Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tap Technique Breakthrough

I have only two tap technique pieces in my set so far - Eddie Van Halen's Spanish Fly and Joe Satriani's A Day at the Beach - though there is a third that I wrote coming up soon on my to-do list (The Toccata in E Minor from Sonata One in E Minor; link, PDF and streaming MP3 in the right sidebar).

The first problems I encountered when I started learning tap on the nylon string were, 1) Getting the tapped notes to ring well, and, 2) my left forearm would pump up and lose strength from all of the anaerobic activity involved, especially on the two-finger Satriani tap piece, which is motoric and fast throughout.

The problem of the notes not ringing well solved itself as I built up calluses on the tips of my right hand i and m fingers, and just a whole ton of forward and reverse wrist curls on my Bowflex allowed me to build up my forearm strength and endurance. Whereas at first my left forearm would pump up just one time through A Day at the Beach, now, three years later, I can go through it ten or more times in a row with no problem (And both of my forearms are all sinew and ripples now).

The final remaining problem has been that, in actual performance situations, I'm not warmed up to the tap technique when I get to the tap tech pieces in the set. When Im practicing, it takes three to five times through those pieces before I start to really flow with and groove on them, so in performance situations I have to play them rather slowly and deliberately. This has vexed me for over two years now, but I finally came up with the solution.

What happened was, I asked myself, "Self, what if you play these pieces once through each at the end of every suite when you practice, instead of eleven times through and only at the two places where they belong?" - the idea being, if I play them all the time when I'm not warmed up to them perhaps I'll get better at playing them relatively cold. Yes! That's the answer, right there.

There's two ways to look at this: I'm either getting much better at playing them cold, or I'm making myself warmed up for them all the time. Regardless of perspective, after just a couple of times through my set maintenance practice routine doing this, I can jump into them cold way better now.

Whew! What a relief.

So, if you are trying to learn tap tech, but like me find actually performing tap tech pieces in the middle of a set with mostly trad tech nightmarish, try this: Just play them cold a lot. It's worked near miraculously for me, and in just a week or so (But remember, I've been busting my butt over tap tech for a few years now).


Had a really cool private party gig at a home in the hills above Alpine the other day.

The house was a gorgeous Spanish style place, and since it was below 60 degrees - my minimum required temp for outdoor playing - they put me in the living room. I thought it would be just another background music thing, but it turned into a command performance situation, with the living room packed with guests, many of whom had never heard me play before. It was a blast.

I wish I'd thought of taking some outside pix, but I only had my iPhone, which has a pretty lame camera (As you can see).


I've come up with a novel approach for writing the final blog and book form of Why Music Works: The Harmonic Series, Musical Context, and the Natural Laws of Musical Motion." I'm writing all of the examples, which I call musical proofs, out in Encore 5 first, and then I'm going to go back and re-write the text. So, the first thing I'm going to post/publish will be an index of the musical examples, each of which will have streaming MP3 audio, a JPG of the score, and a link to PDF's, if anyone wants them. There are also Observations and Deductions on the score pages, so the index will serve as both a review and a primer.

There is going to be a lot better flow this time from a pedagogical standpoint - I've been working on this for two years since the Musical Relativity series of posts - and the musical proofs are way, way tighter now. I have 45 of the example proofs done so far, I'm really psyched at how well they are turning out, and I'm thinking I'll probably have well over sixty before I'm done.

My metronome slow-play season starts after Thanksgiving, and I could be interrupted by a move to San Antonio at any time if I find a house, so I may not have anything but the index posted until next March or so. We'll just have to see how it all works out.


Off to San Antonio for a week tomorrow, so I can look at houses, do some bee's wax, irritate old fiends friends, and spend Thanksgiving with mommy. So, have a happy Thanksgiving, and I'll have a post for when I get back.

Don't think mom invited Erica Campbell. Pity.


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