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Week Number Seventy Three (June 8, 2006)

Starting a Band / Buy a Book/ Buy my New CD


The Vacation is over

On Technique and Musicality


          William Pleeth, one of the twentieth century’s benchmark cello pedagogues, discussed the aspect of the musician’s preoccupation with technique in the volume Cello by fellow Briton, Nona Pyron.  It would seem that the guitarist’s preeminent dedication/obsession and psychosis with being faster, louder and busier than other players is not endemic to our instrument.   Cellists battle with the battle to constantly play with more technical perfection as well.  Mr. Pleeth made some observations for the cellist that are simply beautiful and apply to any instrumentalist or vocalist.

            My students have spent many hours so far mastering Giuliani, Sor, Coste, Carcassi and Carulli studies since page one of my book.  How obsessed should the player be?  Here are some concepts that Pleeth advanced in the early 1980’s.

            The basic emotional content of the music is its most important aspect.  In fact, the music is meaningless if it does not convey the emotion that the composer intended—I will add that the music needs to convey emotion or it is not even music.  What occurs when technique supplants emotion as the prime directive of the music?  Add it up.  We no longer have music!  Pure technique can be exhilarating for an educated audience, but the dazzle factor will wear off when nothing is conveyed to the soul of the listener.  Music requires a soul contact between performer and listener, not a technical tour de force

Is technique detrimental to true music?  In no way!  Without good technique, the ability to convey the emotional content of the music is drastically hampered.   However, technique should never dictate anything to the piece in regard to the intent of the composer or the emotional content of the music. 

The student should approach each piece as if it were a statement of an event or the recount of a story.  The piece should never be approached as a vehicle for the performer to ‘show off’.   As an aside, the player should also judge any fingerings or dynamic markings that have been added by an editor and determine whether or not these indicators serve the underlying intent of the music.  Remember, the editor is not some sacrosanct authority on what is musical and what is not; he or she has only committed his or her opinion of what the composer desired upon the score.  Your opinion is just as valid as the editor’s!  Weigh the fingerings for their intrinsic musicality.  Do not fear taking a pencil to the printed page. 

In the case of transcriptions, it is useful—indeed it is necessary—for the performer to seek out the original version of the piece on its original instrumentation and determine what is correct in his or her eye.  It is real education to have both the transcription as well as the original score on the music stand when learning a piece.  The guitarist sees not only how the transcriber worked certain passages—thereby learning a valuable technique—but also sees where the limitations of the instrument lie. The guitarist will also find where the transcriber’s limitations are!  There are many instances where a transcriber will over-simplify a passage to render it playable for a student. 


On Scales and Exercises:


I have often written that an exercise or series of scales and chromatic studies are good because the student can play it without thinking.  Yes, this is good in that the student need not be overly bogged down with a number of technical issues simultaneously.  I do not mean to imply that the student’s brain should shut down.  When a scale becomes ‘easy’ for the student, focus should shift to other technical issues.  Use a scale to practice changes of dynamics, use of vibrato, accenting particular beats, as a vehicle for slurs practice—whatever can be done to alter the scale to make it an exercise of value once again.


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The Classic Guitar Method: Now in one volume, much of what the novice classical guitarist will need to know to lead him or her to the recital stage. From proper instrument care and maintenance to the necessary technical skills, musical mind-set, and the standard repertoire—all exposed and explored with enough detail and insight that the student will wish to keep this book handy years to come as a ready reference source.

With the aid of a good teacher, the student will rapidly progress through The Classic Guitar Method attaining technical proficiency and musical eloquence.

This method stems from the need to incorporate a number of schools into a single cohesive curriculum. Years of honing a logical approach to the guitar and the creation of music culminate in this volume. As a self-proclaimed Disciple of Valdés-Blain , much of that famed teacher's focus can be found in Mr. Pellegrin's method.

ISBN: 978-1-4116-9442-2

Published by PAB Entertainment Group, P.O. Box 2369 Scotia, New York 12302

Please go to to order.


Hear selections from my new album, Reflecting Pools. A departure for me, it is a keyboard album. The music is a series of tone poems written for relaxation and meditation. Reflecting pools is the perfect companion for a rainy afternoon or a winter evening. Actually, it is a great stress-reliever at work!

Click the album cover to find links for samples of all the pieces on my album.

- Harry Pellegrin

May 12, 2005

Available NOW!!!





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