Ricardo Iznaola is famous today for his work in the field of guitar pedagogy. Iznaola is a recording artist, composer, and teaches at a prestigious summer music festival. Ricardo Iznaola is one of very few true scholars and great thinkers in the guitar world today, and I hope you get as much out of this interview as I did. Classical Guitar Blog: When did you get started on the guitar? Ricardo Iznaola: In Colombia, after my family left Cuba in , I got interested in the instrument, and began doodling on my own, without teachers, for quite a while. This experience clarified my goals and purpose as a guitarist.
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Ricardo Iznaola is famous today for his work in the field of guitar pedagogy. Iznaola is a recording artist, composer, and teaches at a prestigious summer music festival. Ricardo Iznaola is one of very few true scholars and great thinkers in the guitar world today, and I hope you get as much out of this interview as I did.
Classical Guitar Blog: When did you get started on the guitar? Ricardo Iznaola: In Colombia, after my family left Cuba in , I got interested in the instrument, and began doodling on my own, without teachers, for quite a while. This experience clarified my goals and purpose as a guitarist. CGB: As your career goals began to take shape, did you envision yourself becoming a well known pedagogue?
When did that start to take shape? Ricardo Iznaola: My initial career goals were, of course, that of a traveling concert artist, and, in fact, I was encouraged by my early successes in both competitions and the stage. Simultaneously, I had started teaching quite early, and in fact Sainz de la Maza made me kind of an unofficial assistant from around on, sending me students that he would not take into his studio, so I gained early a lot of experience.
But teaching and thinking about teaching are two different things. I then began the first of several revisions of my own playing approach, which led to quite a few changes in both my playing and my teaching. The next phase began with my move to the United States, in , where I began to design my technique book, Kitharologus. I had it basically finished by the time I was appointed to the faculty of the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver, in , and began to incorporate those materials into my teaching.
I also began a very serious and dedicated study of the pre-technical aspects of playing, that is to say, functional anatomy, psychological factors in training and performance, etc. Out of this process, a second revision began to happen in which gradually I transformed many aspects of both my approach to playing and teaching. A third branch of my musical path, composition, also developed quite early, although I did not pursue it with professional intent until much later.
These facets have all coalesced and been helped by my move to the USA and my appointment as faculty at DU. CGB: What do you think made Kitharologus such a success? Ricardo Iznaola: The fact that it is NOT a method, but rather a collection of materials for physical training on the guitar organized in a cyclical and gradually advancing fashion, without pre-ordained instructions except very general and vague ones on how to do the exercises.
This meant that teachers and students of all persuasions could use the material with benefit, applying their own way of doing things, which is in fact what has happened. Another factor has been the charts for training suggested at the end of the book. In them, the students find a distributed organization of practice schedules for each level there are 9 , so that they can follow the chart for each of the three daily routines recommended.
The system, when implemented well, works very well, in my experience and that of many others. However, I do test my students once a quarter specifically on my book. Ricardo Iznaola: I look for dedication that can be defined as passionate, no matter if levels of achievement are not what, normally, one would consider advisable for the age of the student.
Of course, admission to a professional program in music, as we offer at both undergraduate and graduate levels at Lamont, is rather stringent in requirements and expected expertise, but I try to help both the highly proficient and the less experienced, but full of potential, to the degree that institutional resources allow. I have had both enormous success and failure with this approach, which is primarily an ethical stance, but one that is gaining growing validation by new discoveries in cognitive science and neurology.
In a word, I have committed myself, as a teacher, to the conviction that talent is present in all those who show true passion for the art form, although not all of them have equally unimpeded access to their talents. In these cases, talent becomes a function of method. As in growing a flower garden, individual growth curves for different flowers need to be respected by the gardener.
Teaching a highly complex, integrative function like music performance is very similar, in this context, to gardening. As we all know, though, educational institutions are not gardens. Ricardo Iznaola: Many, some good, some bad. Regino was a true child of his times, with all the grandeur and foibles of the grand masters of the era.
As with all his prominent contemporaries, he demanded that students prove themselves before they, the teachers, would deign to actually teach and help the student. In general terms, the pedagogical methods of those times were punitive, authoritarian and dogmatic, and Regino was not free from these traits. However, he was a superb musician and an innovative and advanced technical thinker of the guitar, a fact many people ignore, because frequently his public performances left something to be desired, given his known problems with nerves.
I included also two versions of the legendary Sonata by Lauro, one made for this recording, and the world-premiere recording, which I did in The difference between the two versions is immense! There are a number of new projects waiting for available time, including a possible triple concerto for this trio. I am also starting a collaboration with the great Venezuelan violinist and conductor Eddy Marcano, including both performances and recordings.
Of course, there are solo, chamber and orchestral performances lined up for the rest of this season, too tedious to enumerate. I do want to mention my work at the very inspiring and top-quality Bowdoin International Summer Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine, where I have been an artist-faculty for the last ten years.
I will be there from July 16 through August 6, teaching lessons, coaching chamber music and performing with distinguished colleagues. The guitar program is quite selective we accept only four students but rich in activities and performance opportunities for those admitted, both as soloists and chamber musicians. The festival is housed in the beautiful campus of Bowdoin College, and students and faculty have the opportunity to perform in the lovely Studzinsky music hall, a state-of-the art, resonant but transparent venue.
Ricardo Iznaola: You may be aware that I have been working, for quite some time, on a comprehensive text on guitar playing, tentatively titled Summa Kitharologica. This was planned to be a study of the art of guitar playing from analytical, interpretive and performance viewpoints.
There is an obvious thread uniting my little booklet On Practicing with Kitharologus, which has its foundation on the anatomo-physiological elements studied in my Physiology of Guitar Playing.
Additionally, I have published a very extensive and comprehensive monograph on left-hand technique, titled Left-Hand Technique and the Limits of the Possible , which appeared in the inaugural issue of the UK journal Guitar Forum, and I am currently engaged in an equally developed monograph on right-hand technique, in which I delve into the functional anatomy and mechanics of the right limb, while presenting a full description, with numerous examples, of my positional framing theory.
All of this, of course, is, in fact, continuation and further contribution to the all-encompassing concept of Summa Kitharologica, a project that, alas, might end up being a posthumous achievement! Ricardo Iznaola: I have two guitars I use for different purposes, both very different but both splendid: a cedar-top John Price, built in , and a spruce-top Andrea Tacchi, built in I also have a lovely Robert Ruck from Ricardo Iznaola: Just to listen.
As a musician, one is only as good as one hears. In practicing, the most common problem I find in students is the distortion in their listening due to impatience, playing too much, and, therefore, cramming. One needs a lot of time to find quality, and this requires a pace of work in which calm observation of what one is doing is an indispensable step. Other than that, and in more general terms, my only advice would be to enhance your curiosity, your appetite for, first, finding intriguing questions about anything and everything you or anyone else does, and, second, engaging in the purposeful process of discovering answers that, although hinted at by others, are, at the end of the day, only productive if they become your answers, your discoveries.
After all, great art is always the product of a unique personality offering a unique, powerfully engaging perspective on the world we all share. Sign up for the Classical Guitar Blog newsletter and I'll send you a free Ebook with a method for learning every note on the guitar. Ricardo Iznaola Ricardo Iznaola is famous today for his work in the field of guitar pedagogy. CGB: Do you use the book with your students? CGB: What do you look for in a student? CGB: Any lessons you still use every day?
Ricardo Iznaola Interview
It covers a wide array of technique exercises and also a significant amount of fingerboard knowledge. Beware however, although the book starts out super easy with playing simple open strings , it gets very difficult fairly fast. This is not a criticism but you should know that you will not just zoom through the book. I have difficulty with many sections of this book so students should go slowly through the book thoroughly accomplishing one section before moving on to the next. The best thing about this book is that it gives students very clear goals and students can practice the appropriate section as part of their practice routine. Covering all grades from novice to expert, this book is certain to be enthusiastically adopted by all serious guitarists wishing to develop their technique to the maximum.
Ricardo Iznaola - Kitharologus - The Path to Virtuosity (Classical Guitar Method)
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Kitharologus: The Path to Virtuosity by Ricardo Iznaola