by Dave Belcher

In January our members at Classical Guitar Corner Academy will begin the 2019 CGC Winter Member Challenge, focused on technique. Each member who participates must select one exercise (not one routine; one exercise!) from the 20 Practice Routines from the current Grade they are working on.

The member challenges at CGC Academy are all about focused, detailed practice: breaking things down into small, manageable goals to work toward for just one month. Most of our members are working on the many lessons included in one particular grade, which encompass notation and sight reading, repertoire, technique and musicality, theory and analysis — that’s a lot to take in! For that reason, Simon has asked members to really be patient with the process and to plan on spending at least 6 months and up to even perhaps 18 months working through just one grade. That requires setting some longer-term goals to work toward and committing to those goals for the long haul. However, in order to keep motivated and have a tangible sense of progress across that longer stretch, it’s helpful to also have smaller, more manageable goals along the way. Our member challenges provide exactly that kind of focused attention to small, achievable goals.

So for this season’s challenge we are focused on technique. Technique is a tool we use to serve the music. We develop these tools and skills — scales, arpeggios, left- and right-hand finger independence, and so on —  so that we can communicate and express our music in the way we most want our audience to experience and so that we can connect emotionally with the music without getting frustrated by the limitations of what our fingers can accomplish. But there are many techniques we must acquire and develop. Breaking things down to focus on just one exercise, taking a deep dive into the finer details of, say the chromatic scale, gives us the opportunity to make real progress in a small amount of time and then to put that technique to use in our music making.

So starting January 6, we would like to invite you, the wider CGC Community, to join the Academy and participate with us in the 2019 CGC Winter Challenge! All that you’ll need to follow along is a copy of the 20 Practice Routines or one of the individual Practice Routines, which you can pick up here. If you’d like to learn more about creating a practice routine and the origins of this edition of the 20 Practice Routines, please check out Simon’s podcast here. Simon has started up a private Facebook study group, which you are welcome to join. You can post videos of your progress there and Simon and myself will jump in to give you feedback on how you’re doing and how you might adjust your practice strategies to keep progressing through the challenge.

At the end of the challenge, Simon and I will host a live wrap-up session for the Academy, which will be broadcast live on the Classical Guitar Study Facebook Group page so all of you can hear how the challenge went, what worked and what didn’t work so well, and what tips you might use to continue progressing as you move forward in your own practice. I hope you’ll join us!

Here’s a breakdown of how it will work:

This challenge will be split up into four weeks:

  1. Post your status video showing where you are with the exercise currently. These should be short videos to establish a baseline for you to build off of. For this first week we want you not only to play the exercise but also to generate some ideas for different strategies for how you’ll tackle this exercise for the month, so take some time to think about the obstacles you’ll need to troubleshoot and how you might go about that.
  2. In week 2, we want to see your progress but perhaps you can also use your update to reflect on how your practice and troubleshooting strategies have been working and whether you may need to course correct or to try something new.
  3. For week 3, refine your practice strategies even more — perhaps trying different tempi, or breaking the exercise into smaller chunks and working on “chaining,” or some other practice technique to help you achieve your goals.
  4. For week 4, you’re in the home stretch. Utilize what you’ve learned from your practice over the last few weeks to put in the extra work to reach your goals!

Please limit your videos to no longer than one minute each.


2019 CGC Winter Challenge Dates:

  • Post your first, status video by January 6
  • Post your first progress video by January 13
  • Post your second progress video by January 20
  • Post your third progress video by January 27
  • Post your fourth and final progress video by February 2

We will have a live session to wrap up on Sunday, February 3 at 4pm New York time.