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The Guitar Symposium in Shanghai: Two lectures of Thomas Kirchhoff

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From May 22th through May 24th there was a Guitar Symposium at the Conservatory of Music in Shanghai with a lot of excellent concerts and lectures. Ye De Min, the guitar professor of the Conservatory and organizer of the Symposium invited a lot of extraordinary guitarists – like the young special talented Kang Jun Hong and the Japanese composer and guitarist Shingo Fujii, but also the German professor and organizer of the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium Thomas Kirchhoff to teach.
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I listened to two of his lectures and made a summary for you.
The first lecture was: “how to become a student for guitar at a German Music Academy”, the second lecture was: “how to develop a career with the guitar”
 
Thomas’ First Class:
How to study in Germany:

If you want to study guitar in Germany, you first have to find a Conservatory or a Music Academy and a teacher. You can find the website of each Music Academy by typing the www.hfm- (city of your choice).de. For example: If you want to study in Munich your address is: www.hfm-munich.de, or if you want to study in Detmold, the address is: www.hfm-detmold.de.
 
On the website of the Music Academy, you also can find a list of the guitar professors. It is strongly recommended to contact the teacher before the entrance examination. There are two times for entrance examinations each year. If you want to start in April (summer term), you have to sign up for the examination by December. The examination will take place in January. If you want to start in September (winter term), you have to apply by March and your aptitude test will be in June.
 
Before taking the test you should contact your professor. But please don`t give big gifts. This is not usual in Germany and will not help you. You can only give a small present like a box with Chinese tea or something like that, but that is of no importance and will not help you to get a better test.
 
Without playing the guitar, you need a second instrument and basic knowledge in ear training and music theory. And of course you have to understand and to speak German. The test for these subjects are different at each Academy, and some are easier, some are more difficult. You can find  more information on the website of your chosen academy.
 
The tuition fee in Germany is generally very low, so if you have around 1000 Euro each month you can live very well as a student. Students are allowed to work beside their studies too. Most of the guitar students have jobs as a guitar teacher at several music schools.
 
Foreigners are allowed to earn up to 400 Euro each month. For a German visa you also need to verify that you have a balance in a bank in Germany. The amount of this deposit changes from year to year, so please inquire about the current requirements.
 
A lot of Chinese think that it should be an advantage to study first in China, but for the subject “classical guitar” that is not true. The German guitar professors like to have young and flexible minds. You only need your high school preparation. But on the other side, there is no age limit in Germany. Theoretically you can study until you are a grandfather, if you find a professor who takes you. Sometimes this is easier or more difficult.
 
Sometimes there are 50 students who want to start at the same semester with the same professor, but only one place. And other times there are only four students who have applied for the entrance test, and three free places…that is luck…
 
Thomas Kirhoff`s second lecture: “how to develop a career with the guitar”
 
Most important beside good skills is your individuality. All the famous good players play differently. It is not necessary to win a lot of competitions to be a successful concert guitarist. People who can win the prizes in competitions are not always successful with playing good concerts. A lot of guitar players with great names never won any competition.
 
As important as your skills and your personality are “Vision and Will.” That means you need to have a vision of what you can give to the world and where you want to be several years later. You have to be realistic: are you made for the big international stages or more for to play in a restaurant?
 
If you know what you want to be, you need name cards, a website and a CD. It is better if you already have planned your second and third CD. And then you have two possibilities: one is to manage yourself and the other one is, to find a good manager to help with the details.
 
And it is very important not only to try once. If you really love what you are doing, you will try a lot of times and do not give up so fast. Being a musician takes persistence.
 
And if you want to make a living from concerts, you have to see what kind of other requirements you have. To become really rich playing guitar, is not easy or almost impossible. But if your requirements are not too high, it is possible to live a happy life with playing guitar.
 

Playing Guitar in La Finca or the importance of making good backround music

From tomorrow Monday the 10th of Oktober till Saturday the 15th of Oktober every evening from 18.30 to 20.30 o`clock our guitarist Julia Scheuffele will play Spanish and Latinamerikan music for classical guitar in the Spanish restaurant la Finca in Shanghai, Xin Tian Di.

She will make the backround music for people who wants to eat in a high level enviroment. Good food needs good music, because the people who are coming to this place, mostly have a cultural backround and want to hear high level music during their dinner time.

I asked Julia why she agreed to play in a restaurant and she told me her philosophy:
It is very important which kind of music you have in your backround. Even if you eating and talking beside, the music will influence your mind and your feeling. Julia believes that her music can people make more peaceful and happy. So she decide to work as a backround musician.

The Importance of Playing by Heart

As I was a student my guitar teacher always forced me to play every piece by heart. If I didn`t memorize a piece, I was not allowed to learn a new one till I could play the old one by heart and without any mistakes. I continued to do so my whole lifetime.

But working as a teacher I have a big problem: most of my students are not willing to practice like that. If I try to convince them to memorize their pieces, they often tell me, that they can not do that. And if they try, they often need a lot of time to finish one piece. And if they have memorized one piece, they start to forget another one. Why?

Most important reason for that difficulty is the fact, that my students are too busy with school and a lot of other activities. Often they even don`t have time to meet their friends or to play something during the week. Till ten o`clock at the evening they are still busy doing homework. And if they have a little free space, they like to watch TV or play with the computer.

The more busy a child, the worse the ability to imagine music and memorize the guitar pieces. That is really pity. Sometimes I think, it would be better for some of my students to do less at school and to spend more time with “nothing”, till the naturally ability comes back. Because it is “naturally” to remember a song that you ve played severall times. If you can not do this, means, that your brain is over stressed.

To play by heart helps you to develop your imagination and everything your right site of your brain is responsible for. It is evident, that people, who plays by heart have a better feeling as people who needs to watch the sheet.

The 11th Etudes of H.V.Lobos

more than videos i like to make sound files. The main reason is, that i think music is something to listen not to watch and the second reason is the fact that youtube is not available in China and all the other hosts offer very bad sound qualitiy.

As i still have a little space on my server i load up the Etudes number 11 from Villa Lobos. This piece is also one of my students pieces in Shanghai, who always wants me to perform their pieces. Sometimes that shows more than explanations.

Listen to my mp3`s is free, because of my philosophy: what you can give to the community, you should give. The internet is a big chance for more equal rights in learning and education. It is neccessary and good for everybody, if there is such a place with free information.

Heitor Villa Lobos: Etude Nr 11

Berimbau by Baden Powell or the lack of Baden Powell videos in the chinese internet

Playing the guitar is more than practising an instrument. It is a creative process, that needs feeling and phantasy.

There are so many technical good players growing up now, but the really charismatic and creative performancers are still very seldom. Speciall if you look to the classical guitar players. Who counts?

For me counts Baden Powell. His way of playing the guitar is what i call charismatic and creativ.
But looking for Baden Powell in the chinese Youku and Tudou, I only could find this singel performance.
And this performance is made by Roland Dyens, another guitarist who counts.

Guitar Shanghai is looking for sponsors and co-workers

Because Guitar Shanghai wants to grow and to invite some good international guitar players to make concerts and master classes in Shanghai, we are looking for companies and people, who wants to support that projects.

Guitar Shanghai is going to become an association for people who love the classical guitar and want to improve the guitar music in Shanghai.

Guitar Shanghai is also looking for professional guitarists and guitar teachers who are living in Shanghai and want to cooperate .

So, if you love the guitar and want to support „Guitar Shanghai“, feel free to contact us. There are so many possibilities to support this project:
as a sponsor, as a performancer, as a teacher, as an organisator and manager and of course: as a student.

How to practice your guitar

To know how to practice the guitar is so important and there are a lot of different opinions and discussions about how to practice an instrument. I tried different ways, but I am still searching. Here I want to write down some suggestions for my students. 

If you want to learn a new piece, it is easeful first to get an overview or an imagination how this piece should sound. In this early stadium of learning a piece it is helpful to read the whole piece at once. Most of you are learning with a teacher, who introduces the new piece. Later you have to try the new piece by yourself and search your own idea to play this piece. You can do that with reading the notes and “try”. But this “try” we don’t call practice!!!

After that first stadium you have to start with practicing and now it is not useful always to play the whole piece from the beginning to the end. It is much better to practice in small sections. If you just started, the much effective way would be: first to practice in two bar sections. The two bar section has to be practiced so, that you can play it five times in succession without any mistake and by heart. Then you can practice the next two bars. After that, you put the both two bar sections together and practice till you can play five times in succession without any mistakes and by heart and then you add another two bar section and do it in the same way. After practicing the first whole sentence in that way (normally there are eight or sixteen bar sentences), you have to repeat the whole sentence and to work on the dynamic and musically expression of this sentence. It is not necessary to learn a whole piece in only one day, so give you some time to improve everything you practiced. Then you can do the second sentence in the same way as you already did the first sentence before. Another good idea is to start at the end of a piece and first practice the last part – of course in small sections as I told you – that is good, because it is so important to be really sure with the end of a piece. Most of the people who listen to your performance will have more impression of the last and the first sentence as of the middle part of the music. So the most important thing is to practice the last and the first part very fluently.

Another important thing is, how to practice the two bar sections. You have to remember not only the music, but the fingering of both hands. I say both hands, because most of you only pay attention to the left hand and forget the right hand. But the right hand has to be clear, too!

If you already have some experience, you probably would like to look for the special difficulties of that piece and practice them first, and then organize your sections after the “choreographie” of your hands. Don`t forget to make good “links” between every single section! 

Normally I make a very short “warm up” every day before I start to practice pieces.
But I don’t like to practice technique pure. I know a lot of other guitar players spend a lot of time with such technical exercises. I prefer to practice the technique in context with music. Every piece has some technical specialties. So I use this to create my technical exercises. Even if I practice scales I like to practice musical phrases or create my own improvisations. At the beginning of my guitar career I couldn’t do this. May be that kind of practice the technique needs more experience. But you can develope this experience by doing and trying. Use your fantasy and enjoy what you are doing!

Guitarcompetition Iserlohn

This year I participated on the international guitar competition in Iserlohn. It was a very good experience and I have to ask myself why I never did something like that during my students time at the conservatory of music. My generation in Germany has a difficult relation to competitions in general what is pity and not necessary at all.

The younger generation is much more relaxed and has a better point of view in that case.

There were a few really good players and the jury paid attention not only to the perfection and no mistake aspect, but also tried to find some special personality.

My both favorites are Thomas Csaba from France, who won the forth price and Sabrina Vlaskalic from Serbia, who won the second price plus the Sarvaez special price for the best interpretation of a piece of J.S.Bach. But there were other very good players too, who didn`t go into the final like Patrick Vena from Finland and a lot of other people I can not remember the names. And of course the first price winner Irina Kulikova from Russia was fantastic!

Besides playing the guitar we had a lot of nice communication and exchanges. Next year there is no competition in Iserlohn, but a big guitar symposium with a lot of concerts and master classes. The next guitar competition in Iserlohn will be held in 2010.