Do we need to play technical exercises and scales on classical guitar?

Technical exercises, scales, etudes for classical guitar, are tools that we, the guitar teachers, use to improve students’ physical and mental abilities to play guitar. Those exercises usually are-structured in method books, which we follow, or we structure them ourselves, according to the students’ condition, which is a normal practice in “one to one” teaching format. In the teaching process we use real examples from the classical guitar literature, to illustrate the use of the technique that the student learns now. An experienced guitar teacher, by default, will try to choose the pieces that are fulfilling several criteria, in general the piece must be:

  • In the student’s ability
  • To contain great amount of possibilities for implementation of the learned technique or idiom.
  • To be musically attractive and interesting for the student
  • To give opportunities for future development of the student
  • To be suitable for student’s repertoire
  • To motivate the student,

And so on.

On mechanical level, the goal is to improve your technique. 99% of the teacher’s job is not to teach you how to play certain pieces, but to teach you how to play guitar and to teach you music. In this article I will concentrate on the technical level of the matter.

What are the technical exercises and scales aimed to?

They are aimed in analyzing the situations occurring in both hands improving your ability to engineer and use the logically anatomically reasonable fingering. Which in fact is your general approach to the any piece simply on mechanical level.

If you have been playing guitar for some time, for sure you have noticed that there is some logic in finger’s placement, movement. That is what we are trying to improve.

However, it is not black and white but in most of the cases we will have a pre done models or matrixes for both hands that will work in most of the cases.

There are of coarse cases which are many in fact, where the common models will not work. And there it comes the experience which will allow you to take the most economically correct decision.

Learning scales, etudes, technical exercises are a must on your way of acquiring the so needed guitar technique,

Here are of coarse different opinions for example:

to acquire techniques trough playing pieces and songs… that is a good promise but, this approach is extremely difficult. Difficult. Why? Because the goals in composing pieces and the goals in composing exercises are totally different.

I’ll give you an example hoping to understand what I mean.

Imagine you are learning English but you don’t know anything about it, apart of the alphabet, now, your innovative teacher will not be teaching you grammar, verbs, adjectives, how the sentence should be structured he will not demand from you certain amount of words to be learned by heart etc. he simply starts teaching you how to read newsletters, novels, poems, Shakespeare and so on. Maybe some students will learn something in this way, but the majority will give up simply because they won’t be able to keep up and simply will not learn anything.

To learn something we need a method, a system of presenting the subject in a way that most of us will be able to master it up to satisfactory level, Most of us. Not only the talented.

In fact, talking about talented students, people etc. is in my opinion, irrelevant when we talk about education in general.

Why? What is a talent, a talented person? According to Cambridge dictionary a talented person is:

“someone who has a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught:”

Notice, “Especially without being taught”

We don’t need to do a scientific research to conclude that: when we talk about education, courses etc. we do not have in mind the talented once, simply because they do not need our services as educators or in other words I may speculate a bit: a talented student will get the best results even from the worst educational system…

So back to our case of studying pieces in order to acquire technical skills, obviously the only ones who will benefit from such approach will be the talented, not the others.

However here are other factors to consider, we, the private guitar teachers and other private music teachers, for that matter, we work in a nonacademic environment, there is not any academic body that will control our teaching and the learning process. We will have for example:

  •  a student who comes to learn and ready to go trough the matter step by step,
  • A student who takes guitar lessons just for fun,
  • A student who uses their gift voucher,
  • A student who is 5 y.o.
  • Another who is 65 y.o.
  • Another who wants to play a piece by Metallica on classical guitar

And so on, the list can go forever.

In some occasions using a piece that the student likes regardless of it’s musical and technical difficulties, can be used to strike their motivation to learn, that is something else, that is, I May say, a way, a trick, that the teacher can use to achieve another pedagogical goals, but it will not be a routine practice.

As teachers we are always looking for different, new ways to make the things easy approachable and understandable for the students, to get the results as fast as possible. This process is going on since forever. I always like to say to my students:

“ As your guitar teacher, I want more than you, believe me, much more than you want, for you to become a good guitar player in no time and if I had a guitar injection, I would sell it to you right away, rather than torturing you with those boring guitar lessons…”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *