TGC Berlin, Germany 2019

Review by Carlos A. Cortés Navarrete:

Friday, April 12, 2019
The Touch Guitar Circle starts with 14 members: Markus, Alexander, Georges, Gregg, Wolgang, Carlos, Matias, Sebastian, Milan, Jaakko, Kaspar, Sergio, Connie and Stephan.
The first exercise, introduced by Alexander, is the Son exercise. Markus leads the next session, in which we all start with playing a pattern that Markus had improvised and composed right on the spot. It gradually changes completely into a whole new composition. Markus addresses each member individually, asking them to switch a note or the pattern they were originally assigned. This is the first of many improvisation sessions we have as a group and it turns out to be a very special composition in real time. After this session, the first day of the course is complete. We have everything set up, ready to start a very intense week.

Saturday, April 13, 2019
The first session of the day starts at 8 a.m. It’s a warm-up session based on the Father exercise series. After the warm-up all the attendees get breakfast. We come back for the second session of the morning, which is centered around the Centipede exercise.
After lunch, Markus leads with an improv session. Each participant adds or modifies a phrase of a melodic line or harmonies for each phrase, as Markus instructs. Alexander leads the last session of the day with an exercise that has a melodic line and harmonies between all the instruments. This turns out to be the polyrhythms, which we would see throughout the course. The last thing we are taught is a bass line that Markus composed for the group, and we start to learn the first part of this composition.

Sunday, April 14, 2019
The next day, Alex leads the warmup exercise. It’s mainly focused on the Daughter exercise and its different variations. After breakfast we have another session in which we approach the Centipede in different segments, ascending and descending. We also focus on posture with the instrument and move on to exercises related to the “Black Sheep” and paradiddles.
The first session of the evening is a Q & A session. The discussion is centered around polyrhythms with examples provided. The next session has more examples of polyrhythms and we play ascending patterns in 5 and descending patterns in 3. The last session of the night is another improvisation led by Markus and a review of the composition that we had started learning the previous night.

Monday, April 15, 2019
The day starts with the same warmup exercise as the previous day (Daughter 2nd variation) without changing tempo. Gradually some people change the notes in order to harmonize the pattern and then improvise on top of the pattern. We then review the Father exercise (versions 1 & 24) led by Jaakko and Stephan, and change the tempo throughout the exercise. The following session is an improvisation on polyrhythms adding different elements on 3, 5 & 7.
In the evening, we learn the Apprentice exercise, which is meant to show the relationship between major 3rds and minor 3rds between the two hands. We continue with another improvisation with polyrhythms and counterpoints, and reviewing the Daughter version 1. The last session of the day, we continue studying Markus’ piece and how to alternate hands in case we have to repeat a note.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Jaakko leads the first warmup, mainly focusing on the Son exercise. We use different approaches for this and one of the conclusions is to try doing this exercise with the instrument amplified. We also play the Father exercise (variations 1 & 24) at different tempos. The next session, we focus on the Centipede exercise using the Phrygian and Lydian modes. Next we work on The Apprentice exercise, changing the upbeat and downbeat. Finally we finish the morning with the Mother exercise, going from one to two rolls and back.
We start the evening sessions improvising with variations in 8 and 9, to demonstrate how to alter a pattern with a single note. Then we have a Q & A session on different topics ranging from runnings to polyrhythms. The group works with scales played on three strings and the pentachords. We end with an improvisation led by Markus, on which different patterns assigned to each student have variations, making the whole composition move. The last part of the evening is dedicated to understanding the concept of the Six Packs and its relationships with brackets, pentachords descending and arpeggios descending.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019
We start the day practicing the Daughter exercise (variations 1 & 2) changing the tempo. Afterwards we practice the Father exercise (variations 1 & 24), followed by a focus on the Pentachord, but this time using two strings. We learn that the pattern of the fingers for each hand did not change. The only thing that changes, is that the hand and the string on which the pattern is played switches.
The evening sessions start with a look at polyrhythms, examples and how to combine them. Markus then leads us through the Temple Sweep exercise with four variations. We end the day with Markus’ composition from the past few days and circulation between the participants.

Thursday, April 17, 2019
The first session of the morning is dedicated to the Daughter exercise, focusing on the Touch, Release, Move principle. We change the tempo and the subdivisions within a certain tempo. We then have a Q & A session, discussing the pentachords and the different ways to approach the hand placement, and how everything is related to the articulation of the fingering and the mnemotechnic process it conveys. The final session of the morning is dedicated to practicing arpeggios with different chords and by repeating the notes in every mode descending through the scale.
In the evening we start with polyrhythms and the Six Packs exercise, with also an introduction to the Great Uncle exercise. Markus then leads us into an improv, followed by Alex showing us some more exercises. For the final session of the day, we practice the patterns of the brackets and arpeggios by repeating the notes but changing the chords (repeating the notes of the chord 5 times). We end the busy day talking about our impression of the course.

Friday, April 19, 2019
We start the morning with the Daughter exercise and working on octaves with the metronome. The continuous work on this exercise produces a state of awareness, patience and hypnosis. Gradually we switch to the Mother exercise with one roll only. Then we switch back to the Daughter with variations on the tempo patterns.
Throughout the rest of the day, we focus mainly on pentachords with descending arpeggios, repeating each note of the arpeggio three times, going through every chord of the Ionian mode until the cycle is completed. We alternate between the exercises that we studied throughout the week and talk about how things turned out for this course.
All the participants have a very good experience and are eager to keep the work going. We have a very good conversation on how great the process is and how it helps to better understand the instrument and the music.

Saturday, April 20, 2019
The last day of the course, we have a morning session warming up with the Daughter and once we are done, all the attendees still there, help pack up things, clean the place and leave everything in order.

I saw that everyone was really happy to have been part of this course and enjoyed every parts of the learning process. My impression is that this course gives us the tools to understand how to approach the instrument in a more present and efficient way, technically, but also to be aware of not losing the sense of musicality that each note played on the instrument should have. I felt that everyone enjoyed and learned a lot. Each participant had a very different background but it did not make a difference on being present and there for the exercises and the music presented to us during the course. I hope we can have more seminars and I can see that everyone’s skills improved dramatically as well as their relationship with their instrument. I hope to come back to Berlin soon and meet everyone once again.

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