Here is a recent home recording I did at the end of a practice day last week. The songs I have been revisiting these last six months all have the theme of conjuring places far away – in both geography and time. The great Spanish guitarist, Francisco Tárrega’s (1852-1909) wonderful tremolo piece, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, is magical in so many ways. It conjures the great fortress overlooking Granada with the illusion of a sung melody and it reminds me of its infinite mosaics, fountains, streams, and trickles of water echoing everywhere throughout.
Spectacular Spanish guitarist, Andrea González Caballero, recently sat down to share a few personal details and thoughts on guitar. In addition to several videos showcasing her wonderfully musical and solid and sensitive interpretations of music by guitarist and composer Joaquín Clerch, Manuel Ponce, and Joaquín Malats, I’ve linked to her debut CD with Naxos. Hope this inspires all of you loyal readers!
When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?I started playing guitar when I was 7 years old, maybe because my mother is guitar teacher and I saw her with a guitar.
What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?I love playing Spanish music because I feel it is part of me.
What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?I have a Fernando Mazza spruce guitar and D’addario strings.
Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?The biggest influence for me has been (and still is) Joaquín Clerch, who has been my teacher since I was 12 years old.
What recording/s are you most proud of?I think my last CD recorded with Naxos has been a great opportunity to show my work of the last years.
Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for
guitar?It is difficult to say that. I think that on the old recordings we can admire a more pure sound of the instrument and feel it closer to us.
What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?I have concerts in different countries but one of the most exciting concerts for me will be to be back in Mexico, after 5 years and perform there!
Technique and Performance
How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?It depends a lot on the time I have but I try to practice 4 hours a day. I don’t have a particular way, I just think of a goal I want to achieve each day and try to do it. In this way I think that my work is done.
Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?When I start a new piece, I always find things on which I have to work harder. Difficult passages or even a simple phrase which has to be played legato and expressive can be very difficult because of the guitar limitations.
Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?I usually don’t force myself to learn the music but sometimes, I don’t have time and have to learn pieces very fast so I try to find the similitudes in the music and patterns that are repeated or to see what the different voices are doing to have a wider perspective of the music…I think there is no one way to do that.
Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?I haven’t published anything yet, but who knows in the future…
Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?I like stretching and warming up my hand and arm muscles before taking the guitar.
Do you have any pre-concert rituals?Nothing special..I usually arrive one hour before to the concert hall, I play in the hall and the most important point is to find a chair that I like.
Advice to Younger Players
What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?I think the most important thing is to be persistent and have a regular plan of practicing.
What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?I love the “Estudios sencillos” by Leo Brouwer because they help to know the guitar, the positions, articulation…and Fernando Sor’s Etudes are very nice and we can practice the phrasing, legato, sound…
Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?I remember when I was a child I listened to David Russell a lot and his recording of the complete works for Guitar by Francisco Tárrega. I loved his playing!
What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s? Last book I read was “Patria” by F. Aramburu.
Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet? Have a favorite pre-concert food?When I am at home and not traveling I try to go three times a week to a fitness studio and do some exercise. I don’t follow a diet…this is difficult for me (haha).
Do you meditate in any way? No
What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing? I love paintingor going out to find nice places, restaurants, and meeting my friends and family…
My usual morning consists of a good warm-up (a combination of left hand movements and slurs, right hand alternation movements and arpeggios, and scales), before moving on to practicing spots in pieces, and finally playing through pieces and working on new pieces. However, there are periods of the year where I have more time to extend my technique practice and to learn new pieces. I’m approaching that period now (yeah!) so I’m experimenting with new finger gymnastics to address weaknesses in my technique and building a hearty list of new repertoire to absorb over the summer.
To this end, I was rummaging through my boxes and shelves of music and found a well-worn copy of Francisco Tárrega’s Complete Technical Studies. I pulled it out and went through it again for fun. If you’re looking to shake up your routine, I highly recommend some of his studies.
Below are two of Tárrega’s left-hand exercises that will surely make your left hand sweat. Tárrega notates using im alternation for the right hand but I prefer to simply assign i, m, and a, to strings 3, 2, and 1, and have p play all the bass strings to preserve my nails.
Try going from 1st position all the way to 9th and back. Also, try the same concept with other sets of left hand pairs: 14 and 23 or 13 and 24.