On Technique and Musicality
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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selections from my new album,
Reflecting Pools. A departure
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
the album cover to find links
for samples of all the pieces
on my album.