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Strength, Accuracy and Knowledge for the Guitarist

 

Your Weekly Technique Session and Dexterity & Stamina Exercise

Updated February 9, 2006




Basic

Position-think

(Part One)





Open Position

with an ancient pedagogue

Ferdinando Carulli  (1770-1841)

Recently I have been learning the violin and the viola.  Why?  Well, when I was a kid I always wanted to play the violin.  When my oldest daughter began studying the fiddle in her school's music program a few years back, I thought 'Should I?' But I pushed it down.  Then I happened to read a string on an on-line violin forum about how difficult it was to earn a violin desk in a good orchestra -- an overabundance of violinists! But viola players were hard to find and could write their own ticket into an orchestra.  So, I decided to learn the viola with the intention of teaching my daughter.  So now you are (quite rightly) asking what all this has to do with the guitar?

Have you ever met a violinist or violist who was a bad sight-reader?  Me neither.  Many of the same issues that cause guitarists to be poor sight readers are also encountered by the viol player-- pitches that can be played in more than one place, correct fingerings of double stops -- yet these do not seem to be fatal foibles for the violinist.  Why?

Orchestral string players are taught to play in position.  If one returns to the pedagogical works of the early masters, one finds that the guitar was also taught in position. How did guitarists corporately forget this basic training?  The problem lies with the instrument itself.  When one begins to play the violin or viola, everything is difficult!  Intonation is a major problem.  Each time you put your fingers on the neck, the notes seem to have gone somewhere else! Bowing.  Now there's an interesting concept! All these difficulties with producing a clean pitch with consistent intonation forces the student to slow down and actually learn where the notes are and how to read.  Flash to the guitar.  Once the student learns to tune the instrument, pitch production is relatively easy.   The notes are easy to grab accurately.  Tone production, while a bit tricky at first, is not as insane as it is with a bit of horsehair and a stick. The guitarist sounds good almost immediately -- with little time spent actually learning the notes and where they are played.  The student then moves on to the recital repertoire and with much trial and error, memorizes a number of pieces which can then be performed adequately. The hours a violinist spends struggling with finding the actual pitches and producing them cleanly and musically while staring at sheet music just do not exist for the guitarist.  The guitarist has no personal need to face hours of tedium, in a few months of picking up the instrument, he or she is wowing his or her friends.  Reading? What's that? Who needs it?

Ferdinando Carulli did not see life this way.  He was a string teacher and pedagogue of the guitar.  Check out his method some time. He challenges the pupil right up front.  His first lesson would be considered murder today.  I reproduce it below.  In part one of this series, we will look at the open position -- the only place where most guitarists can sight-read accurately.  Then we'll move on and learn form this master.

Note how Carulli utilizes the thumb and first two fingers in an alternating pattern right from the start.  An easy one-string exercise?  Nope, the student plays all six strings from day one.  Is this cruel and brutal. Yes.  It also puts the guitarist in the same boat as the student violinist. The brain is forced to work to perform the lesson.  What a concept. Aside from separating the players from the wannabes, the student is forced to really think.  Tone production on wound and unwound strings, left hand fingering (and my rule applies here: in open position, the first finger plays all notes on the first fret, the second finger frets all notes on the second fret, the  third finger third fret etc.)  Here, try the lesson: [Download .pdf file]

An experienced player will tell you that this would have scared the poo out of 'em at a first lesson!   Carulli was wise.  Wait until you see how he builds the student as a sight-reader.  I will show how he introduced the entire fingerboard to the pupil over the next few sessions. 

 

Here's a link for free editions of the complete Carulli Method: 

The Guitar School - Iceland

 

 

 

When played correctly, this is a very nice little piece.  High art?  Probably not.  Enjoyable for the new student?  Yes. It's a pleasant way to learn some good technique.  Hey, that's what studies are all about!

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For scholarly transcriptions and free sheet music, click the following link:


The Guitar School - Iceland

Carcassi-sor Easy Classic Guitar Solos Performed by Matteo Carcassi, Fernando Sor. By Matteo Carcassi, Fernando Sor. Edited by Marty Winkler. Fretted instrument method/supplement (Guitar). 36 pages. Published by Edwin F. Kalmus. (K04846)
See more info...
  Sonatina By F.M. Torroba. Arranged by Andres Segovia. Published by Columbia Music Company. (494003120)
See more info...
  Suite Castellana By Moreno-torroba. Arranged by Segovia. Guitar segovia edition. Published by Schott - Guitarren-Archiv (guitar archive). (GA00104)
See more info...
  Variations On A Theme Of Mozart,op9 By Fernando Sor. Edited by Bill Holab/Sales. Arranged by Segovia. Guitar segovia edition. Published by Schott - Guitarren-Archiv (guitar archive). (GA00130)
See more info...
  Slur Exercises and Chromatic Octaves By Andres Segovia. For guitar. Published by Columbia Music Company. (494001960)
See more info...
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 - Aria Composed by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), arranged by Andres Segovia. For soprano voice solo and guitar accompaniment. Format: guitar/vocal single. With standard notation. 20th Century. A Minor. 7 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Hal Leonard.
See more info...
Andres Segovia: Diatonic Major and Minor Scales Composed by Andres Segovia. For guitar. Format: instructional book. With standard guitar notation, fingerings and introductory text. Scales. 9x12 inches. Published by Columbia Music Company.
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120 Arpeggio Exercises By Giuliani. Arranged by Barreiro. Willis Guitar Methods. Guitar book. Published by The Willis Music Company. (10746)
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Complete Sonatas of Sor, Giuliani, & Diabelli compiled and edited by Anthony Glise. For Guitar (Classical). solos. Anthony Glise Urtext. Classic. Level: Intermediate-Advanced. Book. Size 8.75x11.75. 308 pages. Published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (95692)
See more info...
Mauro Giuliani: 120 Studies For Right Hand Development Composed by Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829). For guitar. Format: instructional book. With fingerings. Technique and Classical Period. 20 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Warner Brothers.
See more info...
  Fantaisie, Op. 30, No. 7 Guitar Solo. By Fernando Sor. Editions Durand. Size 9.5x12.5 inches. 12 pages. Published by Durand. (50561193)
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  Grand Solo, Op. 14 Guitar Solo. By Fernando Sor. Arranged by Paolo Paolini. Guitar Solo. Size 8x11.5 inches. 20 pages. Published by Ricordi. (50020590)
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  Sonata In C Major Op 15 By Fernando Sor. Arranged by R. Sainz De La Maza. Guitar. Published by Shawnee Press. (UM19760)
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  Sixty Short Pieces Vol. I. By Fernando Sor. Arranged by S. Papas. Published by Columbia Music Company. (494002260)
See more info...
Carcassi-sor Easy Classic Guitar Solos Performed by Matteo Carcassi, Fernando Sor. By Matteo Carcassi, Fernando Sor. Edited by Marty Winkler. Fretted instrument method/supplement (Guitar). 36 pages. Published by Edwin F. Kalmus. (K04846)
See more info...
Fernando Sor: Twenty Studies For The Guitar Composed by Fernando Sor (1778-1839), edited by Andres Segovia. For guitar. Includes Book and CD package. With standard guitar notation, fingerings and introductory text. Technique. 32 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Hal Leonard.
See more info...
  25 Studi melodici e progressivi, Op. 60 Guitar Technique. By Matteo Carcassi. Arranged by Guido Margaria. Guitar Method. Size 9x12 inches. 40 pages. Published by Ricordi. (50010240)
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Complete Method for Classic Guitar by Mel Bay. For Guitar (Classical). method. Complete. Classic. Level: Multiple Levels. Book. Size 8.75x11.75. 144 pages. Published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (93400)
See more info...
First Lesson for Guitar - Volume 2 Guitar Technique. By Julio S. Sagreras. Guitar Method. Size 9x12 inches. 36 pages. Published by Ricordi. (50010320)
See more info...
Classic Guitar Method Volume 2 by Mel Bay. For Guitar (Classical). method. Classic. Level: Beginning-Intermediate. Book/CD Set. Size 8.75x11.75. 48 pages. Published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (93208BCD)
See more info...
  Classic Guitar Method Volume 1 by Mel Bay. For Guitar (Classical). method. Classic. Level: Beginning. Book/CD Set. Size 8.75x11.75. 48 pages. Published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (93207BCD)
See more info...
First Lesson for Guitar - Volume 1 Guitar Technique. By Julio S. Sagreras. Guitar Method. Size 9x12 inches. 32 pages. Published by Ricordi. (50010310)
See more info...

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