As part of my four optional credits (ECTS credits) for my degree in Bachelor of Psychology, I have decided to take up a cultural activity, which in my case is playing the classical guitar. This is considered to be an Extra Curricular Credit, with a value of 2 ECTS credits. I carried out this activity partly at my tutor’s house, Ms. Mary Runza, and partly at home.

AIMS:

Through this cultural activity my two main objectives were the following:

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1. To prepare myself for my Grade 6 examination, and

2. To further improve my guitar skills, which I have gradually gained over a span of years.

BACKGROUND:

At a very young age I was interested in music and I was encouraged both by my family and at school to try my hands at an instrument. I was always attracted to string instruments, as I was fascinated by their vibrating sounds. Musicians use these instruments to play many types of music – classical, folk, jazz, and pop. I probably chose the guitar, because at the time I thought it was a practical instrument, easy to handle and carry around, and mainly because I always enjoyed the different sounds played over this instrument.

There are two distinct types of guitars, the classical (acoustic) guitar and the electric guitar. My choice fell for the classical guitar, although one of my future wishes would be to learn the electric guitar too.

I started my first lessons when I was nine years old, which is 10 years ago. At first I took it lightly, and considered it to be a past-time and a means of spending time with friends. As time went by, I started appreciating it more and took it up more seriously, and gradually over the years I sat for the examinations, and slowly reached grade 6.

Today playing the guitar is one of my main hobbies. I consider it to be a great means of mental relaxation, and the hours that I spend playing each week takes my mind off my studies and my problems. Besides practicing for my examinations, I also join a group of guitarists who, together with my teacher play at mass on Sundays.

The fact that I have learnt to love this instrument so much, and that I have been playing for so many years, has made me decide to take it up at University as an extra curricular activity.

METHOD:

Throughout the past ten years that I have been playing guitar, I have built up my skills gradually. One of the very first things I was taught was that I must sit, with one foot raised to help position the guitar. I was also given some very basic information which was necessary for a beginner. I was shown how to apply the skills of plucking single notes, and strumming chords. Gradually I learnt various finger techniques needed to create different sound effects. Quivering the strings (vibrato) makes the sound warmer, and plucking the strings (pizzicato) creates a twanging effect. These are the skills needed at the higher grades.

I sat for my Grade 1 examination at a very young age. Today, despite the fact that I have come across many obstacles which have made me consider stopping playing this instrument, I have arrived to the level were I am preparing for my Grade 6 examination. I feel that it is my deterministic character that has led me to continue.

This programme, as I have mentioned, was aimed so as to achieve my two main objectives. In preparation for my examination, I attend lessons at Ms. Runza’s house twice a week (Monday and Wednesdays), one hour each time. When I first started preparing for this grade (Grade 6), my tutor thought me all my scales and parts of my pieces. Now, whenever I attend her lessons, she corrects any of my mistakes, and helps me to perfect them. We follow the syllabus, and we build up on what I have left to learn all in view of my examination.

I continue this preparation with hours of practice at home. I go over what was carried out in the lesson, and also try to improve on this. In addition, I also try to introduce new parts of my pieces, as a preparation for my next lesson when my tutor can correct me and see what I have learnt. I practise at home practically everyday, between 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Such a high grade needs plenty of practice, so as to get the correct sounds, and to manage the chords without many mistakes. This is very different to when I sat for my early examinations, as now perfection is a vital point for me to pass my Grade 6 examination.

Having reached this grade, I now also have to prepare myself for my grade 5 theory examination. So, for this reason, I also attend theory lessons, once a week at another tutor.

Besides just preparing for my examinations, practical and theory, my other objective is to improve my skills. This is mainly achieved with regular practice, and with my extra guitar activities. At Christmas time I go Christmas carolling, and as previously mentioned I recently began playing at Sunday mass. Both these extra activities mainly help me with my strumming skills.

My guitar tutor, Ms. Runza, is always there when I need her. Whenever a difficulty crops up, such as when I cannot understand how to play a note or a chord, she is always there to assist me. With her experience she shows me the right and least complicated way that things should be done.

In total, including my lessons at my tutor, together with practice at home and mass on Sundays, I take approximately six to seven hours a week playing the guitar.

RESULTS:

Playing the guitar has done me a lot of good. Primarily, over the last couple of months, I have made a drastic step forward. I can say that I have covered almost all the syllabus. I will be sitting for my theory examination in April 2004, so that I can attend my grade 6 practical examination in the session that follows.

I feel that playing this instrument has helped me gain confidence and fight my shyness, especially when it comes to playing the guitar in public.

DSCUSSION / CONCLUSION:

I can say that in terms of preparing for my practical guitar examination, my expectations were exceeded, but I still have to work hard to first finish my theory syllabus and get good results, so that I will be able to sit for my practice in the very near future.

I think the main reasons for achieving what I have were my effort, determinism and sacrifice from my part. Playing the guitar is not as easy as one might think. To be committed is very difficult if there is no will power from the individual. Thank God I have this. Although at times with university pressure it has been difficult to cope and to be so committed, I still managed to work for this credit, and to keep my hobby going. Seeing positive results has made me persist and keep on going.

I extremely enjoyed working for this extra curricular credit. Besides achieving what I have wanted to, I have learnt that time management and discipline work hand in hand. I now believe in the saying “Where there is a will there is a way”, more than I ever did before. Playing the guitar has become part of my life, and now I feel happy and satisfied that I have achieved my goals for this extra curricular credit.

Although this extra curricular credit is now over, I still intend improving my skills and furthering my musical studies. My next stepping stone would be to reach grade 8 so as to be able to teach this instrument, and to transmit my knowledge and appreciation to others. It is also my intention to learn the electric guitar.

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION:

My main reference for this report was:

* The “Find out More” Encyclopedia

– The Arts, Music and Dance – String Instruments (MD 10, MD 11)

– Electronic Instruments (MD 15, MD 16)

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