Solo Acoustic Guitarist | African and Contemporary | Composer and Performer

Author Archives: Derek Gripper

Farming, Inhibition and FM Alexander


One of the simplest solutions to a complex problem was proposed by a Japanese farmer called Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka’s ideas came about in a very interesting way. He asked a question “Can nature grow crops?” and then went about answering this question by engaging with farming in new ways. In other words he used farming as a means of thinking through activity.

Fukuoka’s primary innovation was to solve problems by reduction. So where conventional farming would take the problem of x by introducing y, Fukuoka would ask the question, “what am I doing to create x” and once he’d worked this out he’d simply stop doing x and things would usually improve.

My favourite thinkers do this. FM Alexander is more famous for helping musicians play better than Fukuoka.

Alexander famously solved his performance problem by using a process which he called inhibition. His problem was that every time he gave a performance he lost his voice. Doing things (suggested by doctors and vocal coaches and and) didn’t help. So he went another route. He started with observing himself while he performed, because he reasoned that if he lost his voice every time he performed it was probably something he was doing when performing that created the problem. This may not sound like a genius observation, but how many people actually come to this conclusion and then act on it? Mostly we look for solutions without understanding the nature of the problem. Like when we have a sore back, or a cold…do we ask how we got there, or do we take a pill?

So after a long time in front of the mirror Alexander realised that every time he thought of speaking he pulled his neck back. And he realised, after long observation and experimentation, that the only solution was to stop doing this. Simple solution, but with far reaching results. You can read about what he did in his many books.

Similarly, Fukuoka realised that if you stopped ploughing, adding pesticides, digging, etc etc…you ended up with far better results than if you did a million things to improve farming. And Maria Montessori realised that if you stop making timetables and plans and putting children into desks and stopped rewarding them and punishing them etc you liberated their desire to learn, their natural concentration etc etc.

So when I talked about the idea of just playing last week, I was getting to this idea: what would we have to stop doing in order to experience a natural state of playing?


Montessori’s Story of Writing Becomes a Guitar Teaching Method

So to continue with the analogy of Montessori’s story of writing, we could apply this simple principle to introducing the basic elements of classical guitar playing to the beginner as is demonstrated in my little book The Montessori Guitar Method which introduces: 1) playing a melody on the three highest strings (treble strings) 2) playing a… Continue Reading

The Story of Writing

Maria Montessori’s story of the explosion of writing in her school in Rome in 1911 is one of the most inspiring and instructional stories of the potential of learning and education to work hand in hand (because they very rarely do). Montessori had about seventy small children between the ages of three and seven in… Continue Reading

Montessori in Zanzibar

Learn Africa recently made it possible for me to go to Zanzibar for the first time to teach at The Dhow Countries Music Academy in Stone Town.  The Dhow Countries Music Academy is in a beautiful old building at the ferry port. Around twenty guitarists joined me for three mornings to learn to read my Montessori style… Continue Reading

Let Your Playing Become an Ecosystem

The preparation for six weeks of touring has been rather full time. So full time that I began to wonder what it was like to play guitar. Especially because preceding this writing of programmes, booking of tickets, organising of dates and places to stay and sound problems etc, I have also been finished up the… Continue Reading

Cassette Locale after Masanobu Fukuoka

It’s late at night – after two full days and a very late night in the studio with Howard Butcher who I recorded The Sound of Water and One Night on Earth with…we are here putting the finishing touches on an album called “Cassette Locale” which will be exhibited as an eight speaker sound installation… Continue Reading

Strings, Skins and Stories.

GAVIN BONNER AND DEREK GRIPPER OBS HOUSE CONCERT Sunday the 8th of December R100 BOOKINGS ADDRESS email us confirmation of payment and we’ll send you the address TELEPHONICS 0724493684 PAYMENT Pay Pal (with credit card or your Pay Pal account) or EFT Use the following link or paypal direct to DEREK GRIPPER FNB ACC 62274912255 BRANCH 250655GAVIN… Continue Reading

Before America (and Pieter Dirk Uys)

I am usually very relaxed when I get on a plane. It usually feels like just another day, with a few tensions about organising this or getting a new pair of pants of something. But just normal and actually quite peaceful. Just walking along minding your own business. But this is a whole new continent.… Continue Reading