Segovia’s Master Class

Wanted to share this video with you. As you know I am learning classical guitar. I found this video of Segovia’s master class back in the day. Believe it or not something like this is very helpful to a student learning CG. It’s not only the historical perspective, but as a student I can watch their fingers and how they hold the guitar, etc.

Especially for those tricky barre chords!

I geek out over stuff like this. Enjoy. 🙂



Life is Getting in the Way of Writing

Got a lot to do today. Yesterday was busy, too. More than usual. Classical guitar and photography class took up most of the day yesterday. Today I am meeting my writing buddy at the coffee shop and will push to get this edit done on the new short story. At least whip it in recognizable shape.

Then I have to take the truck in for warranty service. I might be able to put that off until tomorrow. Once I get back home I can start signing up for specific science fiction conventions. While this is going on I need to keep getting my gear ready for the camping trip next week. Squeeze in lunch and classical guitar practice during the day. That’s along with the thousand other things I have to take care of.

Sometimes I feel I am trying to get too much done too quickly: classical guitar, photography, writing, camping, tutoring, working on the Argo Navis stuff, etc. As a result I get nothing done. Or not enough.

I am usually better compartmentalizing time and priorities than this. Writing is the main focus. A lot of other things are demanding attention and taking away the time I need for that.

I believe if I can get this short story shaped up that will go a long way to open up my time and making me feel better about what I have accomplished. This story is nibbling at the edges of my consciousness and I want to get it polished and move on to working on something else. Good grief, I haven’t even begun reading aloud the last Haxan novel for the third edit!

Hopefully I will get caught up on one or two things today and can cross them off my list (or shorten the list) and make progress. I need to get caught up. I don’t want to keep losing ground.

It is a busy time right now. I’ll get through it, but at the moment I feel I am slipping behind. I don’t like that feeling.

Tension and Compromise, the Charybdis and Scylla of Art

Speaking only for myself, but I find it’s important to find a workable balance between perfection and compromise. I was responding on a Finding a balance between compromise and perfection is a necessary ingredient in your writing.classical guitar forum earlier tonight and it got me to thinking about this problem in more detail. Not only how it affects facets of our lives, but, since this is primarily a writing blog, how that dynamic between perfection and compromise can affect our art.

This came home to me last week before a guitar lesson lesson. I was home practicing “Malagueña” in the bedroom. Someone poked their head in the door and said, “That was really good.”

I thanked her and said it was kind of hard for me because of all the triplets. But later I wondered about this. She was being honest. She thought it was good. But for myself…all I could hear were mistakes.

Later, I had a lesson with my classical guitar teacher and related this experience. He said it was normal and while he didn’t use the phrase “find a balance between perfection and compromise” he meant as much.

I told him all  could hear were the mistakes. I told him all I ever heard were the mistakes. He also said ordinary people listening to you play the guitar don’t always “hear” the mistakes you make. Not in the sense you, as the player, does. That’s not what they are listening for. He told me a story how he had performed on stage and honestly believed he had played the worst he ever had. Yet people in the audience, and one of them was a Big Names Musician, told him he was very good.

I thought about this and I imagine there might be some truth to it. Of course, you will always have severely critical people who will find fault with everything you do. I am very critical of myself as I related earlier. When it comes to writing, or playing the guitar, or anything else, you have to find a balance between perfection and compromise.

An excellent example of perfection gone wrong is when you meet a writer who has been working on the same story without moving on. They keep rewriting it, editing it, “perfeFinding a balance is necessary in art. cting” it. The result is the story never gets finished and never gets sold.

And when it doesn’t get sold it doesn’t get read.

Now I am not saying you should write a story and throw it out on its little baby feet and expect it to run a marathon.  But there comes a point in editing and rewrites where you reach diminishing returns.

Every successful professional writer I know, every one of them, writes a story, makes it as good as they possibly can, and then moves on. They never obsess over that one story trying to perfect it into a diamond. Yes, they spend time on it, they sweat blood and tears over it, they open their hearts to it, but they reach a point where they know it’s time to move on and they do.

Every successful writer I know writes a story so he can move on to the next one. That’s their main goal. The next story. That’s what they are always thinking about. That’s what is always on their horizon.

I think it behooves us as artists to be aware of our limitations and strive to correct them and work through them. That’s what I’m trying to do right now with my classical guitar playing. I already do it with my writing.

I am not always successful, but I am going to keep trying. If you truly believe in your artistry, failure is not an option. It can’t be.

Passacaglia and Barre Chords in Classical Guitar

My classical guitar lessons have been going well. I honestly feel I am making good progress. I’ve memorized the two main sections of “Malagueña” Malaguenaand have to work on the lento (slow) section. The other song I’ve been working on with my teacher is “Romanza” or “Spanish Ballad”.

Malagueña is the feminine form of the Spanish port city Málaga. I think the tune was also used by Ernesto Lecuona in a piece of music. It has been featured or used in many other pieces of music as well. The song itself is pretty old, unless I am mistaken, and has its roots as a traditional piece from the port city of the same name in Spain. De Torres painted a picture he titled Malagueña in 1917 so it has been popular for a long time.

Aside from “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams, “Malagueña” is the second most requested song by audiences. There are a ton of different renditions and arrangements, but I am concentrating on the one by Christopher Parkening. My guitar teacher, btw, used to study under Parkening.

“Romanza” (Romance) or the “Spanish Romance” is of more questionable origin.  It appears it first appeared in the late 19th century, but other than that we don’t know the authorship. I am studying the minor section right now, and trying to get myself to mastering barre chords. Agh, they are my bane! (But I refuse to be deterred. I will master them.)

The third big piece I am working on (for myself, not my teacher) is “Passacaglia”. This is another musical form which originated in Spain and is derived from the Spanish pasar or “to walk” and calle (street). Even so it looks like there are Italian sources to this musical form sourced to 1606.

So it’s old no matter how you cut it. Again there are many different arrangements to this, but I am studying the one in Hal Leonard’s Classical Guitar Method. I like its strong, haunting quality. Any passacaglia has a brief sequence of varying chords over a bass line, which itself may vary.

Anyway, I like it. I am having fun now that I have committed to CG but I would be less than honest if I said there wasn’t some frustration along the way. CG is one of the most difficult forms of music to master. I don’t know what the most difficult would be. (Flamenco, maybe?)  But CG is difficult enough. I love the music and I love the structure inherent in the form. I am probably practicing about 2.5 to 3 hours on average a day. Sometimes longer. I’d say that feels about average. I am not interested enough to keep a record. It has probably has been longer of late because I have the opportunity to put in the time. That won’t always be the case, though, once the writing picks up again.

One final note, classical guitar doesn’t necessarily mean you have to play classical music. I kind of agree with the modern interpretation that says any kind of music can be played in a classical style.  To show what I mean, here is Per-Olov Kindgren playing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” in classical form.

Maybe someday I can do this! (in about a million years) 😛

My First Guitar Lesson!

My first classical guitar lesson went pretty well yesterday. We didn’t do much. The instructor asked me some questions and we ran through some sight reading of music so he could see where I was. I played a little bit. He helped me see how my right hand was not parallel to the strings and my thumb not resting behind the neck. I knew I had some bad habits to correct and now I have to work on that. These changes help me to reach the strings better and cover the frets with my hand span.

I don’t know how it happened but I lost my Korg tuner so I had to buy another! It’s around the house somewhere, but I have looked and looked for  a month and I cannot find it. Of course, now that I have bought a new one (about $15) I will probably find the one I lost. It’s probably under my pillow or in a coat pocket that way. Some obvious place. It’s always that way.

He asked me and I told him my goals were to play Romanza and Malagueña.

Got some homework. He wants me to view some YouTube videos of other classical guitarists and watch their posture, hand positions, etc. Also check out some videos of the songs Jesu, Afro-Cuban Lullaby, Lagrima and Adelita. It’s to help me broaden my perspective of other kinds of music out there.

I also have a song to practice, Malagueña. Mostly be able to read the notes and play them, worry about tempo later. I can do that. I will also work on some other stuff as well. He said the two classical books I was already working out of, Noad and Hal Leonard’s Classical Guitar, were fine. I could keep on with them. He will bring music to the sessions and give it to me, stuff he wants me to work on. Sounds good.

So I’ve got a lot to do and I am being challenged. But that’s what I wanted so I can’t complain. I didn’t expect to be thrown into Malagueña this early, but, hey, I’m game to try.

Writers Come and Go, but the Story is Eternal

I’ve been practicing classical guitar lately. Mostly arpeggios and reading music in divisi. (See how handy I am with those terms, haha) I was lax while working on the novel, and I’ve been working on the novel a year and half. So my CG playing suffered.

I kept up with the guitar during that year and a half. I played the songs I knew and fiddled around with it. But a rigorous practice schedule? That had to fall by the wayside.

Which is what I want to talk about. I firmly believe if you are going to write you have to make strong choices. Which is more important? Writing, or something else. There isn’t often room for compromise, it seems.

Margaret Mitchell used to tell a story about how bad she felt when people invited her out to dinner and she had to beg off and they couldn’t understand why. It was because she was writing Gone With the Wind.

Writers have to make hard choices. It’s not you, it’s the story that is important. You can’t meet it half way. There’s no room for compromise. The story comes first. The story is all.

Every successful writer I know believes this to some degree. I definitely believe it. I probably go too far with it. People who do not write see it as YOU being selfish. They don’t understand. They will never understand. You have nothing to do with it. It’s the story which demands attention.

It’s crazy sometimes. How we get pulled in by a story. This happened to me with this latest novel. Despite all the problems I had writing the thing I always knew there was something there worth finding.

Writing is hard enough as it is. It is a very solitary exercise. A good writer has to be comfortable with that and willing to spend the time necessary to bring the story to light. Because it’s the story, not you, that is most important.

You are just the writer. The story is eternal. And it will always be that way.

I Don’t Do Resolutions, Except When I Do Resolutions

I don’t do resolutions. I don’t like limiting myself in that way. But there are things I want to concentrate on this year. I would be a fool not to view them and see how they might affect my life in the coming year.

First, I will be taking classical guitar lessons starting next Monday. I am looking forward to this. I used to teach. I know the value of having structure and someone to show you the right way to do something. I am sure I have built up bad habits in my guitar playing over the last few years, and I want to correct them.

I think I am drawn to classical guitar the same reason I was drawn to this last novel. It presented a challenge. Classical guitar is that way for me. The fact the music is beautiful and skips and patters like moonlight on a pond is another nice benefit. But it is hard and I want that challenge.

I have taught myself to read music. But I want to learn more about this playing style and that’s where a good teacher comes in. We will see how it goes, and another good thing is it will motivate me to keep up with my guitar practice. I have fallen by the wayside too much lately when it comes to that. I am usually pretty good about it, but it’s easy to get in the habit of not practicing.

Next, writing. I know I need to do a better job talking about the stories and books I have out there and are coming out. I don’t like people spamming me about their stuff. A little of that goes a long way. But I know I err too much the other side, I rarely talk about my available work. I can do better and I need to do better.

I know some writers mention their available books and stories every day. I can’t do that. I can’t. It’s not my nature. But I need to mention things and relate my stories for sale to other events happening in my life if I can. I’m always afraid it will be too much, but as long as I feel that way then I probably won’t go too far and wear people out and turn them off?

As for writing new stuff, there are a couple of short stories buzzing around my head. But lately I have been drawn to longer projects. I’ve been toying with an idea that takes place with the itinerant workers of the Depression Era. The hobo culture interests me. I feel there is story potential here if I can find it.

So I kind of have a background, but having a background is not the same as a story. Ideas are not stories. I’ve read stories that are nothing more than ideas. They tend to be forgettable.

I like to idea of investigating this hobo idea and seeing if I can find potential in it. The research always interests me more than anything else in writing. I like learning new things. Someone told me during the Depression families were forced to turn children out and let them fend for themselves. That might be a starting place.

Anyway, there’s something there, an investigation of the violence and hardship that could open itself to a novel-length work. If I look hard enough. This is in very nascent stages right now. Nothing may come of it. But it’s what I am thinking about of late. I might pursue it.

I also need to get a few short stories out, probably some short Haxan stuff. Quaternity gave me an idea or two about that. I don’t see myself working on another Haxan novel this year. Not a new one. I’m not done with Haxan, but the Great American Hobo Novel is starting to swim to the surface of my consciousness.

We will see how it goes. But what about you guys? What have you planned for  this year?

Good Writing is Often a Question of Character

On the argument of Character vs. Plot I tend to side with the former.  I think a story with a strong character connects faster with readers than a plot-driven story. Then again the strongest story is one in which both character and plot are very strong and work together.Books with characterization and plot tend to be my favorite. Fleming was good at both.

There are always counter-examples where this may not be true, of course. Such is writing. And readers. Some readers honestly prefer plot-driven stories. How else can you explain Tom Clancy’s success? I read two or three of his novels back in the day and couldn’t go any further. His characters were pure cardboard, but the plots were great. Same for two of the biggest SF writers: Clarke and Asimov. They were superb on plot and sometimes lacking on characterization. On the flip side Heinlein was a very good character-driven writer. Lazarus Long, Mike the Computer, Podkayne, these are a few of the examples in his fiction of long-standing iconic characters. Same for Edgar Rice Burroughs and his creation of Tarzan. I love the Tarzan novels. The plots are forgettable. It’s Tarzan we remember.

Novels that do double duty, however, tend to be my favorite. Moby-Dick is a good example of outstanding characterization and a memorable plot. Dune, by Frank Herbert, is another. Dr. No by Ian Fleming does double duty in this regard, I think. Bond is definitely a memorable character and the plot of the book is a superb framework.

There are tons of other examples, and lots and lots of examples that don’t agree with my supposition. But speaking for myself I tend to gravitate toward character driven stories. Finding a story that has both characterization and plot is a special gem.

Which story is easiest to write? Well, I don’t think any story is easy to write. But I suppose if all you are doing is laying down a plot and stuffing it with interchangeable cardboard heroes…well, that should give you some clue.

Fortunately, there are lots of different writers who write lots of different stories for lots of different readers. There is no one format or guideline to writing and I hope during the existence of this blog I have shown that.

But some readers do prefer certain styles, as do some writers. That’s the world. Knowing the difference, and being able to make a judgment as to which makes the story stronger, character, plot, or both, is a necessary tool for any successful writer.

I am still a writer first…everything else comes second

This morning I did some publishing work. I uploaded a new science fiction/cyberpunk story entitled “Dead Reckoning” to Kindle. I will let you know when the story goes live and give further details for it and Argo Navis Publishing.

Last week was a long, stressful week for me for many reasons. I am hoping this week will be a little better. (It could hardly be worse.) I hope so. I want to get back to working on the new Haxan novel and I am still in the process of planning my trip along the US/Mexico border to do research. Meanwhile, I am still practicing classical guitar but I really should be a little more serious about a regimented program. Then again, it is foremost a hobby for me and I’m having fun…what’s to gripe about?

Also hoping the weather takes a turn for the better. I miss going outside for my walks. They help clear my head and I use them to think about stories and where I want to go next. I foresee some hiking involved on the trip as well, so it would benefit me to get a little exercise in preparation.

All in all I am doing all right, considering. My main focus now is turning back to work on the new novel because even though I have to do this indie publishing stuff now I still only view it as a necessary evil. I do not and never will define myself as a publisher. I mean, I want to do a good job with Argo Navis Publishing and I want to present quality work for readers. I am the type of person who believes if you have to do something, then do it right.

But it does not define me. I am a writer first and last, and I always will be.

So when all is said and done I am doing all right so far. *knock on wood*  How about you guys, how have you been?

Finding Which Way to Turn in Classical Guitar

Part of the problem I run into when teaching myself classical guitar is I will bounce from book to book. What I mean is, there are many good solo books out there to learn from. I have several. I lean toward Solo Guitar Playing by Noad and Classical Guitar by Hal Leonard. They are both good. But on top of all that are etudes by everyone and his brother you can work through, not to mention all the resources on YouTube.

Having an instructor would help but that is not an option available to me right now. Then again this is only a hobby for me and not a total commitment.

So in the interim I bounce back and forth between books. I’m not saying this scattershot approach is smart. I have never been accused of being smart. But for a dedicated hobby it works. I can work on one section in one book and match that up with a similar session in another. As long as I do that I feel I am making progress on some level.

Without a doubt having professional instruction would be beneficial. I don’t have the resources or the time for that. I do not even know if I would make the personal commitment if I did have the opportunity. I’m still a writer. I don’t think I am ready to push that aside so I can concentrate fully on classical guitar. I know I am not.

When all is said and done I am making some progress on learning how to play classical guitar. I would like to advance a little faster, that much is true. But it is what it is and I can’t change it right now.

Classical Guitar and Memorization

As I posted a day or so ago I am at present learning how to play Sor’s Opus 60 No 1. The reason I mention this is because I haven’t yet decided if I am going to commit this song to memory.

Playing a song from sheet music is one thing. Committing it to memory is another. I can play quite a few simple songs, but I don’t memorize all of them. It takes something special about the song before I go that extra step. Maybe it’s something to do with how I connect to it on some level.

I wish I could understand this more because I’d like to pin it down as to what makes me pull the trigger on something like this. Here are the songs I have learned to play without needing the music in front of me:

Gunsmoke Theme
Red River Valley
Streets of Laredo
Minute in G
Blood on the Saddle
Barbara Allen
Wayfaring Stranger
Ashokan Farewell

There are one or two others I can’t remember. When I look at this list there is an obvious western theme at work. Not surprising since I am currently so involved in working on that genre, I guess. But even so I would like to figure out what it is about a song that makes me move toward memorizing it. Not that I think it will help me play or anything, but knowledge is power, right? 😛

Back On Classical Guitar: Sor’s Opus 60 No 1 and Spanish Study

I’ve changed the furniture layout in my room and one of the happy results is I sit a lot closer to where I keep my guitar. I say this is a happy result because I am by nature lazy. But now that I am closer to the guitar I have more reason to pick it up and practice and read some theory.

I’ve been practicing quite a lot in the last few weeks.

It’s a mindless activity to play scales or arpeggios when I am watching an old film on TV or the news or the odd sports broadcast. I just let my fingers do the walking across the fretboard and build up muscle memory. But I’ve also been more actively engaged in practicing technique and playing as well. So I am pretty happy about that. Right now I am learning how to play Sor’s Opus 60 No. 1 along with Spanish Study from Noad. I also play through my repertoire about every other day to keep those songs fresh in my mind.

Both songs, Opus 60 No. 1 and Spanish Study, are coming along well. I am getting the first half of each song down but the second halves are presenting a problem, especially the triplets in Spanish Study which may be beyond my current skill range. Even though I may learn to play a song I do not always do the extra mental gymnastics to commit the song to memory. I am inclined to do that with these two songs, however, because I like them. I don’t commit every song I learn to play to memory, just the ones I like. So there! 😛

Technique is important with any musical instrument, I guess. In classical guitar technique is everything. I am reminded back in the day when I used to play golf. Okay, I played a lot of golf. But I not only played a round I really did enjoy working around the practice green chipping and putting and hitting a bucket of balls on the driving range. I could fill up two hours with a bucket of balls on the driving range (I would take my time, check my setup, my swing, work through the clubs) and the putting green. I liked that as much, if not more, than playing an actual round.

I must say either I have gotten older (although I think I would still enjoy just practicing at the golf range and I have been wanting to get back to it, but I have no time because writing is a total time sink) or something because I don’t feel that way about the guitar. I was happy enough just practicing golf as opposed to playing. I would rather play the guitar than practice. I don’t know what it says about me or about the two different activities, but there you have it.

Either way, I am practicing and playing more classical guitar than I have been recently and for my money that can only be a good thing. I am not very good, of course, but I find it relaxing and enjoyable. Those are reasons enough for me to continue pursuing the music. I’ve included two links to YouTube of Sor’s Opus 60 No 1 and Spanish Study to give you an idea what the music is supposed to sound like…as opposed to what it sounds like when I play it currently.

But practice makes perfect! Or at the least drives you bonkers….

Medical Update and Publishing News

I got through the medical procedure okay today. I’m just tired and not really interested in messing around on the Internet for a while. So I am going to unplug from the Matrix, relax, read, decompress, and practice my guitar because that relaxes me as well. But I will be back to regular posting in a day or two when I regain my strength. Promise.

I also hope to have some much anticipated updates as regards Argo Navis Publishing and some of my stories that will appear. We have finally gotten the covers back for the first ten stories and we are working to put them into the pipeline for immediate publication. We will also launch the Argo Navis website and twitter feed as well. So a lot is planned for the next week or so.

We will keep you up to date on all the changes coming.  🙂

I got a new guitar!

Last weekend I bought a brand new classical guitar. It’s an Orpheus Valley Sofia handmade by Kremona, a small company in Bulgaria. Yes, you heard me right, Bulgaria. Kremona makes some beautiful instruments and I’ve got one!

I’ve been practicing and playing with it. Wow. The sound is fantastic with deep and tonal quality. It’s a true classical quitar so the strings are a little farther apart for the intricate fingerwork that style demands. It has a cedar top, mahogany bridge, bone nut and Savarez strings. It’s magnificent and I think I’m in love. The rosette around the sound hole is simply gorgeous, too.

I just love it. Here’s an Internet pic. Maybe someday I’ll take one myself with my camera when I’m not so lazy.

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