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Zen Guitar & Drums

Zen Guitar & Drums

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Published by Dew Nada

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Published by: Dew Nada on Oct 24, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Zen Guitar - Will Mean Different Things to Different Peopleby Clarelynn Rose / Heartwood Music
One of the cornerstones of Zen Guitar is that, as we are uniquepeople, so will our experience with the guitar be unique. Eachperson discovers his or her own way. In my experience, thepractice of Zen guitar means many things.
Technique and Composition
Learning new technique arises out of need and direct experience.When you have a musical idea that cannot be adequatelyexpressed through techniques or tunings you already know, thatis the time to experiment with new techniques or new tunings.These may be techniques or tunings you discover for yourself. Orperhaps you have heard someone else do something that deeplyresonates with you musically. Often these ideas or tunings willcome to mind when you are pushing your usual boundaries. Orthey may resonate so strongly with you that they themselvesinspire you.In my own experience, I learned simply by playing what soundedgood to my ear, using technique that feels very natural andcomfortable to my own fingers. As I have needed to express morecomplex musical ideas, the technique has come very organicallythrough practicing licks or techniques that were slightly beyondmy grasp. If something doesn't come naturally, I figure it willalways sound a little stilted and so look for another way to play it.Of course, sometimes someone will demonstrate a cool techniqueor tuning that completely captures my imagination, so even if itdoesn't feel completely natural, I'll work at it to see if after a lotof practice it starts to feel right. But if it still feels awkward, thedecision is always to drop it. Zen guitar is about finding a true,very natural voice, not about making every voice sound naturaland true to a single individual!
The Breath
Before you start to play, take a breath. Just as in meditation, ithelps you (and other listening to you) focus on the presentmoment and the music being played.
Mindfulness has many aspects, extending to composing,practicing, and performing. In composing, it might mean beingaware of the value of and using emptiness and space. It alsomeans recognizing and valuing the peaceful, centered feeling thatZen guitar music can generate, whether the music is mellow or joyous. Another example is that mindfulness can foster a feelingof completeness with only one instrument. There is no need to fillup the spaces in the music and our minds with a lot of instruments or a driving drumbeat.In practicing guitar, anothermanifestation of mindfulness is to expect and even welcomemistakes. They contain wonderful ideas. And in performing,mindfulness can mean things like remembering to connect withthe audience and to remain humble, recognizing ourselves simplyas a conduit of music.Personally, I use space in several ways. Most obvious is the uselong pauses and sustained notes in many of my pieces. Adifferent kind of space is letting compositions "breathe", taking asmuch time as they need to develop. Nothing is rushed, because if a composition is forced, it will sound forced. When practicing, Ilisten to mistakes and then decide whether or not to discardthem. And in performing, I constantly remind myself that the truepurpose of performing is for the benefit of others, connecting withpeople through a shared musical experience.
Playing Zen guitar is about exploring a way to communicate withothers. Those of us exploring Zen guitar are blessed with aninclination towards music, a desire to play, and some level of natural talent. These are gifts to be shared with others. A secondaspect of humility is to recognize that all things are our teacher,and that techings that will allow us to advance in our study of guitar are all around us all the time.An important lesson came from my Tai Chi teacher in China yearsago. It is an old Chinese saying: "The ten thousand things (allthings) become my teacher." That is, you have something to learnfrom every person and every thing. That includes beginningguitarists and even people who don't play guitar. One of myimportant lessons in playing guitar came from an autistic childwho could hardly utter a word. The Zen guitarist tries to remainopen to all teachers.

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