I was luck enough to participate in a master class this weekend with the inimitable Australian guitarist Slava Grigoryan.
We had a slightly unusual format for the masterclass, in that there was no public attendance; just a very intimate setting of five students and Slava – very lucky indeed.
Firstly, let me say that Slava is such a lovely, lovely person. He has absolutely no airs and graces about him at all, and was more than happy to chat away during breaks about guitar, music and his own guitar (he was happy for us to hold and check out his rather tasty Jim Redgate cedar double top guitar).
He extended his fantastic manner when sitting one-on-one with each of the students; imparting his thoughts, knowledge and wisdom in a very open, thoughtful and generous manner. We had a couple of younger students join the group and it was lovely to see his style, dealing with the young chaps in a very kind, constructive and almost fatherly way. So lovely to watch and be a part of that – I got a few good tips for my own teaching practice in those interactions!
We were lucky enough to have 45 minutes each one-on-one with Slava, with the others looking and listening on. Slava was keen that others join in with comments or questions or points of view during the class and made everyone feel very well included.
I took some notes from the various sessions, as well as my own. Most of the comments were obviously related to individuals pieces and/ or styles, but some of the broadly applicable “take home” messages from the day were:
- Really explore the colour palette available to you on the instrument.
- When you do make changes in colour or timbre, make sure you exaggerate those changes to make it really obvious to the audience; like an actor on stage exaggerating voice and movements (this point relates to a post of mine from a couple of weeks back on perception – are you really playing what you think you’re playing?!).
- Beware of unintentional glissandi, staccati and other guitaristic kinds of movements – are you playing like this intentionally? Does it lend itself to the music? Or is it just a vehicle to move you through a section? Think how another instrument would sound playing the section, for example piano, violin or cello. Is that the phrasing or movement you’re producing?
- Some times a drier or crisper sound can help make different voicings seem clearer, especially from an audience’s perspective.
- It’s fantastic to cultivate a nice, round, warm tone, but mixing it up with crisper, brighter tones can add interest for the audience and help bring that special something from a piece.
- If using rubarto, and pulling back, in some phrases remember that borrowed time has to be repaid elsewhere in the piece with some phrases pushed through more.
- When playing music such as Brazilian choro the rhythmic interest is usually as is written on the score, so to be played straightforward making sure all rhythmic elements are treated equally.
- If launching into a virtuosic scale run, perhaps pull back on the preceding tempo slightly to give yourself room to breathe and build into it. Move from a point of relative relaxation, rather than tension.
- Be aware of where you may be clipping notes or ends of phrases unintentionally; being aware of or potential for this can help avoid it.
Some action shots of the Maestro and yours truly in action yesterday:
For some Slava action check out these YouTube vids:
(scroll to 2:58 for the start of Slava and his young friend playing)
Slava having a chat about being a guitarist and the classical guitar industry:
Slava and his brother Leonard, along with the Tawadros brothers as Band of Brothers, at the Blue Mountains Music Festival:
Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, playing a duet:
A couple with a very young-looking Slava: