in Wade's Book- .The lives of a
a few of his children was also miserable. Segovia many times used
evil means to get to his goals. He was arrogant and had no guitarist friends
of his generation. He saw Barrios Mangoré as a threat and did nothing
to help the man. Can you believe that he admired his composition secretly
but never played a single Mangore piece? He literally destroyed
the competition. His work for the guitar world ended when he died, the
classical guitar world is presently undergoing a huge crisis, he is responsible
for that as well. But as I learned many years ago, even the devil
will eventually end up doing the works of God, (after all, the evil
one has demonstrated that he is quite stupid for having chosen hell). God
can write poetry with the leg of a table... Translation:
The acts of stupid people will have to be paid by the doers, we will extract
and benefit from the good things they left behind in the pursuit of their
Do you plan to
be on tour for months at a time? Although the possibility of travel and
the novelty that new places have to offer is undoubtedly very tempting
it is also true that just as anything else we do in our lives, the novelty
aspect is due to end before the first 2 years on tour have ended. Besides,
with a concert coming up, you will not have much time or peace of mind
left for excursions etc. When we are single, it is definitely the best
moment to face this stage in our career. If you live outside Europe, the
US and Japan, you ought to consider the possibility of moving to these
places because anywhere else, your chances of making a living playing concerts
will dramatically decrease. Sponsors and agents prefer to have "handy"
musicians in their portfolios and living in some secluded island
in the Pacific is definitely not the place to be if you want to be found.
If Elvis Presley's family had not moved from Tupelo Mississippi to Memphis
Tennessee when Elvis was 14, we would have never known the King.
Simply getting you to the place to play costs thousands of dollars that
will definitely influence the agents' decisions.
Agents: most times
they will exploit you, for sure ! If a relative or close friend manages
your career you are blessed, musicians and artists in general make poor
businessman, somebody to represent you will definitely boost your career..
of our present times and forget those lousy paper dreams. With technology
being what it is, you can make your own recordings and CDs with a small
budget. You do not need a 10,000 dollars Numann mike. Some great
guitar recordings were made in bathrooms -bathrooms often have great acoustics-
and a 50 bucks mike. If you can afford the expensive technology, good for
you, if you cannot, believe me, I still cannot tell the difference between
a cheap 100 bucks mike and a super expensive mike. Aim at the real people
around you because they love you and they will really help you. If you
cannot conquer the hearts of the people around you, forget about the possibility
of conquering the hearts of unknowns.
Do not compare
the career of a guitarist with that of a violinist or a pianist. The only
thing we share with them is the fact that we do music. A career in piano
or violin is designed to make music for huge audiences and their instruments
have to be heard from a distance. The competition there is huge. Our piano-violin
colleagues grow musically in a different way then we guitarists.
The guitar has its roots in the common people, and trying to bring up its
"status" is to go against its very nature. I have attended guitar concerts
in big-famous concert halls... I could barely hear the music. Pianists
an violinists have literally thousands of gorgeous pieces written by incredible
composers in unrepeatable human-historical times for extremely loud instruments.
Examples? ok: They have Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Berlioz,
Tchaikowsky, Listz, ...Who do we have? let me think....ah yes! Sor (1 piece),
Tárrega (2 pieces), Mangore (enough). The rest is great transcriptions
and a few mediocre composers trying to make up for the centuries lost.
The sad part about this is that music schools around the world are missing
the point completely. They think that the problem is the guitar repertoire.
No! The problem is the guitarists' lack of personality, in big part due
to the handful of losers out there carrying the Segovia tradition as if
it were the road to anywhere.
I recently received
this mail by a guitar lover and student and a good friend who was happily
growing as a guitarist (a true one at that) and one day wrote to me QUOTE
:" I had my lesson this weekend and came away very sad. My teacher has
written out a list of scales and arpeggios I have to learn majors 2 and
3 octaves harmonic and melodic minor scales dominant 7th... maybe I should
be thankful he didn't include Chinese and Eskimo scales .. If I really
have to learn all this to play well I am wondering if I am up to it. Did
you have to go through this torture when you were learning".
the problem with some teaches ?!
What we have is
a non intimidating instrument that can reach the very soul of the people
around us. Musically speaking we guitarists are not even close to our piano/violin
colleagues because we do not need to and we ought to take full advantage
of that because it is our strongest weapon. This of course, does not mean
that we have to stay ignorant, all the contrary actually, but our challenge
is a different one. We must make art music available to our fellow human
beings. When you know that guitarists hardly get 500 people in a concert
hall -when they have a name that rings a bell- you see that we are basically
failing at the main goal. If we focus on our strong weapons, we will cherish
the fact that a guitar is always welcome at a barbecue, classmate meeting
and other every day places. When the crowds get huge, we have the
technology to back us up.
Results of this
kind of approach: Lines and lines of great souls with a true dream, finally
ready to participate in the Giuliani competition etc. where
they impose wish-they-were-pieces to see how fast you can play through
mediocrity !! Or ask you to play the new composition of
Joe d' Loser
- whose music is certainly to be discarded - to finally win and join
the over 400 competition winners who are still fighting drug and/or alcohol
abuse, and are probably telling my friend to learn Swahili scales Do -string
squeak- Re -string squeak-.... Tell you what: get yourself a
decent down to earth teacher, with a great soul, and all the books you
can get your hands on, and then THINK....
A great investment
for the aspiring guitarist: a portable PA (power amplifier), wireless mike
or an onboard pickup/equalizer system.
We often misuse
the word professional. It is often associated with "making a living",
or doing some kind of work that needs a degree of skill and education.
For one thing I believe with all my heart that every job needs some kind
of preparation and skill. Mediocrity is an abomination and the world would
be better off without mediocres altogether. Professional-ity and mediocrity
are attitudes. The first thing I tell my students is that the
minute they enter my studio they are professionals and they will be welcome
as long as their approach to playing is such. There are two ways to
play a 2 notes sequence: The professional way: play the two notes putting
our whole self, talent, intelligence and soul to work. The mediocre way:
play the 2 notes.
is an attitude towards work, certainly not the amount of money we make.
"the respect and importance a professional acquires because of the
of his work", is the sister word of professional-ity and the two are basically
intertwined. Prestige is the sweetest human reward of life because it is
the one attachment to our curricula that is simply unwritten though
it spreads from mouth to mouth like fire through an eucalyptus forest.
It precedes us wherever we are going. The most amazing thing about it is
that it has nothing to do with fame.
For the past
500 years, the musicians we admire, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart... have demonstrated
that ours is a profession where the odds are that we will have to know
frustration, pain, misunderstanding and economical need...The Cross.
If you still have some doubts, read these men's biographies. When
these musicians were given the right conditions and environment
to simply make music, they considered themselves blessed. I truly understand
that. I have learned to give thanks to Heaven for having had the family
support and the necessary Faith to keep believing. As the circumstances
surrounding me changed, I believed, and my beloved ones helped me to keep
believing. Since I started mangore in 97, I did not know that people whom
I never met before were going to be inspired and benefited by my work and
life experience. Nowadays, I have students coming to Asuncion
to study with me from all over the world. They stay for 7-10 days and learn.
Their whole playing changes for the better and I thank God. Mine is the
story of a professional guitarist who loves what he does and wants his
fellow colleagues to share his happiness.
No matter how
old or young you are, or what your playing level is, I tell you: If you
still hear that subtle calling, do not think for a minute that it
is too late. For music it is NEVER TOO LATE.
If you can take
the economic burden away from your artistry, you are blessed. With the
right technique and a well settled practice schedule, you need 45 minutes
to an hour a day to be a top player. Yes, a professional.
needs a certain surrounding in order to be productive. The life you will
be leading when you are away from your guitar will have an impact on your
playing. The time away from the guitar is just as important, and even more
so, than the life spent practicing. You need to have an inner silence,
a very intimate peace that allows for true musicianship to blossom. This
peace and silence I am referring to have less to do with the often hectic
surroundings of a modern city than with the little, though only real important
world, we all carry within. This world is made of family, friends, work
and the more or less solved issues in our lives.
reasons and at very unique times, every talented guitarist will eventually
feel that familiar urge to go back to his playing.
natural ability or skill . What this means is that although our world
may often make us think and act otherwise -for social, economical or educational
reasons- our talent(s) will always be latent waiting for the right time
to knock on our front door. The astonishing beauty and complexity that
the human creation represents, can make up for many years of dormant talent
and experience. The lessons of life, will provide "an" extra ingredient
which is often missing when we are young. The opposite is also true.
A talent put to work for the wrong reasons and at the wrong times can all
too often be our very doom.
I see this
every day and my role in life as a guitar teacher has reinforced my beliefs
over and over again...the 24 years old medicine school student who discovers
that calling at a college musical festival. The 65 years old land
developer who comes to my studio and says: "40 years have been a long journey
without my guitar", the 32 years old architect that chose architecture
for all the wrong reasons.... It is never too late. NEVER.
The one thing
I can affirm with all certainty is that the guitar is fully compatible
with whatever other activity or activities we have to pursue in order to
make a living. I once took a friend of mine to Buenos Aires to attend a
series of masterclasses with Carlevaro at the San Martin cultural center.
My friend who is an architect by profession has always had a passion for
the guitar and I must stress that I was often surprised to see that his
musical ear was developed beyond "normality". At the end of one of the
masterclasses he asked me to introduce him to Carlevaro. I did and as the
two were getting acquainted with each other, my friend says to Carlevaro
:" Don't get me wrong maestro I simply like the guitar but I am an architect..."
Carlevaro stopped him right there and with his right hand on my friend's
shoulder told him "Good, it is always wise to have more than one profession...plus,
it would be great if you learned a second language...as for the guitar,
feel free to contact me anytime". You can only imagine my friend's astonishment.
We have heard
"that huge "boloni" that has been circling the planet for ages,
which consists in making people think that in order to play a musical
instrument you have to practice 8 hours a day. Carlevaro told me that
after 2 hours with the guitar he was exhausted plus, he liked to do
other things (write his books, music and teach). You will also meet
extra terrestrials that actually stay with the guitar 8 hours a day, but
you will be disappointed by their personality. They are usually very
boring and shallow people. They play fast but they are not going
anywhere...Carlevaro told me once: "The real genius is the player that
practices 2 hours and sounds as if he practiced 8 hours ! "
Are you married? Do you have children? Do you live with your parents?
Where do you live? These are key questions to be answered and that will
have to take a major role in your career endeavors. I take as "default"
that if you are married you want to stay married, if you have children
you are blessed, if you live with your parents it is out of need (reciprocal)
and that if you live anywhere on planet Earth there are great advantages
and great disadvantages no matter what the name of your town is.
misused phrase "to sell one's soul to the devil" is a much easier
misfortune to get caught into than often thought. One might think of it
literally as a fellow signing a contract and pronouncing a formal statement.
Let alone that I can barely imagine that anyone can be so stupid to actually
go ahead and do it, the truth is that the devil is not interested in people
wanting to sell their souls because for one thing, they have already
sold it by the time they decide to and because what the evil one is interested
in is the other fellows...those that want to stay as far from him
as possible. These are normal people like you and me that have a life and
that are struggling against all the weird currents of the world to stay
afloat. Currents whispering "nah...you do not want to stick with this lady/man
anymore, she/he is like an anchor to your foot"...."kids...nah...they are