The barre business

One of the many challenges in guitar playing is the not so small matter of barre chords.

A barre chord occurs when several strings are held down at once by the left index finger with the remaining one, two or three fingers deployed elsewhere.

A certain amount of left hand strength (for a right handed player) is thus required for a successful barre chord.

The first six bars of ‘Cavatina’ are all barre chords. It’s a bit like starting an Everest ascent with the summit as the first hurdle. Hitting the required notes to the exact time of the metronome clicks as the left hand moves from one barre chord to the next seems very much akin to what Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing must have had to deal with.

Cavatina is also quite a long piece to play, 87 bars in total (63 actual bars and a repeat section for the first 24).

Speedwise I am currently hovering between 50 and 55 beats per minute and my guess is that it will be some time before I make it to the promised land of 80, however I am quietly confident I will make it.

Someday.

I will keep you posted.

The rush to judgement

For all it’s faults and middle class associations, I love the game of golf.

To play the game is to get a mirror image of who you are as a person. I do not stroll the fairways very much these days but I still appreciate and follow golf.

All of which leads me to the current national crisis.

Golfgate. The golf related dinner attended by many prominent figures last week which apparently breached current COVID-19 guidelines.

One minister has already resigned, other senior figures have stepped down and been censored, the demand for more heads to roll is strong.

This is understandable however it may well not be the correct course of action.

Calmness needs to be restored.Reason needs to prevail. Lessons need to be learned.

Having said all that, I won’t be shedding any tears if Phil Hogan bites the bullet.

Steady progress, a little regress

little regress

And so it’s a three pronged attack on Classical Guitar Everest; Cavatina, Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring and Somewhere Over Thre Rainbow.

The basics of Cavatina have been sorted for a few weeks now and once again it all boils down to my familiar foe of speed. My target is 80 metronome beats per minute (bpm), I am currently cruising along at 50, with a hint of reaching 55 any day soon.

Jesu and Rainbow are both at bar 14, I’m getting there.

On the national side of things, it would appear that our new government is not giving the country the necessary pandemic leadership that it needs.

Confusion is rife, discipline is not as strong as it was and COVID-19 is very much alive and well.

Bring back Leo.

Muscle memory and learning paths

I have been reflecting of late on the recent change of direction with regard to my classical guitar learning curve.

Six years ago I wandered along to Synge Street for my first guitar lesson with the dude known as The Guitar Man He asked me what style of guitar playing I was interested in learning. I duly informed him that my goal was to play the piece known as ‘Cavatina’, and so we started wandering down the road of Classical Guitar Everest.

I had no clear idea of how best to proceed. The notion of doing graded exams seemed to make sense to me and so I started to stroll in that direction.

I began to acquire new playing skills; hammers, harmonics, barres and pull offs, not to mention the crucial aspects of timing and counting.

I sailed happily along through grades two to five before coming a cropper at grade six due to lack of speed.

From time to time I raised the possibility of learning ‘Cavatina’ with The Guitar Man. His response was always the same.

‘You’re not ready for that yet’.

And, to a degree, he was right. It is a very challenging piece to play. Yet if you don’t at least try to achieve something then there is zero chance of succeeding.

Differences over money led to a parting of our ways when The Virtual Music School For People With Disabilities came into being and I then began to search online for ‘Cavatina’ tutorials, finding the excellent Tavi Jinariu from Elite Guitarist.

I learned the basics of the piece in a fortnight.

I still have a lot of work to do in order to bring it up to speed (target is 80 beats per minute, currently I’m at 45) but this task is made so much easier by the fact that the sounds that I am making are pleasing to my ear.

Becoming proficient at a musical instrument is mostly about muscle memory, training fingers to behave in near automatic fashion.This can only be achieved through practice and repetition, things that are more enjoyably done when the sound fits the person.

Of the 21 graded pieces that I learned, there is only one, ‘Parisian waltz’, that I still play. The other pieces did improve my technique but no more than that.

I have many things to thank The Guitar Man for.

Yet I do also look back on our time together with some questions.

Return to Chatham Street

The Great Institution is back in business.

All is once again well with the world.

Well, almost.

Still the small matter of a safe vaccine for 7.8 billion people to be negotiated but hey, who’s counting?

If nothing else, the current pandemic forces the world to come together in a common cause.

When it does that for one reason, then maybe it can do it for a second.

Be all that as it may, it’s all good on Chatham Street.

A noticeable change in proceedings as I ambled up Grafton Street this glorious August evening were the overhead seagulls. They are making themselves heard, big time.

Is this just a Dublin thing?

Winged creatures aside, it’s fab to be back in The Great Institution.

Indeed My Good Self was granted the ultimate lifetime achievement honour of being served the first post lockdown pint when the doors reopened a few weeks back.

Whenever the time comes, I will pop my clogs a happy camper.

Back to Bach

My first learning experience of Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Mans Desiring’ came on harmonica a few seasons back.

The Harp Dude had laid out a nice arrangement and it proved to be a lovely piece to learn. It was also a piece favoured by My Clarinet and Harmonica Mate.

Having completed the four online tutorials for ‘Cavatina’ a few days ago, My Good Self duly began to wander around the Elite Guitarist website, from which I learned Stanley Myers little ditty, and what did I stumble upon only Mr. Bach and Jesu.

Once again the tutor is my new friend Tavi Jinariu.

And so that is the current port of call for my guitar along with a fingerstyle arrangement for ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ sent to me by The Diligent Drumcondra Man.

That’s the way it looks for now.

Chat soon.

A momentous fortnight

First off, apologies, my dear readers, for the lack of contact of late.

Strangely My Good Self hit a few of lifes turbulent waves recently and it has taken me a little while to steady the ship.

Happily the SS My Good Self is now floating along in calm waters and it’s all good.

And lo and behold I have completed all four tutorials for the guitar piece entitled ‘Cavatina’.

The learning of this piece was the reason that I started wandering down Classical Guitar Road six years ago.

The Guitar Man, my teacher for those years, gave me the skills with which to accomplish this feat and I thank him for that.

With regard to putting those skills into practice on Stanley Myers’ famed composition I must also thank an online tutor by the name of Tavi Jinariu who has just an excellent way of teaching.

So that’s all for now.

Chat soon.

Clouds

Rows and floes of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air.

Joni Mitchell wrote so eloquently on the subject of clouds. She had a good look at them from many angles, couldn’t figure them out and so it is with My Good Self.

They arrive, they go, and I am none the wiser.

So, last weekend was a little overcast. As ever music carries me through. The therapeutic value of making sounds that are pleasing to ones ear cannot be overstated.

And of course my good friend, the radio. Primarily the BBC World Service and 5 Live, with a little bit of RTE thrown in for good measure.

So today, the afternoon of Saturday 25 July, I am sipping on a glass of the Santa Helena Merlot, listening to 5 Live and doing a bit on the guitar version of the Stanley Myers piece ‘Cavatina’, link below.

It’s quite a challenging guitar piece with many barre chords but we’re getting there.

The Merlot makes it easier.

https://www.eliteguitaristclassical.com/programs/cavatina?cid=82214

Dame Street

Given that College Green surprisingly runs down to Trinity Street, Dame Street is actually not as long a thoroughfare as I had always imagined it to be, calling it quits on its western end at Lord Edward Street.

Kicking off at the junction of Trinity Street on the southern side of affairs, the first point of interest is that Sweeneys Bar is no more. Always a good spot for a bit of music, it has been renamed as Mulligan & Haines, and acquired a Joycean feel to it, all of which sounds very positive.

I feel a visit coming on.

Moving along I pass The Mercantile Hotel, where an ensemble known as the Hot House Big Band used to entertain the masses of a Monday evening.

Crossing over South Great George’s Street and passing the impressive corner Burton Building, home for many years to the Burton menswear store, it now houses a Spar outlet at ground level.

Arriving further down outside City Hall, I cross over to the northside and happen upon the shop known as Fogarty Lock & Safe Co. Ltd.

Fogartys is one of those Dublin family shops that have stood the test of time. They are few and far between these days, long may they continue.

A few doors further on is Brogans Bar, a good spot for a pre gig pint when heading to the nearby Olympia Theatre.

On the go as a music hall since 1855, the Olympia acquired its current name in 1923 and is one of the great Dublin institutions.

Crossing over Eustace Street I soon find myself outside the premises known as Club Lapello.

My Good Self has absolutely no idea what goes on here.

A little further on is the old Central Bank building, currently being transformed into a shopping centre.

And so there we have Dame Street, a mixed bag of many things and well worth a visit.

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