The LMusA Diploma Journey – Update #7 – Taking The Pressure Off

Morning (or evening depending on where you are) folks!

Well, I’ve come to the realisation that this journey of progressing towards the LMusA is going to take a little longer than I’d anticipated at the start of this year. And that’s fine. I’m not under any time constraints with this – there’s no “must do” here, there’s no tangible, external reason for undertaking this. No outside force saying “you must do this, before you can do this” or anything like that. It’s purely an internal reason. That’s to say this is really largely about the journey for me and seeing how far I can take my playing. And that internal reasoning, in the past, has caused more pressure than an external driver! I can be a real pain in the backside to my own self sometimes! Or used to, I should say.

I have absolutely no doubt that I can achieve the LMusA. I say that without an ounce of arrogance and quite seriously. It’s just a matter of time. Well, that’s not quite correct. It’s a matter of putting in the right amount of quality practice with my chosen repertoire pieces to really get to know them, understand them, feel them, subsume them into my psyche. This does, of course, have a time element associated with it.

Like most of you (probably, I’m making assumptions here of course), dear reader, I too have a “normal” life, a non-guitar life. At the start of this year I actually ceased teaching and freelancing to focus on an exciting employment opportunity. So as well as working towards my own guitar goals and playing development, I’m also working a 40 hours (minimum) managerial level job that takes me around the country, with all the exciting and sometimes stressful challenges that go along with that. Plus, you know, family life, keeping fit and healthy, having time out for myself, looking after the dog, painting my apartment, looking for a new house to move to for a bit of a tree-change and all of that!

So as important and a significant part of my life as playing classical guitar is, I’ve realised, however, one has to be flexible with these things. If you want to set a strict timeline for yourself and you find that a really good driver for yourself personally, go for it and all power to you! For myself though, over the last few years I’ve realised I thrive and develop and actually play at my best when I take some of the pressure off of myself. In this instance this is a time pressure. I’ve released the pressure valve by saying ” you know Nicole, you know when you’ll be ready. Keep working whenever you can, in that focussed manner and we’ll get there. No rush. No due date”.

I’ve found that when I get the time to practice, which I still aim to do most days of the week in some form or other, I’m super focussed on what I’m doing. I’ve also found my output (for want of a better term) is almost fast-tracked relative to the time I put in – I’m focusing on quality practice, sorting out niggles. I’m focussing on beautiful sound, and a clarity in my sound. I’m focussing on clarity of direction.  As a result of releasing the pressure from myself, I’m having a lot of fun with it, it’s adding a new dimension to my playing, and my playing is better than ever!

Dear readers –  What are your drivers? Do you need to release any pressure or tension – actual, perceived, physical, mental? And if so, where?  Some food for thought……



The LMusA Diploma Journey – Update #6 – Time Away From The Guitar

Well hello folks! This week I’ve been on my travels again with my work, so that means I’ve been away from my guitar – eeek! Hah hah! All good – sometimes I feel it can be quite beneficial to have an enforced small period away from the instrument. Beneficial, that is provided that I’m using the time I would otherwise be using for practice to do other music and/or guitar related things.

And so this week I have been carrying out research into the piece I’m currently learning -Frederic Mompou’s Suite Compostelana. Over the last couple of months I’ve slowly but steadily been getting the first movement of the Suite, the Preludio, under my fingers, making sense of the music’s direction and shapes, getting to know its “feel”, exploring different sounds.

Whilst I’m going through this initial exploratory phase I don’t tend to listen to any recordings of the music, so as not to influence my own thoughts and perhaps intuitive feelings about a piece. Once I’ve started to form up some ideas, however, I do like to then explore again some other interpretations.

So this week has been a perfect time to do that. And so aided by a wonderful set of new headphones, to enjoy the sounds to their fullest (and not annoy the folks in the hotel room next door by playing the same piece over and over!) I’ve been listening to various recordings of the Preludio from Mompou’s Suite Compostelana thanks to the wonders of Spotify and YouTube. Attempting to do this a number of years ago whilst travelling would have a clumsy exercise lugging around a number of CDs and CD player!

I thought I’d share with you all my favourite recording thus far. It’s by a Portuguese guitarist byt the name of Gil Fesch (previously unknown to me until this week). Here’s a video of Gil playing movements 1 to 3 (Preludio, Coral and Cuna) of the Suite Compostelana by Frederic Mompou: