How do I get there from here???
The warm weather and the announcement on the radio this morning that summer had arrived clued me that it is time to put my Kenny Hill guitar in summer storage and go back to my lacquer-finished 29 year old Hauser copy. Yeah, I like the Hill better, but I sweat like a... Well, anyway, the warmth and the guitar reminded me of an afternoon wedding cocktail hour I played back in 1988. It isn't an overly fond memory, but it taught me something about how to be a working classical guitar player. I'll share this lesson with you.
Way back in the summer of 1988, I was working a 60 hour a week day job and, as you'd surmise, not getting gobs of practice time. I had taken the past year off from gigging but was coaxed out of retirement by the marriage of a friend who requested that I play her wedding. With not much time for preparation, I dug back through my stacks of music and retrieved all the relatively simple stuff I could find and managed to knit together a program gleaned from what you'd probably call the 'encore repertoire' --stuff like Leyenda and Recuerdos de la Alhambra and the delightful Four Venezuelan Waltzes by Antonio Lauro.
[Antonio Lauro pictured to the left. ]
The day came and I performed in the air-conditioned church with great aplomb (and no, they didn't go down the aisle to Leyenda!) The cocktail hour was on a lovely scenic porch of a historic restaurant in Upper Westchester county, and there I sat with my guitar, a contact microphone and a Fender Twin Reverb amp. In 85 degree temps. In a suit. Suffice it to say that sweat was soon running down my forehead, into my eyes, burning them and throwing off my concentration and eyesight.
The piece I was about to start was Lauro's Waltz Number One, the first line reproduced here:
Have you ever tried to go for the seventh fret when your concentration is off and you can't see well anyway? I hit the eighth fret--with a d in the bass. The resulting odd-ball tonality jarred me into quick escape mode, so I intentionally played the same chord again, then slid down to the sixth fret and hit those pitches with conviction. Then I slid up to the right spot and started. What I pulled off was an impromptu and not exceeedingly correct (stylistically) intro to the piece that no one noticed. Had it been a recital with a discerning audience...
Here's what I learned. Without dots on the side of the fingerboard one needs other landmarks-- and without counting fret wires, it's tough. Here's what I do now every time I start this piece (I still use it.) I place my fourth finger on the d two frets below the box joint. (This is the third note of the piece anyway and is good planting/preparation.) My hand naturally falls into the barre on the seventh fret. Can't miss no matter how sweaty, preoccupied or rattled I am.
There are many pieces where one must find a precise location on the neck without a solid landmark. Look at the music and see if there is a 'starting point' like I found in the waltz. Either that or start figuring improvistorial ways to get around a wrong note/chord! You just know that when you're in front of a crowd, something will go wrong. And never frown or shake your head. If anything, smile or look intense. Don't ever let them see you've made a mistake. Bravado can carry the day!
Harry George Pellegrin is an author of mystery novels, a musician and recording artist. Primarily a guitarist, Harry's latest recordings are keyboard-driven and most easily classified as New Age, though we don't like to consider the music in a 'genre box.' Harry G. Pellegrin's first published novel, LOW END, is a murder mystery set in South Yonkers and New York City in the late 1980's. The characters, all derived from friends and acquaintances, try to investigate the death of one of their own -- not so much to solve a crime, but to keep from sharing a similar fate. LOW END has been met with great critical acclaim. The sequel, DEEP END, is being shopped by a well-known literary agent at the time of this writing.
This page is designed for a number of reasons. We'll be honest, a primary goal is to expose a larger audience to Harry's music and writing. Another goal of the webmaster is to create a repository for the knowledge that years of experience in the performing arts industry has given Harry. Creating a chronicle of life in the Bronx in the 1960's and 1970's is another goal we hope to accomplish.
AVAILABLE NOW !
The Classic Guitar Method: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.
With the aid of a good teacher, the student will rapidly progress through The Classic Guitar Method attaining technical proficiency and musical eloquence.
This method stems from the need to incorporate a number of schools into a single cohesive curriculum. Years of honing a logical approach to the guitar and the creation of music culminate in this volume. As a self-proclaimed Disciple of Valdés-Blain , much of that famed teacher's focus can be found in Mr. Pellegrin's method.
Why do we need another CLASSICAL GUITAR METHOD?
During the course of teaching guitar over the past twenty six years, I have often noted that no single method book contains all the information I wish my students to have readily available to them on a continuous basis. It has not been uncommon for me to assign as many as three methods to a new student—all good, by the way, but not one of them being all inclusive. This is not an unusual circumstance, and one I should have anticipated in my teaching experience as I distinctly remember Albert Valdés-Blain (10 April 1921—30 January 2002) assigning me a mind-numbing ten books at my first lesson, seven of them methods or collections of studies.
I consider myself a disciple of Valdés-Blain. I met him in 1974, though, of course, I had heard of him by reputation. An excellent musician and teacher, Lawrence Silvestro—who had brought me along to that point at which I was ready to undertake a study of the classical guitar at the college level—had admonished me when he'd heard with whom I would be studying. With much the same advice as Mary had given the servants at the marriage feast at Cana , Mr. Silvestro told me "Whatever he tells you to do, just do it!" So I did.
When I decided that the time was right for me to create a new method—one that would include all the necessary technical and musical disciplines to lead the serious student from neophyte hobbyist to burgeoning recitalist—I resisted the urge to call the Method something like ‘Maestro Valdés-Blain's School of Guitar' as this would imply that my method would accurately reflect his system of instruction and musical nurturing. While I do follow his precepts fairly consistently and faithfully, my method reflects his impartation to me and me alone. I did not intimately observe his method with other students but what I did witness leads me to presume that he tailored his approach to each individual, within logical constraints, no doubt. No less importantly, I had also modified my teaching methods to my own personality and style of instruction over the years. In short, this method echoes the classical approach of a well-known and much-loved pedagogue and student of Segovia , but is filtered through and expanded by a respectful devotee.
Is my method all-inclusive? In light of what I wrote previously, possibly not. It should be very close though! No method will be absolutely all-encompassing for every student. A good instructor will direct the student to studies and pieces that focus in on the student's particular weak areas. Aside from this, there is the legal ramification that any composition penned in the Twentieth Century is, of course, protected by copyright and while I can not include any such item here for this reason, I do direct the student to exemplary editions of milestone modern music. All the performance pieces and many of the studies are public domain. In the case of studies by Fernando Sor, Ferdinando Carulli, Mauro Giuliani, Napoleon Coste and the other classic masters, I have included my editions of some of their works. I then direct the student to complete editions from which these gems are drawn. The student can then choose to acquire these for further study. [Photo to left: Albert Valdés-Blain circa 1965.]
What my method does is expose the student to the technical disciplines required to effectively perform on the instrument and give enough basic recital repertoire that when the method is completed, the guitarist will be able to perform a recital of approximately forty-five minutes in length. I have included many tips and explanations that should shed light on the correct process of attempting to solve problems. Teach a student a solution and he has one problem solved. Teach a student to be a problem-solver and he or she is on the road to mastering the instrument.
Included in this book are sections on the correct interpretation of lute tablature in its varieties. Why? The lute enjoys one of the largest repertoires of any instrument ancient or modern. Much of this lute music remains untranscribed for the guitar, its modern descendant. The guitarist will want to mine this wealth of material for fresh program pieces.
Many students have asked me to recount the development of the guitar as the instrument we know today. So few people know exactly what a classical guitar even is: “Children's guitars have nylon strings while real guitars have steel strings.” Little do those who make this ridiculously false statement realize that some of the priciest, most desired instruments on the planet are nylon-strung classical guitars, so this book includes a section on history as well as instrument care.
Music is hard work. Mastering an instrument is an endeavor that requires more years than a lifetime can possibly ever contain. With that said, many will then ask ‘why bother?' It's a fair question and if you ask it, maybe playing an instrument is more a hobby for you and less a vocation. For those who begin their journey by considering it a vocation, it becomes an obsession; a passionate one that can never be fully satisfied. If you are fervent about playing the classical guitar—and playing it well—then this book, my method, may be the one book you need to make it all happen. Practice is crucial, critical listening is, well, critical. An awareness of musicality is more than vital—music is what it is all about and unless the performer can impart an emotion to humanity-at-large, then why bother?
Indeed, it can be stated that music is the most spiritual of all the arts. It is more fleeting than sand painting as once the sound has been produced, it is over and gone except for the image it leaves on the human heart. Recordings are wonderful, but they can never hope to capture the intrinsic veracity of a genuine, intimate live performance. The guitar is arguably the most intimate of all instruments; you must hug it to make music with it! Its relatively small voice requires the listener to draw close to the performer. This double dose of intimacy makes the guitar an incredibly personal and articulate voice for an artist. [Photo to left: Harry Pellegrin Nov. 1980.]
I wish you great success with music. Music will feed your soul in a way that nothing else can. I wish you equal success with the guitar. Attaining mastery of an instrument is a long road—a road with many rewards and more than its fair share of frustration. A good tutorial method will help you avoid some frustrations and work through others. There are poor paths and rough roads to be found. This method of mine, should you decide to let it, will put you on the right road, but this road doesn't end when you close the book. Should you decide to turn the page, I welcome you to the road you will travel for the rest of your life!
Published by PAB Entertainment Group, P.O. Box 2369 Scotia, New York 12302
Please go to www.lulu.com to order.
Spa Anthology -- need relaxation music for your Day Spa or Facial and Massage Facility? Click here for hassle-free music.
If you are looking for some unique gifts, please consider either a copy of LOW END or one of Harry's fine CD's of inspirational and relaxing music.
Read all about her in DEEP END: The Wreck of the Eddie Fitz
Buy Low End through PAB Entertainment Group on AMAZON.com. (Go to the USED AND NEW section) Not only will you get the book, but you'll also receive a FREE COPY of Reflecting Pools, Harry's first keyboard album. You will enjoy!
Do you know how to chain your effects pedals? Do you sound like a 'Wall of Oatmeal' sometimes? ALL the time? Check this out!
Can't read standard musical notation? If you can read the gas prices to the left, sure you can! Please see these articles for the help you need:
Exercise/Technique Session Number Forty: July 14, 2005 Standard Notation -- so simple even musicians can read it!
Exercise/Technique Session Number Forty Four: August 11, 2005 Back to Basics PART ONE -- teaching the new student to read above the fifth fret.
Exercise/Technique Session Forty Five: August 18, 2005 Back to Basics PART TWO -- teaching the new student to read above the fifth fret.
Exercise/Technique Session Forty Six: August 25, 2005 Back to Basics PART THREE -- teaching the new student to read above the fifth fret.
Exercise/Technique Session Forty Seven: September 1, 2005 Back to Basics PART FOUR -- teaching the new student to read above the fifth fret.
Exercise/Technique Session Forty Eight: September 8, 2005 Back to Basics PART FIVE -- teaching the new student to read above the fifth fret.
Exercise/Technique Session Forty Nine: September 15, 2005 Back to Basics PART SIX (The last in this series, but not on this topic! Teaches the new student to read above the fifth fret. Next week a new topic. YEAH!
Hey, the new album is out! That's right, finally a follow-up to the reissue of my old album from the late 1980's.
Reflecting Pools is a departure for me as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one track...
Click the image to the left to learn more, hear a few tracks --even get ordering info if you want it!
"...Reflecting Pools is a notable first album [for Mr. Pellegrin]. A dramatic sense of tonality and mood are propelled by exemplary musicianship and exciting compositional exploits."
Available through www.BATHTUBMUSIC.com...
...And containing nine tracks that are relaxing, inspirational -- sounds like a snooze. Not really, this is great stuff to listen to on a rainy afternoon, while with your significant other (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) Please visit the Reflecting Pools page on this site or www.bathtubmusic.com. In That Zone, is now out! Please visit www.bathtubmusic.com for details and to order.
LOW END What's new with the book that came out over a year ago? After being on back-order at Amazon.com for what seemed like a century, it is my understanding that copies are once again shipping. Barnes and Noble's website is on-again-off-again, but PAB (on Amazon as an authorized vendor) has LOW END in stock and it comes with a CD!
DEEP END, the exciting sequel, is being shopped by my literary agent even as we speak.
The Guitar Sessions: Weekly tech tips and exercises to help the guitarist improve. This feature has really taken off. Each week a new page is posted with either an exercise to get the left and right hands moving more efficiently and effectively or an interesting piece from the standard repertoire , demonstrating a necessary technical ability. Judging by the hits these pages receive, you guitar players love this feature!
The page is updated every Thursday. Visit the 2004 Archive as well!
In my opinion, the murder mystery genre reached its zenith in the 1930's and 1940's. The novels penned in those decades were taut, no-nonsense stories of people in life and death crises, people who did not flinch when confronted with overwhelming odds or overwhelming emotion. Some of these tales could be hard-edged and hard-boiled, but the heroes invariably had a soft side as well.
I believe that over the years, in an attempt to mimic real life, the writers of murder mysteries--and most other literature, for that matter--have lowered the standards of excellence set by such authors as the gritty Raymond Chandler and the sophisticated Dorothy Sayers. Many authors misinterpret smut for romance and brutality for strength.
My novels aspire to the standards set by the 1940's mystery writers. My tales are as real and grimy as the mean streets that spawned them. Even so, and though they deal with modern issues, you will not find gratuitous sex in my characters' relationships. Sex may be alluded to, but it is never allowed out from behind closed doors. You will find that my books are entertaining to a broad audience--I have had positive comments from teens to grandmothers. One reader was surprised when I told him that there were no obscenities in the book he'd just finished. He hadn't missed them! A good story doesn't need such unnecessary 'embellishment.'
I have conducted book signings at churches, country clubs, libraries and even a street corner (don't ask!) and I've never been called to task for, or ashamed of, my work. Pick up a copy of my latest novel and see if it isn't a good read!
As a native New Yorker and an American, I am still angered by the cowardly attacks of 9/11. Unless we restore New York City's skyline to its condition prior to September 11th, 2001, the miserable scum who attacked us will have won! Visit www.makeNYNYagain.com and rebuild America!
This site is a way for me to commemorate and celebrate a life and lifestyle that is now extinct. Why extinct? Is it that Thomas Wolfe " You-can't-go-home-again " thing? Is it because life is so much different now that what we experienced in the Bronx in the 60's and 70's is no longer relevant? Yes. No. Yes and no? Definitely maybe ! Why do I always start these little essays with questions?
At first, the main thrust of this site was to promote my book. It is a worthy goal; the book tells a good tale and everyone who has read it finds it entertaining and thought-provoking. With that sole goal, I went live with this site back in August of 2003. What happened next is what makes this site truly valuable.
There are people I grew up with, attended school and with whom I played in bands -- neighbors, friends, good family -- who I hadn't seen since I moved from the Bronx in 1986. Divorce had forced me into exile, time and distance conspired to seemingly turn this into a life sentence. Thank the muses for the internet! This site wasn't live for more than two months before I was reunited with Paul Silvestro , a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in seventeen years. His brother Larry , the guy who had turned me on to playing guitar and taught me the things about music that matter the most, now with him I had no contact since 1983. Twenty years! Too long. I felt as if a part of my soul had been restored -- a part that had been missing for ages and had long ago been written off. But more was to come.
Anthony Pernice, Art Clement , Mike Moretti -- all reunited to me.
The 1960's weren't good to a number of us -- many of us had our personal demons to exorcise, be it substance abuse or the insidious hedonism of the times. but through it all, we were instilled with a vibe, cast in an artistic mold--call it what you will--but unless these same environmental stimuli are exactly reproduced, there will never be another crop of people quite the same.
This page delves into what we experienced and how we incorporated these experiences into art, music, literature and life . I've paid tribute to my neighborhood, the Wakefield section of the Bronx. The Discords -- Larry Silvestro and Artie Clemente's first band in the early mid-sixties-- they're here with their matching outfits, Fender, Hagstrom and Gretsch guitars plus those impeccably precise five part harmonies.
And speaking of the Bronx, I can't talk about Wakefield without mentioning Mount Saint Michael Academy on Murdock Avenue. The Mount was my Junior and High School and although I was not a happy camper while there, I made a few really good friends and consider the education received to be a fine one.
Of course, there is an homage to Leo Fender and his magnificent designs, the Telecaster © and the Stratocaster ©. I officially declare C.L. Fender an honorary Bronxite. These instruments have literally changed my life and the way we all hear music. Check out this page on my site.
Rory Gallagher, whom I saw play in 1973 and who has influenced me ever since--he has a page here as well. He has gone on now, but the impact he made is still rippling outwards, changing how we interpret the blues.
Untermyer Park in Yonkers and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx are included on this site. We were kids interested in a good ghost story and both these places were terrific for providing a few innocent and fun goosebumps.
...and of course, my book!
Please enjoy this site. Nose around. Anyone can find something here to read and get a chuckle.