10 important things every classical guitarist should know.

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Hello, dear readers! Today for a change I decided to use all my knowledge and experience in classical guitar field to share 10 important things that can be very useful. I have talked to so many people, who told me that they have tried or have picked up playing the guitar but the mistakes they make are so ridiculous that I decided to write this articles and lay out some basic life hacks that might be useful, if you want to start playing the guitar or are already doing that. Some of these might apply not only on classical guitars but on acoustic, too. So, let’s dive right in!

  1. Change the strings of your guitar in the evening. If you can change guitar strings on your own, do it in the evening when you have already finished practicing. Right after changing them, tune the guitar, play a little, tune it again and then put it to rest. Strings need some time to adjust to the tension and playing right away after changing them is kind of difficult because you will probably have to tune guitar every minute. Just let it rest and pick up in the morning.
  2. For classical guitars there two types of strings – work strings and concert strings. If you are a beginner, you probably don’t need to use concert strings yet because you’re only learning right now. But to those, who are already more or less performing, I will explain the difference between these two types of strings. Work strings, just like the name says, are meant for work and work only. Of course, you might play with them in a concert but don’t expect the most amazing sound. Work strings have to be changed every month or two, depending on how much you play. Concert strings, on the other hand, have an amazing sound, however they have shorter life. After some time they lose their full sound potential. Some concert strings sound good for about one week but others are meant just for one 2 hours long concert and then they are done.
  3. Don’t leave your instrument somewhere too cold or too hot. If you leave it somewhere hot, for example, near heater, the guitar might get too dry and it might cause it to develop cracks. That’s why you should buy a guitar humidifier for hot summers to avoid damage. It has a sponge inside that you make wet in water, then squeeze out all the spare water so it’s a little moist, then put back in the container and carefully insert  between guitar strings above the hole. (There different models, not just the one I inserted as an example.) Also, one thing to remember – if you take a walk with instrument in the winter and the temperature is below zero (the lower, the more dangerous), don’t open the case as soon as you enter the room. It might cause the guitar to develop cracks because of sudden temperature change. Wait 5 – 10 minutes and only then take the guitar out.
  4. When changing strings, don’t take off all the old strings before putting on new ones. Same warning – guitar might develop cracks and if that happens, the sound won’t be the same. So be careful, no matter if you have a 150$ guitar or 2000$ guitar.
  5. Don’t put any stickers on your instrument or draw on it. Especially, if you are going to participate in a contest or play in a concert. That just looks cheap and is a bad taste. Sadly I’ve seen so many people do it and it looks terrible. Just don’t. It’s not cool, it just looks like you are kind of disrespecting your instrument.
  6. Do not put your guitar anywhere where it might fall, for example, support it against the chair. If it falls, you will end up with stack of  firewood for your fireplace just because you didn’t think twice.
  7. Pay attention to your posture. I will show you two correct ways, how to sit while playing classical guitar and two incorrect ways. I know you want to look “cool” but there’s nothing cool about developing acute back pain.

    Correct ways to sit.

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    Incorrect ways to sit.

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  8. Don’t bother with tabs, that will lead you nowhere; learn notes instead. Playing every piece from tabs and not knowing notes consumes too much time. Also, if you want to be a decent player, learn notes. Tabs won’t be that great in a long run. Start with learning which free string is which note and go from there.
  9. Cut nails of your left hand and grow nails of your right hand. This is kind of controversial fact for both – girls and boys because girls usually like to have long nails but boys want to keep them short. I remember when I first told my friends that boys, who play classical guitar have long right hand nails, they exchanged confused looks and giggled. It might seem weird because “it doesn’t look cool or right” but if you have long left hand nails, you’ll have trouble pressing down strings and if you have short right hand nails, you will have trouble playing with lively, bold and beautiful sound.
  10. Your fingers will hurt at the beginning – it’s normal. A lot of beginners complain that their fingers (especially fingers of a left hand) hurt when they are playing. No worries – it’s part of the process and after practicing consistently for a while it will go away because the skin will simply get thicker.

So that’s all for the most basic advice in starting out as a classical guitarist. There are lots and lots of other things I know, and I could write a book about them but this is not a classical guitar or music related blog, so I will keep that knowledge for myself… Unless you really want me to write another post about some guitar life hacks or go in-depth in some of the things I already mentioned in this post. If you do, let me know in the comments!

Love, Porcelain Doll.

 

The time I decided to become a guitar teacher.

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Hello, my dear readers! If you would have told me two or three years ago that I will try working as a teacher, I would have laughed in your face. Honestly. I knew that I was going to have a job in my last year of high school but becoming a teacher was the very last option on a list. Why, you may ask? For example, I was pretty sure that I won’t get a long with the kids. Maybe because I was bullied in my childhood or maybe just because I’m not a very social being in general. However, times have passed, things have changed and I have improved myself, too. I’m no longer that quiet person, hiding behind all others and hoping that no one will ever ask me anything. I’m no longer so secretive and I enjoy meeting new people (as long as there aren’t too many of them at once and they aren’t too loud). Now back to my story of how I even got there. No secrets here – I was quite often visitor of job boards on some sites and was trying to find ways to get a job since I was about 17 years old. And no, not any job! I would lack patience to pick strawberries on a field, so I wanted to find something more serious and at the end of this summer I did. I came across advertisement about school that was looking for a guitar teacher. Somehow I got the job pretty quickly despite the lack of my middle school diploma, not even talking about diploma that would prove I have higher education in music or pedagogy. But at these times my friends from school got their guitar teaching jobs, too because there are so many schools in Latvia where guitar teachers are needed but there aren’t just so many of us. Also, not all of those, who teach guitar have proper experience and knowledge. But the story doesn’t end here – with me getting a job and 10 students to teach. Few days later I got a phone call from another school that also needed a guitar teacher and the offered me 5 to 7 students. What do you think I did? As a maximalist I am, I agreed to that job, too. Somehow I just love to agree too many or too hard tasks and then, even if it’s through pain and tears, prove myself that I can do them. I guess, the inner me just has a strong belief that I am a super woman and can do anything. Who knows – maybe it’s not that far from the truth.

Now let’s jump forward to the time school starts. I thought I was able to manage everything pretty smoothly but the time I saw my school schedule and what kind of homework I had to do, I was close to freaking out. No one told me that last year will be this hard. I kind of thought that just because Math, English, History and Latvian exams are in the past, my life will get easier. It did not. In fact I’d rather take English, History and Latvian lessons again, if I could just get rid of Music history, Form and Polyphony. Anyways, I managed to pack most of the lessons in my school days and put last four on Saturday. You might think that working on a Saturday is a complete torture but it’s not. I wake up early, have a cup of coffee, get some things done around the home and then go to work which starts at 1 p.m. My schedule is more packed than ever but as a maximalist I am, I feel like I can do more stuff done when I actually have more stuff to do. Pro tip – keeping a bullet journal makes doing a lot of tasks way easier and you will not forget them, if you write them down. It is an exciting challenge for me every day – let’s see, how much of these I can do. And sometimes I manage to do everything I have on the list. But enough about organizing process of it. I’ll dive in more details on how things are going in the job itself.

I have been teaching almost for two weeks and there are few things I have already realized. Teaching is definitely not an easy job but it is more interesting (and sometimes even fun!) than I would have thought. Sometimes it seems kind of monotone when I have to repeat notes and fingers of a scale to a kid for 20 minutes until my brain gives up and I start messing them up myself. But sometimes it’s fun when I try to explain something him with a pinch of humor and the kid not only laughs but also understands what I am trying to teach him. At least for now I feel like I’m doing pretty well and still studying myself while teaching gives me some kind of advantage because I can relate so well to kids, who try to do their best but things don’t work out right away. And still having my inner child is great  because I can easily joke around and explain them things as simple as possible, and slowly gain the trust of my students. For now I’m kind of “winging” the whole teaching process and trying out different things because it’s something new for me but I’m definetly happy that I’m gaining this kind of experience. Nothing compares to the feeling when I had a good lesson with a kid, he was open and thirsty for some knowledge and at the end I am able to give him a good grade.

Maybe following my gut is the best thing to do in this job for now. All the talks about being understanding yet strict and “doing things the right way” can really mess up head of a young teacher, so I’m not thinking too hard and doing everything my own way. In some way I could consider the way I teach as a creative expression. Even though I need to know the main tasks, it is one big improvisation. When a kid comes to my lesson, I don’t know what to expect. Maybe he will have done his homework, maybe not. Maybe he will work in a lesson, maybe he won’t but I have to be prepared for everything, stay open-minded, be understanding yet separate their bullshit from the truth. It sounds like a hard task but maybe it’s not for me. Let’s be honest – I’ve been telling lies to my teachers many times, too and sometimes I still do. It’s pretty easy to smell someone else’s bullshit a mile away. And when I do, there are two choices to make – honest talk or bad grade. No matter, how the kid is doing, I need to see that he’s trying to improve and be his best. If he’s doing that, I will highly appreciate not wasting my time and give him a good grade. So simple.

So that’s about it about my adventures of becoming a teacher and working as one. I have to do a morning workout now and go to work later but I will definitely return next week with new and exciting blog post. Have a lovely and productive day, and do what you love!

Love, Porcelain Doll.

5 big fiction writing mistakes I made as a beginner.

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Hello, dear readers! As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, I used to write some cheesy and, honestly, a little obscene fiction and the fact that I did it makes me cringe until this very day. Just imagine thirteen, fourteen year old girl, who barely had her first kiss, trying to write about romance she had never experienced in real life. However, when I discovered Wattpad, I was amazed that so many teenagers like to write and what amazed me even more was the fact that they published their work and actually got positive reviews. At that time I didn’t think about it enough to realize that most comments were probably from their peers, who had as little knowledge about writing and romance as young authors their own. Nevertheless, I quickly joined the crowd of teenagers, publishing their writing on Wattpad because that made me feel like a cool kid and I made lots of new friends while keeping up with this teenage writer trend. For few years I found the whole process exciting and actually thought my content was good. How could I not? Today, when I log in on my Wattpad profile that, for some unknown reason I haven’t deleted yet, my most popular story, called “She’s trouble”, has 69 614 reads, 1 077 votes and has been added to 26 reading lists. I guess, quite a lot teenage girls found my content interesting. However, I won’t share links to my cringe worthy “masterpieces” because they are not worth reading. What I will do is share the most common mistakes beginners, especially teenage beginners make when they start writing fiction.

  1. Plot of the book wasn’t planned out. I kind of knew what my characters were but I had no idea where are they going, what is their goal, their purpose. If plot of a book is roughly like “going from point A to point B”, my heroes were staying at point A the whole time and occasionally making trouble because without trouble the book would be way too boring.
  2. Publishing the chapter right after writing it. My so-called book wasn’t already written when I published the first chapter. I was just kind of winging it and barely had any idea what is going to happen in the next chapter. After some time writing on Wattpad started to make me nervous because as soon as I found out that some people actually enjoyed reading the crap I published, I felt like they’re constantly waiting for more and that I should publish regularly. I tried my best to still “wing it” and stick to some kind of schedule but the more time passed, the more I started to perceive writing as a chore. Which is why I quit writing regularly and occasionally published several updates until I quit using Wattpad completely.
  3. Following clichés and copying ideas of others. People often say that copying others is the right thing to do when you are just starting out. Maybe it would have been like that but the thing is – those other people did not have much more knowledge about writing, planning out a great plot, making character seem realistic than I did. So I got inspired from poor writing of others and adapter clichés like being underage and falling in love with young, hot teacher, bad boy or stepfather, being the most popular girl in school etc. Now the idea of those story scenarios happening in real life makes me frown because no stepfather or teacher should seduce someone who’s underage and it’s all kinds of wrong. But in teenage years, I guess, a lot of people, especially girls had those twisted fantasies  about forbidden love in their heads and I still don’t know where did they got them.
  4. Writing about unrealistic characters with unrealistic lives. Just because I copied others, I did not include realistic characters in my books but invented a mix of everything I have read about instead. Right now the thought that I did that makes me want to slam my head against the wall but at the time it seemed like a good idea. Side note: I have learned that readers don’t want to read about characters that aren’t realistic because it is not possible to relate to them. Thanks to Jenna Moreci for this brilliant grain of thought because I was not ingenious enough to figure out that by myself.
  5. Writing terrible sex scenes. It’s no secret that almost everyone in their early teens is a walking and breathing set of raging hormones and at that part of out lives we think about sex quite often. Maybe that was the reason because 99% of teen written fiction had several sex scenes in it. What makes this fact cringe worthy is that these scenes were poorly written. No wonder – some of us had zero action at that time and it’s not possible to write believable scene about something you have never experienced yourself. If I could ever give advice to teenage writers, I’d suggest them to wait until they are older and more experienced. Of course, you might figure out how it’s done technically from movies (or porn, which I don’t suggest) but you will never catch the emotional side of it and most people don’t want to read dry description of sex with several serious mistakes in it.

These are 5 of the most popular mistakes young writers including me, especially on Wattpad, have made while trying to write fiction. It was an exciting time in my life when I first tried to get my content out there, even before creating my very first blog and even though I feel a little ashamed about it, I can definitely learn a lot from my first attempts. Since then I have found my own voice and the topics I feel passionate about, and learned a lot of tips and tricks on how to improve my writing. However, I’m still learning every day and I have decided to create new Wattpad profile to publish my writing on in the future. This time I definetly won’t make the mistakes I mentioned in this post.

Have you ever tried writing fiction and what were the mistakes you made?

Love, Porcelain Doll.