Developing Mastery in Guitar Study


"Never hurry, never rest." - S. Suzuki

At the California Conservatory of Guitar, we encourage our students to see the many different angles of a piece, and to refine those different sides like a sculptor. This new perspective has many benefits.

Knowing the left and right hand fingerings, the counting and rhythm of a piece, dynamics and musical intentions, as well as being able to perform the piece consistently and fluidly, are all vital to a student’s mastery of a piece.

It may seem a lofty goal to have students (some as young as three!) do something so large as master a piece, but, as with all things, what seems incredibly complex can be broken down into many details that a student can work on every day in their practice.

For instance, when a teacher asks the student to say their right hand fingers out loud as they play, it is not an arbitrary obstacle standing in their way to a new piece. Rather, it empowers the student to play with more clarity of endeavor and ease. It helps the student know the piece on a deeper level, to see it from a new perspective. Far from holding a student back from advancing, these new perspectives are advancing the student towards a new level of skill.

There are many benefits as a guitarist and musician to this level of detail. The student can play with more ease, more consistently, and will have more success as a player. It will reinforce good habits from previous pieces, as well as build new habits and techniques for upcoming pieces. Because the Suzuki repertoire is graded to promote strong fundamentals, each piece building on the last, an increased level of detail and a commitment to mastery actually makes advancing through the repertoire easier and more rewarding in the long run.

However, the benefits of a commitment to excellence are not limited to an increased level of playing on the guitar. The student will gain a personal sense of accomplishment and achievement. They will learn perseverance, patience, and take pride in their accomplishment. When they move on to the next piece, they know they have really earned it. As a teacher, seeing a student gain this confidence is especially rewarding. I feel great joy when a student begins to see their own potential for excellence, and when they personally hold themselves to the high standards of their teacher. Go slow, after all, there is a lot to know!

- Alexandra Iranfar