The prime years of a guitarist

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
Francisco
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The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Francisco » Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:34 pm

I don’t think the notion of a "prime" age or period of highest craftsmanship, vigor and accomplishment for the classical guitarist has been discussed as a topic in itself. The notion exists and is easy to document in many other skills. For example, in tennis, a player’s “prime” is generally thought to be a period of about 7-10 years centered around the age of 25 or so, with 25 being the “peak”, while the prime would be roughly from 20 to 30.

Of course music is very far from being a sport and the “prime” would necessarily have to be much longer for a guitarist.

For guitar, I would tentativel put it as a period from the age of 30 to 55 or so. Of course the tapering off would be very gradual on both ends.

I suppose the main element to consider would be technical ability or “accuracy”, which would necessarily diminish with the process of aging, while “musicality” would not change as much I think.

I should reiterate that the example of tennis was NOT meant to suggest any kind of parallel between music and sports. It was just to illustrate the notion of prime in other professions.

In fact I am rather dismayed by the pervasive belief in a constant inexorable *progress* in the craft of guitar playing. Lots of people around here view guitar as a kind of athletic endeavor, similar to an Olympic sport, and they have an unwavering belief in the *progress* of everything, including art. So in their mind, musicians today just *have* to be so much better than in the previous generation. I really se no evidence of this.
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hesson11
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by hesson11 » Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:03 am

I really have no idea what the prime years are. I'm just hoping they're ahead of me, because I really stink.
-Bob

CathyCate
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by CathyCate » Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:33 am

Francisco
There are so many variables that come into consideration. I guess I have to say that "prime" playing period depends on the individual classical guitarist. It takes into account, when they started, their training, their dedication, experience, support, luck, repertoire, etc.

All that said, soul is another important factor.
I have alluded to it in other Forum threads, and I think soul is ageless. It can make an audience respect and want to hear a performer well past the sell by date.

Francisco
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Francisco » Fri Jun 23, 2017 10:19 am

Cathy, my thinking is there must be a period during which the combination of factors that affect musical performance is at an optimum. I agree that what you refer to as the soul behind a performance may suffer the least with ageing, but many other factors gradually take a hit, there is no denying. Various essential neurotransmitters are well known to decrease with age, which affects many different abilities, not only physical, but also the ability to detect deep relations within a piece of music, which are not to be found on the score but must be, in a certain sense, identified and hierarchized anew every time you approach a piece (which is why you never play it twice in quite the same way) and these detections underpin your entire “musicality”, they allow you to decide which notes to emphasize or de-emphasize, where to slow down, how much... and then there is of course a decrease in memory, with lapses becoming more frequent, a decrease in the ability to keep attention and concentration at a high level for a prolonged period.... white matter begins to decrease after age 40. A lot of stuff going on, including the plain fact of physical stamina decreasing. Concentration takes a lot of energy.
At the same time there may be a certain musical wisdom, difficult to precise, that keeps accumulating long after other things begin to decay, and that kind of compensates for that general decay. People who are very familiar with the full recordings or performances of players with a large output, like Bream or Williams or Segovia, can probably attest to the fact that their playing reached a certain high level which they maintained for a number of years, perhaps 2 or 3 decades, and then began a very gradual, inevitable decline.
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Yisrael van Handel
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:40 am

I would go further. That musical subtlety (I would call it musical maturity or musicality) improves indefinitely with age. On YouTube, there is a spectacular recording of the great Ukranian bass Mark Reizen singing Gremin's Aria from the third act of Evgeny Onegin. Reizen is 90 years old in this recording. His physical frailty is palpable. The emotional charge that he delivers is second to none, including his own recording of the same aria at the age of 67 (also available on YouTube). Now, I agree that understanding Gremin requires great maturity (that is what Gremin is about). But my point is that having the depth of emotional understanding more than makes up for a voice obviously in a state of decline. Listen to that performance of Reizen's. It helps if you know the story behind it (Pushkin's Evgeny Onegin).

Performance is for a large measure athletics. This is more true for singing than for guitar playing, but it is also largely true for the guitar. However, musicality counts for a lot. I readily forgive small technical flaws (as long as it is not bad tone or bad tuning) for a stunning performance. I think the stunning performance improves with increasing maturity.
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Francisco
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Francisco » Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:53 pm

Well that’s truly an amazing voice for a 90 year old. Hard to believe. It reminded me that there are lots of studies showing how certain brain areas, the corpus callosum etc, appear to be significantly larger in musicians, the salubrious effects of music, so maybe musical gymnastics are a good medicine against brain aging. But still, this Reizen fellow has to be a very exceptional exception.
On the topic of singing, once in a while I like listening to Russian music choirs with these super deep bass singers called oktavists. It vaguely reminds me of the deep mooing of cattle, especially indoors (and I say this without any offensive intention whatsoever) The vibration of those extremely low frequencies can be felt inside the body or at least inside one's head, and has a very relaxing, reassuring effect. Father is near. One can go to sleep in safety.
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Francisco
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Francisco » Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:58 pm

An example of the kind of singing I was talking about. I love this stuff.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vmfMx6GFts
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Yisrael van Handel
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:38 pm

Special for Francisco (do not know who else would appreciate it).

Youtube


To get back to the original poster's topic, I have a vested interest in the subject, because I am 68 and just beginning to develop as a guitarist and a musician. Of course, I am no where near my physical limits yet, but I hope to continue to progress well, as I enjoy the process very much.
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lagartija
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by lagartija » Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:02 pm

What the youngsters have in speed, the elders have in having lived life and a distinct maturity that comes with it. In music, that maturity lights up a performance in a way that touches people emotionally. Some younger people have, more or less, a musicality ahead of their years of experience. Some of the elders have something to say with the music that the youngsters may replace with speed and fireworks, and that comes across for a very long time after the speed drops off.

In my experience, this sort of thing is true in martial arts, too. I watched one of the senior practitioners frustrate the heck out of a young guy in his "prime " not by being faster...he was not...but having impeccable timing and knowing exactly how far he needed move to avoid the powerful technique of the young man. The guy kept saying..."you are so slow!!! Why can't I GET you??!" The senior practitioner was hardly working...the young man was sweating profusely in his effort.

In music, this "ancient wisdom" manifests itself with a refinement of musicality that allows the expressive power, even if the speed of youth is not there, to come through to the listener.

A brain in use constantly does not degrade all that quickly with age. Perhaps only near the end...in the last five years of life does the frailty of the organism overtake the abilities to compensate for the loss of youthful vigor.
You named one "exception ", but you might find that there are more than you would have guessed. :-D
When the sun shines, bask.
__/^^^^^o>
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bacsidoan
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by bacsidoan » Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:26 pm

Yisrael van Handel wrote:
Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:38 pm
Special for Francisco (do not know who else would appreciate it).

Youtube


To get back to the original poster's topic, I have a vested interest in the subject, because I am 68 and just beginning to develop as a guitarist and a musician. Of course, I am no where near my physical limits yet, but I hope to continue to progress well, as I enjoy the process very much.
A good analogy is the sport of running marathons. A person in the 60's with good health who never ran long distance before will continue to get better for a while but will hit the plateau soon enough, then it will be all downhill from there.

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Yisrael van Handel
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Sun Jun 25, 2017 4:42 pm

bacsidoan wrote:
Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:26 pm
A good analogy is the sport of running marathons. A person in the 60's with good health who never ran long distance before will continue to get better for a while but will hit the plateau soon enough, then it will be all downhill from there.
That might be true, but there might be a more positive way to spin the same narrative. So far, my technique and musically have been improving continuously. I am not planning to stop any time soon.
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bacsidoan
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by bacsidoan » Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:12 pm

Yisrael van Handel wrote:
Sun Jun 25, 2017 4:42 pm
bacsidoan wrote:
Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:26 pm
A good analogy is the sport of running marathons. A person in the 60's with good health who never ran long distance before will continue to get better for a while but will hit the plateau soon enough, then it will be all downhill from there.
That might be true, but there might be a more positive way to spin the same narrative. So far, my technique and musically have been improving continuously. I am not planning to stop any time soon.
I agree with you. There's more to playing CG beside speed, accuracy and finger gymnastics. My analogy is more applicable for people playing CG at the very high level. For most of us mortals, we will continue to improve until the inevitable aging process cripples us mentally or physically.

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by AndreiKrylov » Sun Jun 25, 2017 5:18 pm

sorry, posted by mistake
Last edited by AndreiKrylov on Tue Jun 27, 2017 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

Francisco
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Francisco » Mon Jun 26, 2017 3:02 am

Yisrael van Handel wrote:
Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:38 pm
Special for Francisco (do not know who else would appreciate it).

To get back to the original poster's topic, I have a vested interest in the subject, because I am 68 and just beginning to develop as a guitarist and a musician. Of course, I am no where near my physical limits yet, but I hope to continue to progress well, as I enjoy the process very much.
As far as the "guitarist prime" I was thinking more of professional concert players, rather than us amateurs. For us, especially if we start rather late, some progress is possible into pretty old age if we are blessed with good health. And fun is possible until the very end, as Andrei points out. But I do think that for professional guitarists, the physical and memory demands of concert performance are such that age necessarily catches up with them at some point, and their playing suffers, and at that point many of them decide to stop giving concerts. Others continue until the very end, like Segovia, because even if they are fully aware that their playing is far from what it used to be, they probably think that stopping would be even worse, so they never stop.

Thank you very much for letting me discover this wonderful singer. I have been investigating and will probably order at least a CD called Funeral Ritual Music by Pavel Chesnokov - The Male Choir of St. Petersburg, where Mr Pasyukov sang. I generally think the guitar has the most beautiful sound of any musical instrument, but sometimes I think the human voice, especially in choirs and in resonant spaces like churches, can surpass it. I think Pavel Chesnokov is a hugely gifted composer, and the presence of those oktavists gives such a rich dimension to the whole thing.
But "sacred" music does not even have to be very complicated for me to like it. I spent a good amount of time searching for a CD that I bought almost 20 years ago, until I finally located it in a disorderly pile. It is a Missa Defunctorum (Mass for the Dead) recorded in 1959 at the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos. The product code number is 641359100821 and it will come right up if you enter that number on a google search. The monk who sings this mass is Father Pedro Alonso Alonso, who became Abbot two years later, in 1961. The list of abbots in that place goes back more than 1000 years, and they've been singing since who knows when https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anexo:Aba ... o_de_Silos

This man did not have a potent voice, in fact he had an almost broken voice, but somehow it sounds wonderful, intoning the service. He was about 40 years of age when he sang this mass in 1959...
well, between this and some videos of the choirs where Vladimir Pasyukov sang, I've been listening to quite a bit of this kind of music, sometimes through the sound system, the better to feel the deep voices, until my family asked me to stop because they find it depressing, while I usually find it uplifting.
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Yisrael van Handel
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Re: The prime years of a guitarist

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:19 am

Francisco wrote:
Mon Jun 26, 2017 3:02 am
Thank you very much for letting me discover this wonderful singer.
Francisco, where to you live?
Yisrael van Handel
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