Conde Claros, Scales, and String-Crossing

I’ve been reworking the music of the great Spanish composer Luys de Narváez. His Seis Libros del Delphín were published in the early 1500s in Granada. The six volumes contain music that is profoundly beautiful and exquisitely crafted while evoking a time that was ripe with wonder. After all, the music was published a few decades after Christopher Columbus’ great voyage to the New World. Narváez’s Diferencias are some of the earliest know sets of variations and his Canción del Emperador was possibly a favorite of King Charles V. Fortunately for guitarists, conjuring that time period is potentially within our grasp as the music translates well to the modern guitar. Because of the tuning of the vihuela, the slight adjustment of tuning the 3rd string to f-sharp makes the pieces more playable. I prefer placing a capo on the 2nd fret but placing it on the 3rd fret will transpose the piece to the original key.

This post is not a history lesson about the guitar, however. It’s another post about fingering for the right hand as this music is full of scale runs. So I thought I’d list a few rules every aspiring guitarist should use when working out right hand fingerings to perhaps help make conjuring your favorite time period easier. These rules assume you have a functioning technique. If that is not the case, they can still help, but you may want to spend extra hours in the tool shed working on developing a base for your technique (more on this coming!). This way you will get the most out of these rules when applying them.

Rule 1 

When crossing from a lower string to an adjacent higher string (i.e. string 3 to string 2):

  • im is preferable to mi
  • ia is likely preferable to ai
  • pi is preferable to ip
  • ma is preferable to am

conde claros ex. 2.jpgRule 2

When crossing from a lower string to a higher string with a string  or more between them (i.e. string 4 to string 2 or string 5 to string 1)

  • ia is preferable to ai and im
  • pm is likely preferable to pi
  • pa is likely preferable to pm

Rule 3

Try to maintain the rules 1 and 2 throughout scales and right hand cross-stringed fingerings. If you are unable to maintain efficient crossing you can use the following methods to insure rules 1 and 2 are maintained.

Method 1

When playing im scale runs, insert a (ring finger) to change the direction of the fingers. Notice the use of a in the first box to facilitate the string crossing in the next box/boxes.

conde claros ex. 1.jpg

conde claros ex. 3.jpg

Method 2

When playing im scale runs, insert a slur to change the direction of the fingers.

Rule 4

Do not use a slur if it is does not reflect your musical intent.

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