Great Christmas Present Ideas for Classical Guitarists

With Christmas decorations going up, lights adoring houses and shopping malls the start of the festive season is just around the corner. So as guitarists, or as folks thinking of starting or picking up the guitar again in 2014 (or even folks that know guitarists and looking for present ideas), you may be wondering what to ask Father Christmas what to bring down the chimney for you and leave under the tree or pop into your stocking.

Well, being the helpful kind of person that I am here are some top tips for great Christmas presents for classical guitarists!

(1) A new guitar! Kind of hard not to go past that one as top of the wish list eh?! If you’re looking to get into guitar for the first time or have a loved on looking to start guitar there are some fantastic bargains out there now at the entry/ student level. Could be good for a “main” present for a youngster or loved one and they will definitely love you forever! If you’re looking at upgrading your current axe Christmas could be the perfect time to “self-gift” that instrument you’ve been drooling over for a while.

(2) A new case. With a new guitar has to come a new case. And even if you’re not buying a new guitar a new case, especially one with some schmick faux-crocodile skin, blazing bright orange lining or super strong structure for travel protection makes for a great gift.

(3) Nail kit. Anyone that is a guitarist or lives with one will know that we’re pretty much always doing our nails. If we’re not buffing, shaping or smoothing out our right hand nails, we’re trimming back the left hand nails (or the other way around if you’re lift handed).  A great little stocking filler can be found in a proper little nail kit – all the essential tools for keeping your nails in tip top condition in one box.

(4) Top quality hand and nail cream. My personal favourite is L’Occitane en Provence Shea Butter Hand Cream. Your hands cop a beating not only from guitar, but also from day-to-day living. A good quality hand cream is vital for all guitarists to keep your mitts in smooth and supple working order.

(5) Foam rollerDoesn’t sound like a sexy present, but I would give someone that bought me this a big wet kiss on the lips! I roll out my back and shoulders with one of these after near enough all my practice sessions – I think I’m addicted to the foam roller! They are fantastic for working out any muscles tensions and tight spots that may have creeped in and so are great for keeping your big muscle groups in good working order, and feeling ache and pain free. Check out the following to see what I’m on about:

(6) Vouchers for remedial massage, myotherapy or Alexander Technique sessions. If you or your guitarist loved is having some aches and pains that are even potentially remotely related to guitar playing a present they will absolutely love you for is a voucher for a session or two of for some kind of physical (or associated) therapy. My recommendation – help them get rid of the their immediate aches and pains with a remedial massage or myotherapy session. That on its on is not going to solve the aches and pains issues though, so make an investment into some Alexander Technique sessions – this will help reveal where and why certain aches and pains are occurring so the player can better understand and manage their physical tensions.

Happy shopping!!

Making Your Brain Melt – Focus and Classical Guitar Practice

Let’s face it, most of us have not got the luxury of spending hours and hours and hours of time to practice every day (as much as we’d like to). And even for those that do have that time available to them, there is one thing that everyone of us can benefit from – focus!

What do I mean by focus?

In a nutshell it’s that period of supreme concentration with no external distractions (no phones beeping an incoming text, no checking Facebook) and no internal distractions (no invading, obtrusive or otherwise unhelpful thoughts). It’s that period where time can seem to flow faster than normal and you feel like you’re achieving something.

So how do I get focus?!

Well, some days you’re going to be more in a focussed headspace than other day, but there are a number of things that can help you get into the zone and ready for some good quality practice:

  • Think about what it is you really want to get out of your practice session before you start it and think about the things you might need to do to achieve that.
  • Break your practice session up into bite-sized pieces, as there’s only so long you can maintain quality focus for. I often set a timer for 25-30mins, giving myself a little brain break of 5 minutes before diving in again for another 25-30mins.
  • Avoid the temptation to check any incoming messages, emails or calls and set you phone to silent, flight mode or turn it off.
  • Focus on the task at hand. Don’t concern yourself with what’s coming up in the rest of your day. Lay aside for a time any concerns, worries, day-to-day kind of stuff and just be present, right in the moment for your practice. Give it all of your attention and energy for that period you’ve set aside. And enjoy it!
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated, just with plain simple water, prior to your practice session and perhaps have a glass of water handy in your practice room. Make sure you’re well fed too – I know that I absolutely cannot focus in any way, shape or form when I’m hungry.
  • Avoid thinking about what others are doing, that video you saw on YouTube of that four year old kid playing your favourite piece or what you think that others may be think of your playing – this when things can go awry. Why? It’s simple really, if we can only really focus on one thing at a time, if you’re thinking about a myriad of other things, you’re taking your mind and your focus, off of what it is that you’re doing. You’re not present for the music you’re making.
  • If you’re struggling to focus and you feel like it’s really not happening for you today or at this moment, don’t struggle on with it – put your guitar away for a while, do something else and come back to it later.

When you come out of the other side of your supremely focussed practice session you probably will feel like your brain is going to melt or fall out of your head or some other similar sensation. Which is not surprising given that you’re using a whole load of brain power and building new neural pathways. Along with that sensation, I can guarantee that you will have achieved something – nailing that tricky chord change, working out a fingering, checking out a new piece for the first time. So, try a little focus and see what happens!