33 Ways to Improve Ears, Fingers, and Fingerboard Familiarity

Moveable Scale Forms for Development

by Leo Garcia

After watching Eliot Fisk demonstrate all of these, I thought I would write them out and share them with students. I have to confess that although I practiced scales religiously (and still do) I rarely ever went through modes. There are many reasons to work on these though: ear training, technique development, and for fingerboard familiarity.

The first form has the root starting on string 3, the second form has the root starting on string 4 and the third form works for both strings 5 or 6. Two-octave forms can easily be assembled by combining two forms. Scale diagrams have been included as I find them extremely helpful for visualizing the pattern as it falls on the fretboard.

There are 33 forms ahead, better get started. : )

For a pdf click here: Moveable Scale Forms











Here are some more resources for scale practice:


Leo’s Scale Book: https://sixstringjournal.podia.com/si…

More Guitar Publications: https://sixstringjournal.podia.com/

More Publications: https://sixstringjournal.com/music/

Leo’s YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/c/LeonardoGarciaguitar

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Leo Garcia plays Sonata in A Minor, K.175 by Scarlatti


Ever since hearing Eliot Fisk’s recording of this sonata, I’ve wanted to learn it. I tried Eliot’s brilliant transcription years ago but my smaller hands couldn’t even play it poorly. Then a good friend showed me French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau’s version and it rekindled the desire to learn it. This edition was transcribed by the Spanish guitarist Marcos Díaz, which is a bit more tame of a transcription but nonetheless it retains a good amount of substance on the guitar. I’ve changed some minor things that work better for my hands and for my ear. The manic quality of this sonata is another glimpse into Domenico Scarlatti’s fertile musical mind. It conjures images of chaos, bliss, seriousness, dementia, and lots of emotions that I cannot pinpoint. A bit trippy. : )

Leo Garcia plays Villa-Lobos Prelude Nº1

This is the first of five wonderful preludes by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. With his gift for sorrowful lyrical melodies to the rhythmic and joyful interlude with its changing meters and Spanish flair, Villa Lobos creates a true guitar masterpiece which fully exploits the richness, emotional depth, and colors of the guitar. Hope you enjoy it.

Carlotta Dalia plays Schubert’s Ständchen

One of Italy’s rising guitar virtuosas, Carlotta Dalia, plays Mertz’s arrangement of Schubert’s Ständchen. Producer Open Strings Berlin manages to align all the the stars: Carlotta’s sublime artistry, a forest in Berlin, the magnificent guitar, and beautiful camera work.

Leo Garcia plays Sonata in E Major, K.380 by Domenico Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) wrote over 500 sonatas for harpsichord. Fortunately, many have been arranged and transcribed for guitar and many await transcription. During 2020 and 2021 I found myself in the Scarlatti rabbit hole. I listened to hundreds of them, read through ones that I thought might work that to my knowledge had not been transcribed, transcribed many for solo and duo guitar, learned too many to keep track of, and am still learning. They captivate my imagination and they teach me a lot about myself and my playing.

Sonata in E Major, K.380 is, perhaps, one of Scarlatti’s most famous sonatas. With its march-like rhythm to the emerging beautiful lyrical lines, Scarlatti’s boundless imagination sparkles. I used a combination of editions (but primarily Manuel Barrueco’s) and the original score to find a version that works for my hands. Hope you enjoy it.

And as a bonus, while researching some of the sonatas, I came across this hilarious article ranking the Sonatas. : )

New CD Review – Yuri Liberzon plays Konstantin Vassiliev, Guitar Works 1

Virtuoso guitarist, Yuri Liberzon, has just released a wonderful recording dedicated to the works of Russian composer Konstantin Vassiliev. On first listen, it is evident that there is a current of very high quality running through this recording – the music is played with the usual high musical standard I have come to expect from Yuri (and on a few tracks by his Duo Equilibrium partner, Patrick O’Connell) and recorded masterfully by Norbert Kraft on the NAXOS label. If you are not familiar with Vassiliev’s compositions for guitar, the selected pieces from the project span over 20 years of stylistically-diverse musical output and states a strong case for including Konstantin Vassiliev compositions in the modern guitar compositional canon.

The CD opens with Vassiliev’s Hommage a Tom Jobim. A great opener, the three movement piece evokes the spirit of Jobim’s music with Brazilian grooviness, rich harmonies, and an ample assortment of percussive effects. Yuri’s flexible technique makes all of it sound so natural that it is easy to forget you are listening to just one guitar. The middle movement Contemplación, with it’s meditative melodic quality allows Yuri’s expressivity to shine through.

photo credit: Jon McCormack

In both Cavatina and A Rose in the Snow (written for Yuri), Vassiliev’s use of jazz harmonies is magical and thoroughly convincing. Yuri’s crisp and clear sound portrays the soundscapes openly and without pretension. The earliest work on the CD, Fatum, was one of my favorites. Perhaps a bit more of an emotionally-laden piece, the themes woven through the piece are masterfully enveloped with rich counterpoint, canonic echos, and evocative elaborations, and clearly point to the fact that Vassiliev’s compositional talents were firmly in place decades ago. This work also highlights some of the qualities I admire most in Yuri’s playing, namely, his sense of pace and rhythm. The arc of the work is masterfully revealed only as Yuri can do.

Another wonderful composition is A Wanderer in Time. The emotions Vassiliev captures throughout the piece, from sadness to hope, is a testament to his ability to let a story unfold. Obrio and Two Russian Pieces were ear-opening and an effective way to guide the project to an end by adding another guitar. Yuri and Patrick complement each other well throughout these technically demanding pieces.

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to a recording from beginning to end of a composer’s music that I am not very familiar with and found this particular CD particularly compelling. It is no wonder why other notable players like Carlo Marchione and Roman Viazovskiy champion his music. Give this a listen, Yuri’s playing is fantastic and the music is wonderful.

Pablo Garibay playing Villa-Lobos

Here is virtuoso guitarist Pablo Garibay’s wonderful and expressive interpretation of the famous and well-loved Prelude Nº1 by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Pablo’s use of phrasing, dynamics, and colors really breathes life into Villa-Lobos’s richly textured prelude. Beautifully produced video!

Six Ways to Improve Your Romance

One of the most played pieces on the classical guitar, the Spanish Romance, is a wonderful piece for students to work on all sorts of musical and technical challenges. In the next two videos I demonstrate several ways to practice the Spanish Romance that will make it more musical and fun to play. Hope it helps!

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Artist Spotlight and Interview: Plinio Fernandes

credit: Rebecca Naen

The high praise the young Brazilian virtuoso guitarist, Plinio Fernandes, has received for the release of his first recording, Saudade, on the Major label Decca Gold is well deserved. The recording highlights Plinio’s wonderful versatility as a musician. From interpreting the well-loved Heitor Villa-Lobos Preludes to magical arrangements of music by Sergio Assad to collaborations with cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and violinist Braimah Kanneh-Mason, Plinio navigates the rich musical landscape with ease and a completely natural and musical technique. He recently took some time to answer some questions for Six String Journal readers. Enjoy!

Personal

When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially? 

My father is an amateur guitarist, so I would see the instrument around the house and watch him play, and naturally that inspired me to start.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most? 

It varies a lot. Currently I am enjoying playing the repertoire I recorded for my album, as I am performing it a lot. It connects me deeply to my Brazilian roots, for being music I really love and that gives me a true sense of identity.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

I currently play a Jeffrey Elliot and my strings of choice are Augustine Regal.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

Fabio Zanon, Julian Bream, David Russell, Andres Segovia, John Williams, Arthur Rubinstein, Eli’s Regina, Djavan, João Bosco, Racionais MC’s and Tupac.

What recording/s are you most proud of? 

The recording of the 5 preludes by Villa-Lobos recorded on my debut album “Saudade”.

Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?

Yes, Julian Bream’s recording of Valses Poéticos by Granados. The range of colors in that is beyond magical.

What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about? 

I really look forward to the concerts in the next feel months in the UK, Portugal, Hong Kong and Brazil. Also I look forward to start planning my second album.

credit: Rebecca Naen

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

Around 4 hours a day. Usually, in sessions of 35 minutes, with 10 minute breaks in between.

Are there aspects of guitar technique or performance that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

Tremolo doesn’t naturally fit my hands, so every time I play a tremolo piece (which is rare) I have to put in the extra work.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

I feel lucky to have the ability to memorise music at a decent speed. When the time is short, deciding the most efficient fingerings straight away and listening to recordings of it repeatedly while walking, doing the dishes etc, help me massively. Having the music in your ears as well as under your fingerings is vital to learn things quickly.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

I haven’t yet, but certainly plan to publish my own arrangements and transcriptions soon.

Do you have a favorite drill or set of exercises you use to warm up?

I start the practice with slow right hand exercises: usually, Villa-Lobos 1st estude, and a mix of Giuliani and Carlevaro exercises. After that, lately I have been doing a series of exercises that I learned from Marcelo Kayath in a masterclass, that helps conditioning the left hand to be in the correct position.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I don’t like practicing a lot on the day of the concert. Having a nap a few hours before – if it is an evening concert – makes a huge difference and eating a banana 20 minutes before is a must for me! 

credit: Rebecca Naen

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger aspiring players?

My advice is for them to be curious, and try and be exposed to as many different styles of music as possible.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why? 

Villa-Lobos solo guitar works. In my opinion he is one of the best melodists of all time, and through his guitar music, one learns how to sing with the instrument. 

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

The output of Bream and Segovia.

credit: Rebecca Naen

Tangent

What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?

The Torrents of Spring, by Hemingway , who happens to be my favorite writer at the moment.

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Have a favorite pre-concert food? 

I grew up by the sea, and have been always very physically active, therefore exercising regularly is really vital to my general health and mood. I try to play football once a week and do some Pilates/yoga about twice a week.

Do you meditate in any way? 

Yes, at least 5 minutes everyday. Usually in the middle of the day, or just before going to bed, to clear up the mind and recharge my energy.

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

Reading, exercising, following the news (mostly about football and politics) and most importantly being around dear people, to compensate the lonely moments of practicing and traveling.

________________________

Instagram: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/Instagram

Facebook: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/Facebook

TikTok: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/TikTok

Spotify: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/Spotify

Apple Music: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/AppleM...

Amazon: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/Amazon

Soundcloud: https://PlinioFernandes.lnk.to/SoundC...

Official Website http://www.pliniofernandesmusic.com