Artist Profile and Interview: Marc Teicholz

American virtuoso and 1989 Guitar Foundation of America Winner, Marc Teicholz has been heralded by the Los Angeles Times as, “technically gifted and musical to the core.” An active performer, recording artist, chamber musician, and teacher, Marc seems to have done it all. He’s collaborated with some of the world’s greatest musicians, premiered countless new works for guitar, and given masterclasses all over the world. He teaches at Cal State University at East Bay and is also part of the esteemed faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and has taught there for many decades.

On a personal note, the first time I heard Marc play was on his GFA tour where he received both a standing ovation and my instant admiration. Years after that, when I moved to Oakland, Benjamin Verdery insisted that I look Marc up. We’ve been great friends ever since. Over the years that I’ve gotten to know him, besides being the great guitarist who seems to learn massive amounts of repertoire from one day to the next, I’ve been the fortunate recipient of both his guidance and his friendship. It’s a treat to finally feature him here where he shares insight and some advice with Six String Journal readers. Enjoy!

Personal

When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially? 

I was drawn to the guitar through American folk music and singing songs around the campfire.  My first musical heroes were Pete Seeger and Joan Baez.  I found a local music store in Berkeley, CA (where I grew up) that offered guitar lessons.  The teacher was primarily a classical guitar teacher who told me that learning classical guitar would prepare me for any kind of music that I might want to learn later (totally untrue, by the way!).  But when she played for me a few bars of Villa-Lobos (I later learned), I was instantly hooked.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most? 

I don’t want to specialize.  I enjoy playing a variety of music. I think my tastes are usually a bit old-fashioned although I can think of a few times where I have gotten involved in some contemporary chamber music projects that I really enjoyed even though they involved playing music that I wasn’t initially attracted to.  So I think it is important for me to occasionally try music that is outside of my comfort zone.  

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

 I am ashamed to say that I currently own eight guitars. But I try to be loyal to each of them!  I usually perform on either my cedar top Stephan Connor or my Spruce/Cedar double top Glenn Canin, especially when I am concerned about issues of projection and volume.  But I have performed on all of my guitars.  I get emotionally attached to them which makes them hard to sell even though I obviously don’t need that many.  I usually play on hard tension D’addario strings although some guitars sound better with other strings.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

Some of the many players that I have listened to obsessively include: Pete Seeger, Glenn Gould, Julian Bream, the Assads, Yo Yo Ma, Vladimir Horowitz, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Itzhak Perlman.  And although he is not as famous as the others, violinist Ian Swensen has also made a big impact on me.  But it would be presumptuous of me to say that these players have influenced me other than to say that they have put me in my place. 

What recording/s are you most proud of? 

I am not proud of any of them but recording “Valseana” was very exciting because I was exposed to so many amazing guitars and it was a lot of fun to choose the “right” guitar for each piece.  

Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar? 

The two records that come to my mind are Bream’s Granados and Albeniz album and his 1st duo album with Williams.  The 1st pieces on each record (the Granados Dedicatoria and the Lawes duo) sounded so creamy and lush that they sent a shiver down my back.  

What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?

I am currently involved in recording some videos for a new website called “Guitar by Masters” which allows guitarists to study the pieces in an interactive way.  I have so far recorded 3 pieces by Sergio Assad (Imbricatta, Phyllis’ Portrait, and Seis Brevidades.)  I am glad I have had this opportunity to promote these great pieces.

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

I try to practice a lot and irregularly.  I usually tailor my practice to whatever performing obligations I have in front of me.  But in these last few pandemic years I just starting to go down my wish list of pieces that I have wanted to learn.  As far as practice methods are concerned, I usually go back and forth between playing pieces through and practicing in tiny little pieces.  There are endlessly different ways to practice.  I think each way has their advantages and disadvantages. 

Are there aspects of guitar technique or performance that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

I struggle with everything!  Every area of my technique could be so much better.  

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory? 

 I have tried different methods but I don’t have a magic bullet and still struggle with memory slips.  I would say the one that probably works best for me is to learn the music in little bite-size bits.  Thomas Viloteau wrote in his technique book that we can only focus on seven little things at a time.  I think that sounds about right.  

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

I have published a book of my fingerings of some of Sor’s greatest “hits” and a book of my fingerings of Sergio Assad’s arrangements of Ernesto Nazareth.  I have made a lot of transcriptions. Perhaps I will try to publish some of those.

Do you have a favorite drill or set of exercises you use to warm up?

I like to sight-read new music to warm up.  I also like to play very slowly at first.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I like to take a nap in the afternoon.  But I enjoy naps anytime!  I used to make funny faces in front of a mirror backstage in order to loosen up but I haven’t done that for a while.   But I probably should because I think it helped.

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger aspiring players? 

I think practicing should be fun and interesting because most of us have to do a lot of it.  I try to feel like I am learning something new about the music or my technique each time I practice.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

I think students should listen to as much music as they can (as long as it doesn’t become a burdensome chore.)  They should be able to recognize all the main pieces in our repertoire.  Most of the music they play should be pieces that they are excited to play but I think they should also try some music that is outside of their immediate interests in order to experience the feeling of broadening one’s taste.  It is also helpful to learn pieces that develop their technique.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?  

That is probably an outdated question.  I listened to all the Segovia, Bream, Williams and Parkening recordings when I grew up (to name just a few) but that is not how people listen to music these days.  But all of the professional musicians I know have a passionate relationship to the music (and not just guitar music) they listened to when they were young.  I think that is the most important thing.  

Tangent

What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s? 

RIght now, I am reading a book by Walter Isaacson called “The Code Breaker” which is a biography of Jennifer Doudna.  She helped pioneer the technique of CRISPR which is form of genetic engineering that has many amazing and terrifying implications for the future.  But I like to read almost anything.  I loved the book that you once recommended to me about searching for buried treasure under the sea (“Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea”.)

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Have a favorite pre-concert food?

I like to walk.  And listening to you tell me about your long runs makes me sweat.  I don’t have a favorite pre-concert food but I always enjoy cookies!

Do you meditate in any way? 

I have tried some breathing exercises.  I think they are a good idea but I am not disciplined about it. 

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

I like to walk and read.  I started doing jigsaw puzzles during Covid and they are addictive.  Netflix gets too much attention.  I like annoying my daughter.  I like playing duos with you!

Any thing else you’d like to add?  

I am just very grateful that I have had the guitar in my life.  Although there have been many times when I have been frustrated with my limitations, its struggles and pleasures have given meaning to my life.  It has allowed me to meet many wonderful people, it is special to have an activity that combines all together the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of life, and I like feeling that there is always so much more to learn.

Website: Marc Teicholz

San Francisco Conservatory of Music: Marc

Recording: Valseana

Identifying Problems in Your Tremolo with Thomas Viloteau

This is a guest post from tonebase.


In Thomas Viloteau’s lesson on tremolo, he describes his method for working on and identifying irregularities in your tremolo. Your tremolo must serve the music you are playing and go beyond a technique. Otherwise, what should sound like beautiful music will instead sound like an exercise.

“The music is the most important thing. If you practice your tremolo as a technical thing, when you go to an actual piece it’s either not going to work or it’s going to make your music completely flat and lifeless.” – Thomas Viloteau

What is a good tremolo?

A good tremolo allows for three things:

  1. A wide range of dynamics (pianissimo to fortissimo)
  2. Different articulations
  3. A range of different tempos (accelerando, ritardando, rubato…)

How to spot problems in your tremolo?

Get a smartphone or device that can film video at a high frame rate and play it back in slow motion. It’s the only way to SEE what your fingers are doing at such a high speed and HEAR if you are actually picking as regularly as the beat of the metronome. This will help you learn what you are doing wrong.

Once you know what to fix, practice on open strings with a metronome. Make sure the technique you are practicing at a slow speed is not just “good enough” to pass at a slow tempo – it needs to work at full speed. Try experimenting with expressive variations to test your control over the technique. As soon as your technique is ready, start practicing your tremolo within the piece and NOT in isolation, as just a tremolo exercise. It will only be great if it is MUSICAL and works within the piece!

What are the different types of tremolo?

These three approaches offer different qualities and fit different musical contexts. Experiment to find more. For all the exercises below, use a p-a-m-i plucking pattern, though in some situations a two-finger tremolo may be preferable.

  1. Basic – Resting (a) ring finger on the string before plucking it to create stability for the hand and tell your fingers where the string is. Free stroke all the way through the string.
  2. Legato – Never resting (a) ring finger on the string. Works well for piano sections and when the accompaniment is on the top. It also works well for portamento because it doesn’t silence the string.
  3. Detached – Planting each finger firmly on the string before it plays. Mostly for use on the second or third strings. The finger comes more from ABOVE the string, in this technique, and may jump a little rather than remaining totally steady.

Bonus Tips

  1. Tremolo is much easier on the first string than the second because there is more range of motion for your fingers. Take advantage of this when you make your fingering
  2. Your forearm must be super relaxed and your hand very stable.
  3. To minimize the sound of your nail hitting the string, you must make sure that your flesh is hitting the string before the nail.
  4. It is easy for the middle finger to fall out of time. If this is happening, accent the middle finger’s plucking.

Watch Thomas Viloteau’s lessons and more on tonebase Guitar.

Thomas Viloteau plays Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Concerto Nº1

 

Here is a clip from years ago of Thomas Viloteau playing Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Concerto Nº1, Op. 99. The guitar music of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco always evokes endless fantasy and the grandeur of Hollywood in the 50s and 60s. As usual, Thomas plays with crystalline clarity, direction, and energy. Check out Six String Journal’s interview with Thomas here: SSJ Interview Thomas Viloteau.

 

Thomas Viloteau plays Fuoco

Thomas Viloteau‘s rendition of Roland Dyens’ Fuoco from Libra Sonatina is wonderful. As usual, his playing is technically precise, musically crystal clear, and from the looks of it, effortless. I hope he did videos of the other movements! For more on Thomas, check out Six String Journal’s interview with him here.

Time to practice!

Thomas Viloteau plays Villa-Lobos

French virtuoso, Thomas Viloteau just posted a new video of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Suite Populaire Brésilienne. As usual, the performance is strong and thoroughly enjoyable. Thomas plays with his precise and beautiful touch and manages a never-faltering lyricism and strong pulse throughout. Very inspiring!

Here is a link to an interview we did with Thomas a while ago! INTERVIEW

Nails!

davidrussell
David Russell’s nail shape.

Finding the right nail shape to express yourself on the guitar is an elusive science. To make the puzzle more complicated are the facts that nails are organic, are continuously growing, and are affected by variables like weather and diet. Because everyone attacks the strings with variable angles and tensions in the fingertips and because we all have an ideal sound we are after one shape may not be as effective as another. Some guitarists have a “sound” with little sonic variance while some use color and gradations of timbre to interpret their music. So, whether you are a beginner starting to experiment or an advanced player looking to expand your knowledge, the following videos are the best I’ve found so far to see exactly what the pros do and how they approach nail shape.

In french with subtitles, Six String Journal favorite Thomas Viloteau shows an ingenious method for adapting the shape of the nail to your stroke.

Here is a screen shot from a video of Spanish guitarist Ricardo Gallén checking his nails before his recording of the Bach lute works.

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 4.45.14 PM
Spanish guitarist Ricardo Gallén checking nails before recording.

Last but not least, Cuban virtuoso Marco Tamayo details the steps he uses to shape his nails.

Years ago, when Marco was visiting he drew this diagram out when I asked about nails.

Marco Nail Shape
Marco Tamayo’s nail shaping diagram.

Go shape then pluck!

Interview with Thomas Viloteau

French guitar superstar, Thomas Viloteau, is one of the finest guitarists on the international scene these days. From winning the world’s most prestigious competitions to searching out the finest beers, Thomas recently sat down to share some details about his life and what he is currently up to with Six String Journal readers.

Personal

When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?

I started playing at 12. There was a music school in the small town I lived in at the time with my parents, in southern France, and we decided it would be good for me to take music lessons. I got to choose which instrument I wanted to play, and since I already had a harmonica and saw a guy on TV play the guitar and harmonica at the same time, I thought I really needed to have a guitar. I wasn’t even really thinking about playing it at this point, just owning a guitar sounded cool to me. I had already tried learning the violin with my dad but that didn’t go well at all, I had no idea where to put the fingers. I remember when my dad told me the guitar had frets, I thought that was like cheating. To me that was just a matter of putting the finger at the right fret and plucking the string.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?

The ‘classical’ guitar is a unique instrument in the sense that we have repertoire ranging from the Renaissance to modern days, but there isn’t truly enough repertoire in each style to specialize yourself in a certain style of music—it would be hard for example to say you’re a Romantic guitar specialist and spend a lifetime only playing guitar music from the 19th century without getting bored at some point. This almost forces us to play music from all eras, which can be a little surprising for audiences who are used to hearing certain players perform a certain kind of repertoire. But in the end, even if I could choose to spend my life playing only one repertoire, I’m not sure I would. I enjoy playing Bach just as much as I enjoy playing Sor or a Brazilian piece by Assad. To me, style is everything when it comes to music, and I try as hard as I can to become a totally different player from one piece to the next, which makes any repertoire fun to play.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

I’ve played on my Smallman since 2006 with Savarez Alliance strings on it. I’ve also acquired a Bastien Burlot guitar a few years ago which I love.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

I think my teachers were mostly my source of inspiration when I was growing up. It was before Youtube, so knowledge was much more localized back then! When I moved to Paris in the early 2000s, I met a huge amount of amazing players and teachers. There are too many to cite them all, but every one I met and heard at some point has been an influence on some level.

What recording/s are you most proud of?

Hopefully the ones I haven’t done yet!

Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?

All the recordings made by Norbert Kraft are magnificent. When I master my own CD’s, I’ll compare them with the recording I did with him for Naxos when I won the GFA. Apart from those, ‘Nuages’ by Dyens was always a gem to me.

You seem to have a cinematographer in you, too. Would you share your set-up and process of recording casual but high quality videos for the world?

I have a couple camcorders by Canon I got a few years back. The biggest one is a xha1, which is a great 1080p camera. Technology is always moving though and with 4k now I’ll have to switch gears at some point. I record the sound with two AKG’s C414 which I love. With good placement and a good room, they sound great. I edit audio into Cubase, and video with Premiere pro.

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

It really depends about deadlines for me. If I don’t have concerts and don’t need to learn a new piece, I’ll practice very little. I can even spend weeks without touching the guitar. If I have to learn a new program and a concert is coming up, then I’ll practice up to 6-8 hours a day, although I haven’t done that in quite a while. If I’m touring, the first few concerts require work, but after that I’ll stop practicing altogether. I’ve practiced a ton when I was younger, for many years, and I think that allows me to slow down a bit now. Of course, I can always tell I play better after I practice a lot, still!

Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

The tremolo has been a long time enemy of mine, so I’ve started practicing it, just to prove myself I could do it. It’s still not as good as some other players I see on Youtube, but I don’t think I’ll have the patience to take it much farther. To me it’s just a special technique and it should never get in front of the piece and the music. I’ll probably record a few more pieces that use it and let it go!

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

I always had a good memory when it comes to music, but I also try to understand the score as much as I can. If I understand the harmony, the global shape and the details of form, the structure of the phrases etc., I usually can memorize something after a couple read-through’s.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

Me and Gabriel Bianco have published a set of Scarlatti Sonatas a couple years ago. I’ve done my own version of the BWV1004 partita, too, but since I like changing things around I always find it difficult to print something and tell people this is the way I play it—because it’s mostly never true. When people ask me for the scores of my arrangements, I always advise them to work on their own transcriptions from the best possible source available for a given piece.

Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?

I’ll confess I don’t warm up. It takes me a bit to get the fingers going, but I’ll just play the pieces slowly if I have to warm up.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I like to do a bit of stretching and breathing exercises (pranayama). I also feel better on the stage if I’ve played each piece of the program at least once the day of a concert. This is true only of the first couple concerts in a tour, if I haven’t played for more than a month. If I’m playing regularly, I can literally do anything I want pre-concert.

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

I think there’s a thing going around that says you don’t need to practice a lot, just a couple of very focused hours can be better than six hours not focused. It’s true. Although I don’t see why we can’t play for six hours focused. The more you practice the better, that’s the short answer. As long as you fix problems of posture when they occur, to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, go and practice all day. It becomes second nature. There’s no short cut.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

Young players are developing their musical technique, and ears. On a purely musical level, there is so much to do in the Baroque repertoire or the Renaissance repertoire that it can be a little complicated for students to get into those. The 19th century repertoire is closer to our own traditions that it can feel more natural for students to play it. As far as learning technique, it’s also a very important repertoire to get into. 20th century music is also very important and will teach you the new, weird techniques. Basically I’d stay away from too many transcriptions, and stick to repertoire from the 19th and 20th centuries. When students know more about performance practices for the 16th to 18th centuries, then they should get into this repertoire. To me, playing Bach’s Chaconne when I was 18 was a great experience musically speaking, but I can’t say I learned a lot technically speaking. Sor studies are much more valuable in the regard.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

I can’t name a few that are vital to know, but I’d advise students to listen to all types of music in general, not just guitar. It’s a little limited to listen to other players when you learn a piece; you want to get to the source, and listening to other players will only give you an interpretation of what you’re seeking. It’s a bit like reading a book review; you’ll understand it much better if you read the actual book yourself. If you’re faced with a Rossiniana, go listen to some Rossini; that sounds stupid but lots of students will base their version on what they’ve heard other players do. If you’re playing some Assad, go listen to popular Brazilian music, singers, bands, not just what other classical guitarists make of this music. Get to the source.

Tangent

What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?

I’m studying for the comprehensive exams at Eastman here in Rochester, which will be the end of my doctoral studies, so I haven’t read anything else than music theory and history related books in a while. Before that, when I had a normal life, authors I loved were Kundera, Vian, Sartre, Camus… but that was before!

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet? Have a favorite pre-concert food?

I try to exercise and work out as much as I can, although these past years have been quite busy with studying. A special diet of mine is going around trying all kinds of good beers whenever I can, as well as drinking lots of espresso. All very healthy.

Do you meditate in any way?

I’ll spend a little bit of time relaxing before concerts if I feel I’m a bit nervous, but I don’t do it on a regular basis.

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

I love to cook, make coffee, drink beer, watch movies, and play with my cats!


Check out Thomas Viloteau’s latest technique book and CD on itunes:

In-the-Black-Box-1-1website

 

Thomas Viloteau playing Assad

French virtuoso Thomas Viloteau performing an absolutely brilliant rendition of Caboclinhos, the last movement of Sergio Assad‘s Suite Brasileira Nº3. The piece was written for him and is available from D’Oz publications.

Hope that inspires you all for the weekend!

 

The Best of YouTube 2

Winner of many of the top guitar competitions, French guitarist Thomas Viloteau needs no introduction to all of you following the younger generation of highly gifted classical guitarists.

Here is a video where Thomas talks about the subtleties in playing a pimami in Mauro Giuliani’s Etude 5, Nº48 (sheet music link). For those of you who do not speak french, I find that speeding up the video to read the subtitles is a quick way to get a great lesson in a fraction of the time!

In the following video, he discusses various techniques for enabling and disabling resonances on the guitar.

And in this last one, he talks about SPEED!

Hope that inspires you all. Thomas has a great dvd and cd and you can visit his website thomasviloteau.com and find out more about what he is up to. I’m going there right now to purchase his book on technique!