Mateo’s Musings: Practicing
We all agree that practicing is absolutely essential in becoming a decent flamenco guitarist. Flamenco presents a huge learning curve, especially so for foreigners. Living and studying in Spain is tremendously helpful, probably necessary, at some point. Living there, one sees that the Spanish way of life is conducive to long hours of guitar practice.
Unfortunately, that is certainly NOT the case living in the US. Life just keeps intruding, cell phones ringing, texts beeping, family and friends shaking their heads at the craziness of structuring your life around practicing flamenco guitar, something they don’t care for all that much anyway. Why not play the blues? (Why not, indeed?)
Thus, the importance of concentrated, intense, effective practice. Practice that achieves results. I agree, but I also have to note that there are techniques that just require long hours of repetition and patience—but, for that, we just leave guitars lying around the house, so we can pick one up whenever we sit for a few moments and do a little alza pua, or whatever.
El Entri suggests 6 hours a day of practice if one is, or desires to be, a professional flamenco guitarist. That breaks down to: 2 hours of technique, 2 hours of repertoire, and 2 hours of creative exploration, writing falsetas, improvisation and generally just lovin’ it.
Two hours of technique includes something like an hour of picado—exercises, riffs you lift out of falsetas or pieces, lots of Paco stuff—and another hour spent doing alza pua, arpegio, rasgueo, horquilla, tremelo. Have I left anything out? I suggest always practicing in compas’ (or nearly always) and a metronome can be very helpful, too. Guard against becoming addicted to the metronome—it happens easily!
Two hours of repertoire: I like what the guy at ravennaflamenco.com wrote about constructing the (nerdy…) chart of pieces one is working on and performing—devoting 10-15 minutes to each one and move on. I’m doing this and I applaud his idea! Go to his site right now and see what I’m talking about….
Then there’s the 2 hours of creative time—don’t neglect this: it is THE BEST!
If we have to run out and play a 3 hour gig, as I do maybe 4-5 nights a week, then maybe we need to make small adjustments so as not to show up to the club completely worn out. I’ve also seen that doing technique practice AFTER a gig (when you’re really warmed up and crackin’) can be very effective. Having that glass of wine sitting alongside and cooling down with some picado practice is quite delightful.
If we don’t get through all this each day, simply pick up where you left off the day before and don’t beat yourself up about it. The point is to get yourself really excited about the guitar so you’re cranked up to maximize your time. And then, I can actually get excited about days off because they are big guitar days! Nothing like sitting out on the gazebo, grilling, drinking sangria, and playing guitar—summer, please come soon.