Time and practice

by Cesco Emmanuel

So Christmas is almost here. I haven’t even started to shop as yet. I’ve been spending as much time as possible practicing guitar.

I’m hoping to sit DipABRSM next year April. I have 12 classical pieces to prepare for exam – a recital really for an hour. I have to talk about the music – the composers, why I chose each one, what characterizes each piece. I started learning and practicing these pieces May 2012. So it’s taken me a while.

I can understand why it takes so long to sit these advanced exams at ABRSM. It is a lot of work, and the pieces are challenging.

In fact, challenging is an understatement. When I began, I couldn’t play a single one, they were all beyond my reach. Every piece was a daunting task. Not to mention sight-reading them at first glance. Utterly painful.

To say that I struggled with every one of them would be an understatement. I have failed, miserably at them all, I have failed for months and months on end. But I am not giving up hope. I still have a long way to go and things are getting better.  Slowly better, but the key to practicing these pieces is not to rush through them, making as many mistakes as possible just to say that I ‘finished’ the piece.


I must go through each one with a fine-tooth comb, playing difficult passages over and over, going over every nuance and fingering detail for both hands. I must slow down, speed up, disintegrate, amalgamate sections. I must basically tear down to build up again.

I started playing guitar 26 years ago, I began by taking classical guitar lessons with Graham Newling (ARCM), actually I still do. I stopped playing classical for ten years and only started back four years ago. It is like beginning from scratch.

And even though I’ve been playing so long, I truly feel that only now, am I really learning the true nature of how to play the guitar.

Many a day I want to give up and just pretend that it’s okay to never master certain techniques on guitar, not only for classical but on the electric as well (because I play both). There’s always been various aspects of the guitar that has always eluded me.

After all, I’ve been doing this for so long, many people say to me ‘Wow! you must be good if you’re playing so long?’ And I feel gratified to an extent and also ashamed on the inside, because there’s so much music that I cannot play. And I wish I could play it all.

And the only thing that stops me from giving up is tiredness. I’m tired being ‘that’ guitarist. I want to be better. I want to learn it all, I want to master as much as I can.

I owe that much to myself.

I’ve started breaking apart my days, waking up earlier and practicing longer. I’ve changed my practice schedule. I’m analyzing everything about my playing. It’s driving me nuts but I’m just about starting to see the light at the end of tunnel. I’m slowly coming out of this cloudy haze of ‘not knowing what to practice, how to practice, how to get better.’

I’m trying to make the most of the time I have.

That’s all I have left.

Time to practice