THE SAKARI METHOD For Classical Guitar                              

             "Perfect Your Passion"                                                  

In an interview conducted at a Classical Radio Station on February 5, 2007, K. Sakari Heikkila talked about his pioneering method on Classical Guitar Technique that he has developed over the last thirty years.   Here is the transcription of that interview.

Interviewer:    We're here today with Sakari Heikkila, Classical guitarist, 8 string Classical Guitarist, and Teacher of what the Guitar world is beginning to see as a revolutionary new method of learning Classical Guitar available to all levels of students. You even have a number of Concert level players following your techniques, is that right ?

Sakari:            Yes, absolutely correct. 

Interviewer:    What do you account for that ? 

Sakari:            Well, I think that many Guitarists actually never start out learning the correct Right Hand technique, initially, and then out of a burning desire to start playing the repertoire, they jump in and hope that their Left Hand will somehow put it all together somehow. I call it the washing machine effect. The clothes come out clean but they're rather wrinkled and we either wear them that way or we take the time to iron out the wrinkles. I would venture a guess to say that the Guitarist who irons his or her own clothes after the wash is more likely to spend the required time on their Guitar technique.

Interviewer:    ( chuckle) Maybe we'll conduct a survey and see if that's true or not. 

Sakari:             I would be very interested in the results ! But really, when you consider that the Guitarist is faced with the problem of playing 6 strings with 8 fingers over 72 frets or more, all having to be done within micro movements so as not to make errors, you begin to understand the enormous task at hand. 

Interviewer:     I play a little Guitar and I understand but what can be done to learn these difficult skills required ? I mean, doesn't a violinist have the same problem ? Little movements one way or another and you're horribly out of tune but we don't hear them complaining about how difficult it is. 

Sakari:             Excellent analogy but the thing to remember is that the Classical Guitar is a polyphonic instrument, often putting the Guitarist into the position of playing one, two or three lines simultaneously and requiring certains notes to ring and others to be dampened. The Violinist, for the most part is playing a single melody line so that if the playing finger rests up against an adjacent string, it doesn't matter. The Piano, also a polyphonic instrument, gives the Pianist's fingers a wide berth for each finger to land on a key. One millimeter to the left and the key is struck and the note sounds, just the same. For the Guitarist, one millimeter to the left with any finger, creates bad tone, string buzzes, general unpleasantness, etc.. 

Interviewer:      I see, so what's the answer ? 

Sakari:             It's not so much an answer but a question. The question is how can Guitarists find within themselves, the frame of mind required to learn the micro finger movements required to play the instrument in such a way so as to minimize the odds of mistakes ? My method is almost more a training ground for the mind rather than a proving ground for the fingers. 

Interviewer:      I'm not sure I'm following. 

Sakari:             OK, look at it this way. If the hands could, on their own, learn the skills of playing, independent of the player, robotically, while the player slept, it would be ideal. But that parallel universe doesn't exist, so we are forced to sit and watch the hands and fingers learn these skills, rather like a spectator at a bean counting factory. It is boring to the creative spirit within all of us. So it's more about learning to train the mind to remain interested and even fascinated with the process of how fingers go about learning the micromovements. For me, it was always enjoyable to learn consistent skills so I could then apply these skills to playing music. A process of anticipation more than anything. 

Interviewer:      It sounds like this is a hard process to learn. 

Sakari:             Not really, because if one puts it into a framework, an outline with goals and levels, it takes the overwhelming nature away from it all. It won't happen overnight but I see so many Guitarists frustrated with their abilites and/or lack of abilites, day in and day out, playing their music will little improvement, long term. I wonder if many have an inherent desire to learn correctly but just don't have a framework to work within, or worse, are unaware that there might be a way out of medicrity. 

Interviewer:      Can't they just learn pieces of music by practicing them slowly because I seem to make some progress that way. 

Sakari:             The progress you are refering to is progress to play the specific techniques that a particular piece of music demands. Many of those specific techniques are never to be seen again in other pieces. When you try to learn another piece, you'll feel like you're back at square one with learning. That's why so many guitarists only play one or two pieces regularly. Playing anything is better than not playing at all so they continue with the same bad habits week after week but usually, the piece or pieces the play are particularly beautiful and hearing beautiful music even played quite badly, contains inspiration for the player. No, I'm talking about a more universal technique that one can than apply to any piece of music that goes on the stand so one can enjoy a wide range of pieces without frustration. 

Interviewer:      Can your method be everything to every Guitarist ? 

Sakari:             That's a great question, and on the surface, the assumption is No, one method can't be everything to everyone but if you look a bit deeper, I think you'll discover that if my method creates complete control of every finger at every level of play than I make the assumption that every Guitarist has the opportunity to achieve that total control. Everything to every Guitarist. But the secret lies in getting to that point and since everyone has a different temperment, personality, level of patience or impatience, the real path is not in achieving and perfecting the physical skills of playing Classical Guitar which is a finite and completely achievable goal, it's overcoming one's mental and emotional obstacles during the process. I talk about how the mind is very clever and will come up with all sorts of excuses during a training process why it's a bad idea, or "hard", or whatever it can come up with to put the Guitar down. The majority of e-mails I receive from students are not about the fantastic skill level improvement with my method, they are about their inner struggles with the time, or the frustration with their inabilities even after years of playing. That sort of thing. These are all mental and emotional conflicts, not physical conflicts. 

Interviewer:      So, do you find yourself acting as sort of a Guitar Therapist ? 

Sakari:             I think, for the most part, Yes, because if you can't discover what your fears and frustrations are and where they come from, you'll never progress to your next level of Guitar playing ability. Look at Professional athletes having to go to Sports Therapists to get over their inner rage or self hatred or self embarrasement so they can get on with playing their sport at the highest level possible. It's not about their physical ability to hit the ball or not, it's about overcoming their emotional distresses that get in their way of their achievement path. No different for the Classical Guitarist. 

Interviewer:      Sounds like new territory. 

Sakari:             I don't know. Artists throughout the ages, I think, have realized that what they do is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration and that determination often carries them through the dark moments. 

Interviewer:      I'm sure there are a few students who simply drop out of your program. 

Sakari:             Of course, and I always wonder what was it inside them that made them decide not to improve their playing ability. I assume it's because they refuse to accept a way different than the one they're used to, you know, familiarity breeds contempt. 

Interviewer:      Not everyone can be taught, I would expect. 

Sakari:             Yes, I suppose that's true but I refuse to really believe that. 

Interviewer:      Now you're trying to be everything to everybody. 

Sakari:             I think you're right, I mean how can a Guitarist not want to improve their skills and thereby improve their playing and thereby improve their enjoyment level and satisfaction ? 

Interviewer:      I don't know. Maybe the time factor comes into it. Maybe they think they are already a good enough player. 

Sakari:             Perhaps, but look at the higher level of satifaction they're walking away from. 

Interviewer:      Let's talk about your method itself. What is unique about it ? 

Sakari:             Well, it begins by breaking the skill levels required to play Classical Guitar into what I call "The Five Disciplines". Right Hand alone playing a single string, Right Hand alone playing multiple strings, Left Hand alone on single strings and frets, Left Hand alone on multiple strings and frets and lastly, both hands playing single and multiple strings. 

Interviewer:      The last step is playing Music ? 

Sakari:             No, music happens after the exercises of the Fifth Discipline. 

Interviewer:      What happens with each discipline ? 

Sakari:             I take each discipline through a phase shifting metronomic pattern of increasing speed so that each finger has a chance to develop equally, as they learn to play the strings. So we start by playing one string with one finger at a very slow rate and gradually increase the rate and alternate rhythym patterns at the same time, evening out any weaknesses. I do the same for both hands with various exercises of my own invention that I tested out myself over time. 

Interviewer:      And does it work ? 

Sakari:             Yes, it does, and many Guitarists have been amazed. Perhaps not so much by the exercises themselves because practiced alone will only create some improvement, but when played in the order I present them in, create tremendous improvement. 

Interviewer:      So your method is a process and not just a single approach. 

Sakari:             If by single approach, you mean, "play these two scales without any further instruction", then Yes. 

Interviewer:      How long does this process take, and I realize everyone comes into it at different playing abilities. 
Sakari:             I always look at it ideally, meaning that even though everyone starts with different abilities, I can Guarantee that very, very few Guitarists have ever gone through something this exacting. Which, getting back to the Concert players following my method, is why I see every Guitarist as a beginner when it comes to the level of skill I teach.   The time it takes depends on the time devoted to it but in general, if one follows each of
the 26 parts or Lessons with full concentration, assuming one week per lesson, then 26 weeks will get you to
a high level of achievement .  This is rather simply stated however.

Interviewer:      So does your method address beginners differently than advanced players ? 

Sakari:             No, it treats them all the same. The only difference is that the beginner will have the advantage of not wasting years of practice with practicing the wrong things yielding little improvement. Some intermediate to advanced players will go through a kind of depression when they learn they have to "unlearn" bad habits. 

Interviewer:      How do you respond to that ? 

Sakari:             I write as many types of stories and analogies as I can think of that hopefully they can wrap their brain around and help them  through it. 

Interviewer:     Where can Guitarists listening find these writings ? 

Sakari:             My new web site 

Interviewer:      Very Good !    It sounds like it could be called Mastering The Five Emotions. 

Sakari:             HA, I like it !   I'll think on that ! 

Interviewer:      Well, Sakari, we're just about out of time today but I really appreciate you coming in to talk about your mission, I guess, right ? 

Sakari:             Indeed,  it's a mission. 

Interviewer:      I hope you'll stop by again and let us know how it's progressing. 

Sakari:             I would love to, and thanks for having me. 

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