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Teaching classical guitar in the 2020s with the LCME handbooks

My approach to teaching classical guitar with the use of LCME handbooks is a progressive work. I always try to actively involve the student in every phase, to make him understand the importance of what he will have to study and what I try to teach him at that moment, to make him participate also with his own ideas that I can consider and evaluate very carefully. I don't want teaching to be something that just affects me. I love sharing this wonderful journey with my students. Enjoy it intensely with each of them from younger students to more adult ones.

Creating moments of meeting with other students of the same or different grade/syllabus is a fundamental point of my approach to teaching: this motivates the students and helps them to better overcome the small and large difficulties that they may encounter during the study. Furthermore, sharing the experiences of study together is always more fun and educational ... for this reason, whenever possible, I promote “Rock Parties” and “Musical Games” for baby and kids students. Musical games, in particular, are very useful for me to exercise my students on "Viva voce", "Aural tests" and "Sight-reading". They are also a fun way to learn and not make their exam too serious; For teen and young students I promote “Showcases” and “Concerts”, so that they can have the opportunity to perform both individually and in small guitar ensembles. Showcases are also an excellent opportunity to present thematic programs extracts from classical guitar syllabuses to an audience of other students, teachers or parents.

When I was a kid, I had a lot of time to devote to the guitar. Of course I played with my friends, practiced my favorite sports (tennis, football), studied, watched television and had fun. But there were also moments when I was bored and my best companion was always my guitar with which I spent many happy hours.

Today it is no longer so. Children are very busy and no longer have time to get bored ... In the morning they are at school, in the afternoon they have many homework, attend a school to learn a second language, attend gyms and practice their favorite sport and they are very distracted by social networks and smartphones. The time to devote to music is very little, which is why we teachers must motivate students to the maximum and catch their attention in every way.

I strongly believe in organizing a quality study session, in planning the best objectives and strategies to be adopted to achieve them in a set time.

For this reason I use my students to organize a study session that is as effective as possible for this, for me, the study session must be divided into two phases: a more technical one (scales, arpeggios, slurs, chords, ...) in which the student will have to make an intelligent use of the metronome and a more musical one, in which the student will have to release his emotions, his creativity and his musicality. At the same time I teach not to be very rigid in this division: the first moment must be considered as something expressive and the second as a possible technical study. Technique is not the purpose of the study, but must always be placed at the service of the emotional aspect of music.

In this regard, LCME handbooks include a Key Study among the "Technical Work" which is ideal for studying scales in a new and expressive way and, at the same time, offers the student the opportunity to play music outside the standard guitar repertoire!

The "Performance" section of the handbooks offer me, on the other hand, the possibility of preparing lists of Preparatory Exercises and Learning Practice Maps (or invite the students to prepare themselves) to make the study of the pieces also a possible moment of technical study.

I want my student to commit to live every study session, even the most technical and demanding, with a creative and artistic spirit.

I want to teach the student the difference between studying and playing. I want to make him understand that when he studies he is not performing. During the study I want him to have full control over the sound and every technical aspect. This is not easy because, contrary to what is commonly believed, it is very difficult to play slowly ... more difficult than to play quickly. It is very difficult to play flat, without dynamics. But this type of work, even if it is not very musical and easily tired, is very important for the general control of a performance. I'm not interested in playing fast, I'm interested in sound: clean, clear, personal.

For me, full control of sound, dynamics, timbre is the highest level of virtuosity that can be achieved by a student and that goes beyond being able to play many notes clearly and quickly.

Generally speaking, when I work on a piece from the current LCME repertoire list with one of my students, I always try to analyze at various levels all the aspects that revolve around the composition. For this reason I find it useful to disassemble the piece again after having initially assembled it. I love to question everything, to analyze again every single note, every fingering, every agogic and dynamic indication. I study everything possible on its author and on the piece itself. I dismantle everything ... I put everything down on the floor ... and I always start from scratch. Of course, actively involving the student in this process, listening to his ideas and observations.

Finally, I don't want my students to learn only from me. When the opportunity arises, I invite them to study also with other guitar teachers, to experience with other musicians, to listen to other points of view (different from mine …), to explore others syllabus from LCME handbooks (acoustic, electric, rock, …) to open their minds as much as possible. I am not afraid of losing a student by doing this. I care about his artistic and personal growth, non that of mine bank account …

In summary, this is my mantra ... this is my philosophy in teaching guitar. In over 25 years of teaching, experience has taught me that by adopting this method the student will internalize the piece from a musical point of view and will play it with total technical control.

Finally, I love to match my approach to teaching classical guitar with use of the LCME handbooks, even if a student of mine do not intend to take an examination, but very probably he will take it because taking an LCM exam is an exciting challenge with many benefits:

  • the boost to motivation which comes from working towards an exam;

  • the opportunity to discover and perform new music and to build new skills;

  • the sense of achievement which comes from successfully reaching a concrete musical goal;

Learning and teaching classical guitar in the 2020s with the LCME handbooks is a wonderful journey that I recommend for every student and every teacher who is passionately dedicated to music.

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