Archive for the ‘guitar’ Category

If you’re in the Phoenix area on the evening of June 7th, come out to the City of Gilbert’s Riparian Institute and enjoy a nature walk through the 110-acre preserve and listen to music by several members of the Mesa Symphony and yours truly. I’ll be playing harp and classical guitar near where the walk ends, but close enough to the parking area that you can simply walk over and sit down on one of the provided seats or settle in on the grass and have a listen if you don’t feel like taking the tour.

The nature walk starts at 7:00 p.m. at the east end of the public library. Check the Riparian Institute’s website for more information. There is a suggested donation of two dollars. I will be playing from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. I hope to see you there!
Ariel Laurel Strong With Pedal Harp

Photo by David Weingarten, Goldeneye Photography.


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All of the hours that I’ve spent practicing recently are starting to pay off. I can hear a real difference in the strength and clarity of my playing over just a month or so ago. My tremelo, in particular, has gotten stronger and cleaner. Some of that is due to changes I’ve made in my right hand nails.

I’m still fiddling with my nails to find just the right compromises in length and shape to support both classical guitar tone production and make flamenco rasgueos punchy. It’s a bit tricky, but I’m almost to a solution that minimizes string click in very precise nail/flesh techniques like tremelo (in which I need to have my nails fairly short and place my fingertip with a combination of flesh and nail on the string) and still leaves enough nail length for decent rasgueos. I have not been able to find a way to use longer nails for tremelo – as in a nail only technique – and still maintain the tone quality I want.

One major improvement is that I’ve gotten better at getting the acrylic nails to stay on and minimize the separation between the natural nail and the acrylic overlay. What seems to work best for me is to do the fills on a weekly basis. Over the course of a week, no matter how carefully I prepare my nails, I get some separation between the nail and the acrylic. I now suspect this has more to do with skin oils, showers, and doing dishes, than my previous theories of poorly prepared pytergium and Dremel overuse.

The nail doesn’t grow out all that much in a week, but by carefully grinding back a small amount of acrylic near the base of my nails, I can get beyond the area that has separated. Then, I fill just as I would normally. If I go longer than a week, the separated area gets to be too large and I risk having the nail tear or the acrylic part pop off from additional water getting into the gap.

I did not have good luck with trying to lift the edge of the nail and glue it back down with epoxy. It’s hard to make enough of a gap to get the glue in without further damaging the underlying natural nail, and I’m concerned that it might lead to potential hygiene problems as well. I could never be sure if the gap was adequately dried and disinfected before gluing, and felt it might lead to nail fungus problems.

On the down side of my recent modifications, it is tricky to grind that small of an area back without occasionally nicking your cuticle or nail bed with the Dremel. You need to very careful and really take your time to take it down gradually. Good lighting is a must, and for all of us geezer guitarists, magnifying lenses are quite handy.

One other refinement to my nail routine is that I have changed which grinding bit I use on my nails. I started out using a small, fine-grain tapered bit, but with experience and confidence have gone to a larger, coarser, cylindrical bit. The larger bit lets me take down the acrylic layer faster and cover a larger area when doing the final shaping which leads to a smoother finish over the surface of the nail. When I started out, it would have been too hard for me to control the larger bit, but now it minimizes the time spent and the heat buildup on both the nail (another potential source of separation) and the tool.

After several months of tinkering with my nail routine, I finally have an SOP (standard operating procedure)! Hopefully, this will provide some ideas for those of you who have commented on your own nail trials and tribulations on previous “Guitar Nails” posts.

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I get this funny feeling that I’m supposed to be teaching guitar in the East Valley…

Today, I went back to pick up my business cards and part of the text had been clipped off, making a reprint necessary. Okay. It meant an extra trip and I had several other stops planned for after that to deliver said new business cards, but I adjusted my plans accordingly. I was told that the reprint would be done this afternoon and to call to see if it was done.

I did. The copy center staff was busy, but another salesclerk checked and said that the cards were ready. I ignored the little voice in the back of my head that said, “You know, she might have seen the other box – the bad box – and assumed that the order was done.” I made another trip across Gilbert…

My intuition was right. The cards weren’t actually done; she had seen the misprinted box. I was polite and went out to my car to steam. I was mad at myself for not listening to my intuition and I wasn’t all that happy about the store’s lack of attention to detail, either. Alright. I decided to adjust my attitude and said to the Universe, “I’m listening. Is there something else I’m supposed to learn or do or see here?”

I looked across the parking lot and saw a sign that, given where I had parked on previous trips, I had not seen before. “MUSIC & ARTS.” Hmmm. Sounds like something worth investigating further.

What do you know? A music store – a nice, big, new one with quite a few teaching studios, too. When I walked through the door the salesperson asked what had brought me in.

“I was over at the office supply store and saw your sign. I’m a guitarist and I thought I’d take a look around,” I replied. (I like to scout things out first…)

“You don’t happen to teach do you?” she asked. No, I’m not kidding. “We really need a guitar teacher…” Those were the very words right out of her mouth not one minute after I walked in the store.

“As a matter of fact, I do.”

I got the tour, the details, and I’m going back to deliver a resume in a little bit. Then, it’s wait to have an interview with the manager. Keep good thoughts. I should know fairly soon, and right in time for the peak lesson signup season of December – January. (All those new Christmas guitars.)

The whole string of events that led to becoming a teacher at Gilbert Music revolved around my carrying my guitar into a coffee shop to keep it from getting too hot in the car. Conversation with one of the counter guys, a drummer, led me to Gilbert Music. That and several other strange little “coincidences” have fueled a running joke with F1 and F2 about how all I needed to do was just carry my guitar around with me everywhere and doors would open. Now, with Music & Arts, it seems that I don’t even need to carry the guitar around…

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I am now a music teacher at Gilbert Music in Gilbert, Arizona.  Talk about timing – they did need another instructor, as their one classical guitar teacher is one slot shy of a full schedule.  In I walk, resume in hand…

I’ve been busy today getting all of my ducks in a row for a major promotional push. I got a local cell phone number this morning, my updated business cards are getting printed this afternoon, and I’m revamping my teaching methods and materials in light of my “Guitar Scale Meltdown” of several months ago. About all that’s left to do is get my flyer together (tonight’s big project) and then it’s pound the streets distributing them.

These days I’m practicing Christmas songs, my flamenco lesson materials, and some tunes for a new recording.  I’m back in contact with the sound engineer I worked with on the “Romanza” CD and ready to take a tour of his new studio (to me, anyway – he’s been there for several years) in another week in preparation to doing some recording in January.

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It’s been over a week since I last posted, so I thought I’d do a brief update at least…

I spent most of last week in Phoenix job-hunting and apartment-scouting. I’ve got a line on a guitar teaching position at a music store, which I will know more on at the end of this week, and I’ve narrowed the search area considerably for housing. Good progress and the weather was gorgeous. And, as always, it was a joy to see my friends.

Despite my dismal practice record of late, I got a Tangos and a Sevillanas vocal at my guitar lesson. I nearly made myself hoarse practicing the vocals on the way back to Flagstaff and I’ve gotten them memorized already because of that. Best of all, the lesson seemed to turn around the musical block I’ve had going for weeks and I’ve been practicing every day since. Funny. Practice really does seem to make a difference…

I’ve been back home for a couple of days now and have gotten the “Music by Ariel” site up and running with Drupal. Flamencophile now has blogs, a calendar, and a forum operational. It’s still in development and behind schedule, but it’s progressing. I’m roughly on track with my novel edit, too, only about two days behind my schedule, and I’m hoping I can get caught back up by the end of the week.

My exercise program has been wavering a bit, but is not forgotten. Lifting boxes and the amount of driving I did last week has been a little hard on my legs, so I’m still at the earlier level and taking it all very easy. I expect that to continue until I actually get settled in Phoenix. I have lost two more pounds in the last month, however, so my old rate of weight loss seems to have returned, which makes me quite happy. I’ve still got some more to go, but at this rate I’m within a month of having lost 40 pounds. Yeeha!

While I was gone, the temps took another dive into the 20’s. My maple tree turned red and dropped most of its leaves while I was in Phoenix. The aspens up on the San Francisco Peaks are turning golden and I hope to take a drive up that way in the next few days before it’s back down to the Valley for another round…

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My more usual optimism has returned this evening, leaving the melancholy of midday to fade away into memory. As I drove to Flagstaff to have dinner with my friend Margie, I realized how reclusive I have become the last few months – two trips to Flag in a week feels positively extraverted. Between the novel edit and the intense effort on developing the Drupal-based websites, I’ve spent many, many hours at the keyboard lately. Despite Elmo the Wonder Cat’s attentions, I was in real need of human contact.

I realized some other things today, too. As one of my correctives to the earlier mood, I looked back some more over the last year and thought of all that has happened. It wasn’t so much a “count your blessings” sort of thing, though that was part of it. It was more of an evaluation, an assessment of how far I’ve come, in an effort to have more perspective on how far I have yet to go. I’ve been so busy projecting into the future and seeing how far I had to go to reach my goals that I was a little overwhelmed. The glance behind gave me a much needed shift in point of view.

Wow! A year ago I weighed 37 pounds more than I do now (down another pound this morning, in fact) and I still had several areas of complete numbness on my right leg and foot. Today, there’s only one little spot left on my big toe and even that has some feeling that has come back. I still have to work around the residual nerve damage at times, but it gradually continues to improve.

A year ago I had a regular job that I enjoyed and which paid alright. It only used a fraction of my skills, however, and would prove to be short-lived. Today, I work for myself. That demands every bit of skill and knowledge I have to grow my business. It’s fun, exciting, worrisome at times, and definitely a challenge. By the hourly rate, it’s great compared to my job a year ago. Now I just have to get more hours…

A year ago, I was into the fourth week of the beginning flamenco dance class at Coconino Community College and having a blast. I’d just been down to Tlaquepaque to see Mosaico Flamenco perform; I came back all enthused and determined to study guitar again. This past Friday, I accompanied the class for the first time, using what I’ve learned in taking guitar lessons from Gaetano, the lead guitarist of Mosaico. I had some trouble keeping the Sevillanas even at the slow speed and I’ve got quite a ways to go before I will feel comfortable accompanying the baile, but it’s a start and something I had no idea would come out of signing up for a dance class. I’ve gotten my guitar dreams back and even had a couple of performances in the last few months.

A year ago, I had a bunch of scenes strung together in a somewhat confused and disjointed screenplay and no idea what to do with, about, or to it. Today, I have a novel written and the first few chapters out to an online critique group. I’ve received some encouraging feedback and concluded that it’s less than half bad. The hours and outlines and preliminary writing on the other novels in the series start to look like a semi-reasonable investment as opposed to an insane waste of time.

A year ago, I never would have guessed at all that has happened since. As I look ahead to my move and all the uncertainties of the coming year, reason tells me that I am in the same position once again. Who knows what the year ahead will bring? After seeing how far I’ve come in the past year, the distance ahead doesn’t look that far after all.

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As I walked across the cobblestoned parking area shaded by tall sycamores, I could hear rasgueados on flamenco guitars and the punctuated taconeo of a bailora’s dance floating out of the Patio del Norte.

September 8, 2007 was the 34th annual “Fiesta del Tlaquepaque” (pronounced: “ta – lockee – pockee”) which celebrates Mexican Independence Day with art, music, dance, and food of Mexico and the Southwest. There were musicians and dancers scattered throughout the maze of fine art galleries, courtyards, and shops, that makes the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village in Sedona, Arizona such a popular destination. Less than an hour’s drive from Flagstaff down the scenic switchbacks of Oak Creek Canyon to hear flamenco…hey, life is good.

Yumi La Rosa at Tlaquepaque I headed straight for where I could hear Mosaico Flamenco playing. (Full disclosure: I take guitar lessons from Gaetano and dance instruction from Yumi La Rosa, so don’t expect an impartial review here – I’m definitely a fan.) The monsoon clouds gathering along the Mogollon Rim were out of sight within the high, stuccoed walls of the rectangular courtyard.

Blazing blue above, bright white surround topped by red tile – my overall impression was of vibrant, sunlit color. Striped serapes hung from the balconies and the walls of the patio and from the poles of the canopy over the band. The dancers and musicians wore red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple…

Flamenco Music and Dance at Tlaquepaque, Sedona, Arizona

The beat and energy of the music was infectious. There’s no doubt that these guys play together often and they like what they do. They were having fun, so were the dancers, and so was the audience. There was even a little girl of about three who liked it so much she joined in right down in front of the stage.

Amusing Antics by Gaetano

The musical selections ranged from the familiar Gipsy Kings rumba “Bamboleo,” to a traditional Guajiras in which dancers Yumi La Rosa and Lolita used fans, to a Mosaico original, Gaetano’s “Ven, Ven Gitanita.” One of the real crowd pleasers was another Mosaico original, Max Perrault’s “Beautiful,” which featured Max on the flute.


Guajiras with Yumi and Lolita Guajiras with Yumi and Lolita Lolita Dances Guajiras
Lolita Dances Guajiras Lolita Dances Guajiras Lolita Dances Guajiras

But the best was yet to come…Angelina Ramirez stole the show with her energy and intensity in a Tientos por Tangos.

Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos
Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos Angelina Ramirez Dances Tientos por Tangos

During the performance the clouds continued to build, and the first few drops of rain spattered the courtyard just as the show was ending.

It was fun and a great show, as always. I also had the good fortune to meet another middle-aged flamenco fan who struck up a conversation with me. Her take on it all:

“I was so totally captivated by the vitality and energy of the music and the artistry of the performers that I found myself sitting through two sets of their performance when I had no intention of spending more than a half hour walking through Tlaquepaque.” ~ A. Lee

Mosaico Flamenco plays in the lobby of the Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale three times a week and features dancers Yumi la Rosa, Angelina Ramirez, and others. (related post)

Mosaico’s band members are:

Gaetano – Guitar and Vocals
Monte Perrault – Guitar
Max Perrault – Flute and Percussion
Simon Ames – Bass
Emerson Laffey – Drums and Percussion
Ioannis Goudelis – Piano

Also: Allan Ames – Violin, Mario Mendivil – Bass, Eric Zang – Percussion


Yumi La Rosa
Angelina Ramirez
And others…

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