The Battle of Practice

12/25/20232 min read

playing the guitar
playing the guitar

The Battle of Practice.

I always used to say, “if I had a thousand pesos for every hour that I practiced the guitar, I'd be a very wealthy man.”

The practice hours. The grey matter. What you put in you shall reap in untold rewards of musical excellence and satisfaction! Is that true? kind of? The inward pleasure of physically experiencing the gratification of notes or musical passages executed, at best fluidly, after hours of repetition yet not achieving the musicality yearned for? The whole experience is compelling. It is never really a comfortable feeling? where I can easily use a word like ‘gratifying’ as I've heard some musicians describe it.

It gets harder and harder as my years get on to sit down and get a good fifteen minutes of practice time. In my younger years i could sit for an equivalent of 2 hours in 15–20-minute stints of focused, un-adulterated playing. The focus is on having a goal each time you sit down to practice. Sometimes i just sit down to play, the joy of playing and hearing sound comes from the instrument as you experience the movement of your fingers and arms, a language, a body conversation.

A while back when i was just starting the classical guitar i was learning Recuerdos de la Alhambra by Francisco Tarrega when someone commented that it sounded out of tune, grimaced face and all. I was putting too much tension on the fingers that it would bend the strings to the point of making the strings change pitch and the guitar was also a little out of tune but there was tension everywhere! I remember being jolted from concentration and focus on my playing. I looked up and acknowledging the comment. This is always irritating when you are spoken to in the middle of playing, like you were not doing anything right? If i was reading the newspaper he probably would not have said anything or would at least have excused himself? That and, well, reading the newspaper and playing a guitar are worlds apart in at least a corporeal sense. This made me realize one particularly important thing, the difference between making music and practicing are worlds apart. He ,of course could not have known the variance. I, on the other hand understood it but could not put it into proper habitual practice. Till recently.

Where i used to live in a small enclave of townhouses the neighbors were just an earshot away, I would be practicing one of the more difficult Guilani Sonatas. i could sense the listening presence of the neighbors. There would be a middle of the day silence which was unheard of being the residences always had people in them, either the help preparing lunch or blasting music from wherever. One time there was almost an eerie silence during one of my practice sessions and i heard a neighbor remark .

" He's just repeating it over and over and over again". And another one says in hushed tones.

" well thats because he cant get it right"

" Why is it slower now?"

" Is it the same song?"

"What is the song?"

I almost replied but just started silently laughing ( of course the remarks sound funnier in Tagalog !). It just went on and on and i probably did not hear most of what was said since i was focused on this train of repetition but, it did give me some pretty profound insights on how an audience hears your playing.