What Hath Reading the Bible to do with Guitar?


Introduction

Recently I’ve had discussions within my circles about Christians who don’t read God’s Word, the Bible, on a regular basis. I must admit that this perplexes me. There can be a plethora of reasons given that this happens, or doesn’t happen, but for the believer in Christ, it should be happening. I want to you know that I’m talking to the believer here. I don’t have any expectations that an unbeliever would read God’s Word or have any hopes of understanding it in any meaningful way. There are many unbelievers who love to argue against the Bible who have never bothered reading or studying it at all and just want to repeat an argument that they think has some validity, but doesn’t realize that their new found argument has been refuted decades or even centuries before. As the Bible says:

“And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, so that his deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds will be revealed as having been performed in God.” (John 3:19-21; NASB)

So, what hath reading the Bible to do with the guitar? As stated before, there are similarities that we can draw from practice to life.

What Happens When You Read?

Reading God’s Word, the Bible, is like someone who practices their instrument. Eventually, they’re going to getting better. You spend countless hours practicing and making time for the things you love. Just as your practice of chords, scales, and arpeggios train your fingers for the task at hand (see what I did there?), so the reading of the Bible trains us for life and is, “beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 NASB). Since all Scripture is inspired by God, God’s Word teaches us how to live life.

Think of it as the technique of life. When we are trained to play the instrument, we are being taught how to hold the guitar, how to read music (or tabs), and hopefully how and what to practice. When we read the Bible, we are being taught, “to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2; NASB). Our mind and thinking needs transformed. We need our thinking to become like God’s thinking and then, and only then will we be able to understand what God’s will for us is.

We are to be “conformed to the image of His Son,” (Romans 8:29; NASB). To be conformed to the image of Christ we must read His Word, the Bible, just like “looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18; NASB). To look into the Bible, the Word of God, is to be looking into the face of Jesus. The way to transforming our thinking is reading (and studying). The way to look like Christ is to be in His Word.

Again “…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created it…” (Colossians 3:10; NASB). To gain a true knowledge of Him, is to be in His Word.

We are to become mature in Christ as believers:

“Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20; NASB)

“For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak, but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you become mature.” (2 Corinthians 13:9; NASB)

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13; NASB)

“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14; NASB)

To look like and act like Christ is the goal in a mature, godly character.

What Doesn’t Happen When You Don’t Read

Oh boy, this article is getting a bit long, but bear with me. Simply put: when you don’t read, you’re not transformed, you’re conformed to the pattern of this world’s thinking. You don’t gain insight into the mind of Christ, you don’t mature, you don’t grow up. Any infant that does not receive regular healthy nourishment grows weak and eventually dies. The Word of God is our spiritual food, our spiritual nourishment. Without it we grow weak and die.

To tie this back into practicing guitar, try not practicing for a week, a month, a year, and see if you get any better at your craft. Up for that? Right, I didn’t think so.

As Ray Comfort has been quoted as saying, “No read, no feed.” Maybe for someone who loves to play the guitar, it should be, “No read, no play,” but I like to eat to… so.

Practical Suggestions

Wow, close to 1,000 words in this article so far. If you have read my other posts, you know I try to keep them short and manageable, as to not lose your attention… or mine. However, if you made it this far, here are some practical suggestions for reading the Bible. Just like your guitar practice:

  1. Have a set time to read and study where you have minimal or no distractions.
  2. Have a set place to read and study. This could be at your desk, in your recliner, or on the back porch. It doesn’t matter, just as long as you have a quiet place to read and reflect.
  3. Have a set schedule. I have my own reading plan in which I read the New Testament once a year and the Old Testament in two years. It’s not as intense as the one-year plans and it gives you a little more time to reflect on what you’re reading. If you would like to look at it and see if it works for you, please download Pauly's Two Year Bible Reading Plan.
  4. If you have a lot of “windshield time”, i.e., if you drive a lot, get an audio Bible and listen to it.
  5. If you happen to miss a day, all is not lost. Make a plan to get caught up. In full transparence, when writing this article, I didn’t get to my Old Testament reading. When I get behind in my reading, I read an extra chapter a day until I get caught back up. That’s also one of the benefits to the Pauly’s Two Year Bible Reading Plan.
  6. Cultivate Reading. Like playing an instrument, this is a great habit to learn. Sometimes, habits take time to cultivate, but practice makes perfect, and in this case: in more ways than one.

There is one more thing I would like to address. I’ve heard some Christians state that we should not just do “eyeball time.” That is reading God’s Word without thinking about it or reading it to just “check off a box.” I would encourage you to actively read and think about what you’re reading. However, that’s one of the best boxes you can check off every day. You’re going to have “dry” times in reading. It just happens. However, when you recognize that your mind is wandering, don’t stop reading, reengage!

To look like, to act like Jesus in our character is the goal. Christ is the goal. To become Christlike, we need to know Who and How He is. To know Who and How He is, we must read His Word (the Bible). God uses His Word to transform your life. Read.

5 Things You Need to Learn Classical & Fingerstyle Guitar, Part III: A Guitar Support or Footstool


Good posture will save your back when playing.

I have heard numerous reports over the years of professional classical guitarists having a multitude of back issues after a long and prestigious career. All of these stemmed from long hours of sitting slightly twisted with a foot upon a foot stool. I myself have experienced the occasional issue with my back after hours of practice. Thankfully, there are creative designers out there that have engineered devices to save our back long term. I guess you could say, “They got our backs!”

Okay, I’m sorry… so very, very, sorry for that pun.

Playing Position

If you have seen any pop or rock guitarist holding the guitar while sitting, you’ll notice that the guitar generally sits on the right leg while being played. At first this might seem to be the most natural way of holding the guitar. However, look again at the position of the guitar while they are standing. Usually, the guitar is on a strap (sometimes they will use a stand to hold the guitar, typically when playing a second guitar at the same time). The body of the guitar hangs more to the center of the person’s torso in a more ergonomic fashion. Except for those guitarists who insist playing the instrument down their knees, you’ll generally find the instrument in front of the player rather than to the side of them.

The Standard Gear

A better way to accomplish this while sitting is to either wear a strap or have another type of guitar support. The standard support that everyone starts out playing classical guitar is with a footstool. Most footstools run around $20 dollars (as of this post). This is something that you will want to pick up if you are beginning lessons. Since classical guitar technique calls for holding the guitar on the left leg, placing the guitar in the more ergonomic position, it will put your body in the correct position to hold the guitar.

But wait there’s more. My first introduction to a guitar support beyond that of the footstool was simply called an A Frame. It was basically a couple pieces of metal twisted into an “A” shape with a suction cup on the sides that secured it to the guitar. It also had a piece of Velcro attached the bottom so that you could adjust the height and position of the frame. It’s construction probably wasn’t the best at the time, but I loved it. However, it became apparent after a few years that I needed something a little more studier.

In Search of More Stability

After using the A Frame for a while, I came across something called the Gitano. It’s a small guitar support that attaches via suction cups to the bottom of the guitar. It has a hinge and a piece of fabric attached that allows it to flip out and rest comfortably on your leg. It’s not as bulky as the other supports and is easily storable. I still use the Gitano from time to time, but I still wasn’t satisfied.

I still like the A Frame concept. If there were only something similar that was a bit more stable. It took some searching, but I finally found what I was looking for. As I am wanting to do, I was surfing the YouTube machine in search of inspiring classical guitar players and pieces when I discovered a young lady playing a beautiful piece of music with a guitar resting on the support I was looking for. The young lady’ name was Tatyana Ryzhkova, the piece was Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonata II BWV 1003, Fuga (I think), and the guitar support was the ErgoPlay Tappert Guitar Support. I ordered the support and it was exactly what I wanted.

Other Supports

But that’s not all folks (or did I use that already?). Not only is there the Gitano and ErgoPlay supports, but also there are the SageWork Atlas and Umbra, De Oro, and Guitarlift Supports (which can be used as a small shield incase of invasion). There's even the Dynaretter Guitar Support Cushion that seems to be popular with many guitarists. The best thing to do is to research the product, prices, listen to the reviews, and choose the one that will best work for you.

Basically, when it comes to the guitar support, there are hundreds out there for you to use. The best ones, in my opinion, are the ones that allow your feet to be planted firmly on the floor, where your legs are parallel to the ground, and your body is not twisted. Suffice it to say, it will save your back in the long term. If you are using a guitar support and your back starts hurting because of the long hours of practice, by all means switch it to your right leg for a while.

Also, please note: Pauly Guitar is not associated with Strings by Mail at the time of this post. I just use them for most of the guitar accessories, like strings that need to be purchased.

New Practice Resource: Open Position Scales

A Systematic Approach to Practicing Scales


I began studying and playing the classical guitar in 2009, and throughout the years I’ve developed and revised my day-to-day practice book. This book is tailored to the areas that I need practice on, and is setup in a way where I can practice those areas every day without being overwhelmed.

From this practice book I’ve developed several routines that I thought would be helpful to the classical/fingerstyle guitarist community. So, from time-to-time, I will be releasing what I’m calling Practice Resources.

Practice Resources will consist of digital PDFs and physical books that are not only scale books, chord books, or technical resources, but also a practical approach to practicing all of the techniques that you need to touch on each week.

What’s so different about this book?

Have you ever seen a scale book only dedicated to Open Position Scales? I haven’t. I think that’s why I’ve started with the Open Position Scales book, but as I said, this is not just a scale book: it’s a practice approach. How is that? I’m glad you asked. When approaching the practice of scales, you’ll notice that you have 24 major and (relative) minor scales in 12 keys. There are other scales to learn as well, however, let’s just start with the relative minor scales. As a guitarist, you would want to learn as many scales in as many keys as possible. With the abundance of scales, modes, and positions, that can be overwhelming. So, I got to thinking, how can one approach this awe-inspiring task?

I start with the major scale, next play the relative minor of that scale, and then move on to the major scale of the fifth degree. I have found that you can get through all of the major and relative minor scales in six days with only practicing them five to ten minutes each day. Okay, that sounds more complicated than it is:

Let me Show you What I Mean

It’s Monday (oh Monday), and you have sat down to practice your guitar. Opening the Open Position Scales book, you see the C major scale. You play through the scale, slowly at first, getting the notes under your fingers.


As you finish up the C major scale, you move on to the A minor scale, the relative minor of C major.


Once you finished A minor, you move to G major, and then to E minor. Before you know it, you have played through the first four scales for the week. On Tuesday, you move on to D major, B minor, A major, and F# minor… and so on and so forth. It’s pretty much that straight forward. Once you have finished playing through the book, you start over again on Monday.

How the Book is Set Up

The book itself is set up in three sections. For those who like only notation, the first section is set for you.


The second section are for those who want tablature in addition to the notation.


The third section contains scale charts for reference with the suggested left-hand fingering.


Again, the book layout is fairly straight forward and is good for beginners and those who want to add to a reference to their musical library.

How to Get the Book

Scale practice is one of the essential foundations to any music instrument. To get your copy of the book, please follow the links below:

Get a physical copy | Get the Digital PDF | Free Copy with Newsletter Sign-up

Thoughts On: Time Management

"Time is the mechanism God created to keep everything from happening all at once."

Having a Set Time for Practice

So, you’re going to practice really, really hard and become a guitar superstar. You’ll need to practice, practice, practice, and when you’re finished, you’ll need to practice some more. Eventually, you will come to a point of practicing your practice. Which is what I like to write about in this blog.

The first thing you’ll need is a set time to practice. This isn’t a set-in stone, unmovable time, but a consistent time. A time set aside to focus on this instrument you’ve chosen to pursue. For me, I’ve tired many different time slots of the day, before dinner, after dinner, after work, late at night just before bed, lunch hour, but the best time I’ve found for me is in the morning. After my shower, coffee, and Bible reading, I’m ready for an hour or two of playing the strings and working on my technique, new pieces and repertoire.

On occasion, I’ll work through the technique and new music portions of the practice and play the repertoire at night, just before bed. Most times this helps me relax. Point being: find a time in the day that works as well for your schedule as it does your mind. I find that mornings work best for me. My mind is fresh and ready to go and to work out the challenges that await.

Having a Set Time to Practice

Hang on there Mr. Pauly Guitar man, you just covered that. Not so fast, my dear guitar friend. Reread the headings. Once you have determined the time of day to practice, then determine the amount of time you will practice. My full-blown practice regiment consists of 2 hours. If I’m up by 7 AM and ready to play by 8 AM, I have plenty of time to do my full work out. The only hard part is that I’m a night owl and getting up early is hard.

Setting a block of time to practice is well worth the effort. It’s a time to focus. It’s a time to work through those exercises so critical to your success as a musician. The person who plans their time will have success in time. If you don’t have 2 hours for practice, practice for an hour. If you don’t have an hour, practice for 30 or 45 minutes.

Having a Set Place to Practice

As important as it is to have a set time to practice, it’s important to have a set place or places to practice. Having a dedicated room, home studio, or a place where you can just get away from it all for short amount of time is significant. Not only will you have time to focus on your pieces and the technique you need to work on, you can do it without distractions. A distraction free place of solitude with the silky-smooth sounds of a nylon strung guitar… and a metronome. It takes me away.

Having a dedicated place to work on your music will help box your time in. I usually have my time in my corner where I have enough space for my practice book, a chair, my fan, and my phone (i.e. metronome) (at the time of this writing, I have a studio corner instead of a room because we live in a small house). When it’s nice outside, I enjoy practice on back porch.

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention to beware of the phone distraction. I use my phone for a metronome, but I know for some people that might be a temptation. If the phone distracts you, buy a metronome. You can order one…. on your phone.

Having a Plan to Practice

As they say: “Plan your work, work your plan.” Having a focused regiment. In my two-hour practice sessions, I have 12 sections of techniques and routines that touch on pretty much every aspect of the guitar (that I’m aware of). I spend five to ten minutes each on eight sections of technique. I spend about 10 minutes or so on sight-reading, 20-30 minutes or so on a new piece, 3-5 minutes on pieces I’m ready to film, and roughly 15-25 minutes on repertoire. That’s my long practice.

My short practice, I spend about 30-45 minutes working on the basics: scales, arpeggios, slurs, stretches, and repertoire.  Then there are those days where I sleep in.

Conclusion

The big idea here is to have a set time to focus on set tasks that will make you a better guitarist. While the structure can become complicated, the goal is not. The goal is to play beautifully on this wonderful instrument God has given us.

Quick Tips: 10 Minute Short Practices

So, you got up late and you don't have time to practice. Or, you have plans tonight and you don't have time to squeeze in a few minutes on the guitar. Here's a way (for at least some of us) to practice even when our day is jammed packed (see what I did there). 

10 Minute Short Practices

Some days just don't work out like we plan them to. For me, that's getting up, having a cup of coffee (or two), reading the Bible, and then practicing the guitar for anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and half. However, when that can't happen, I try to practice in short 10 minute practices throughout the day. I wouldn't recommend this as your normal practice routine. It's only for those days when you have a limited amount of time.

For example: my practice routine is broken up into sections, scales, arpeggios, slurs, stretches, new piece etc. (actually, I have 11 key sections of practice, which I will elaborate on in another post). If you break those up into 10 minute slots throughout the day, you can effectively practice what needs to be practiced for that day.

More examples: You could spend 10 minutes on scales before work, then take a break in a couple of hours and spend 10 minutes on arpeggios. At lunch you could play through your slurs and stretches. A couple hours after lunch you could work on a section of your new piece. Adjust the schedule as needed.

Planning is Key

For this to work, you will need to plan for it. You'll notice in the example, the day is broken up into a two hours then break format. This has been my personal practice for years. If you need to do this kind of practice for a day, it helps to know what you're going to work on. Maybe you do scales in the morning and practice your new piece at lunch. As these are short practices, only focus on what's needed. I wouldn't try to do all 11 sections of my practice on a day where I have little time to focus on those areas.

Guitar for Off-Site Practice

Some folks have the opportunity to work from home. Having a home office or an office where you can bring your guitar in and play for a few minutes during the day. However, what if you don't have that opportunity? What if you don't want to bring an expensive instrument to your worksite?

Most of us will have inexpensive instruments around somewhere. There have been days where I would grab the cheapest guitar I had and take it to work with me. Then, on breaks, walk out to the car, grab the guitar, and work the passages I was studying for the day. If you don't have a cheap guitar and you don't fill like taking your guitar to work with you, then you might consider getting a cheaper instrument like the Yamaha C40. Something that can get damaged, lost, or stolen and it's not a huge deal. I'd rather break or scratch a $150 guitar verses a $3000 one.