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

Guide Fingers in Leo Brouwer’s Etude Nº6

In this video I talk about using guide fingers to help choreograph the left hand. Guide fingers really make everything flow in the left hand by keeping it in contact with the strings. They also prevent the necessity to lift and place which can cause stress and tension in the left hand. Don’t forget to like, share, subscribe, and leave a comment if you have questions.

Practicing Basic Four String Arpeggios

In this video I talk about practicing the six basic four string arpeggios with four right hand fingers and the importance of planting for beginners. Planting will stabilize the right hand and will help deepen your hand’s relationship to the span of the strings.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the youtube channel. I’m putting more stuff that is not linked right away to Six String Journal. Leave a comment if you have questions!

Hope it helps!

Three Steps to a Balanced Right Hand

by Leonardo Garcia

I wrote this for the Tonebase blog a while ago and thought I’d share it here. Hope it helps!

A crucial aspect of right-hand technique is the ability to control the stroke of each finger when it interacts with the string. During this interaction, the energy of the stroke determines the volume of the note and, if well done, does not displace the other right-hand fingers in the process. This requires right-hand finger independence. To this end, I like to walk students through a series of activities utilizing a fixed right-hand finger with the focus of keeping the hand and inactive finger calm.

During the sequence and patterns, watch the right hand as carefully as possible for any extraneous or micro movements. Ask yourself whether it is possible to pare these movements down to stillness. Does the thumb stroke overwhelm the hand? Are there any fingers or combinations that are more uncomfortable or weak? Is the stroke efficient?

To start, place all right-hand fingers (p, i, m ,a) on the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings respectively. I recommend using a metronome (quarter note = 60).

Step 1

While keeping the inactive finger on its respective string, starting softly, play the following patterns. Go slowly and spend enough time on each pattern (a minute or two) before moving to the next one. Focus on keeping the same volume in both the thumb and the fingers that are alternating or working together. Note: a should remain fixed on string 1

Repeat Step 1 but impose the metrical accent. Think: 1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and, etc. Weak beats (the ands) should be slightly softer. For fun, drop the strong beats to the background and play the weaker beats with more energy. Watch your hand with curiosity to see how it behaves. Make deliberate adjustments until it feels groovy, balanced, and comfortable. Experiment with volume. Experiment with tempo.

Step 2

While keeping the inactive finger on its respective string, starting softly, play the following patterns. Take your time to feel. Focus on keeping the same volume in both the thumb and the fingers that are alternating or working together. Note: m should remain fixed on string 2

Repeat Step 2 but impose the metrical accent. Keep weak beats softer. Watch your hand with curiosity to see how it behaves. Make adjustments until it feels right. Experiment with volume and tempo.

Step 3

You know the drill. Take your time to feel. Focus on keeping the same volume in both the thumb and the fingers that are alternating or working together. Note: i should remain fixed on string 3.

Repeat Step 3 but impose the metrical accent. Keep weak beats softer. Watch your hand with curiosity to see how it behaves. Make adjustments until it feels right. Experiment with volume and tempo.

It is nice to follow these three steps with some arpeggio etudes. 

Hope this helps you reach your musical goals!

Best GEAR Recommendations for Student Guitarists

© by Leo García

For the number of times I get asked for recommendations, you would think that I would just make a page like this. Well, here it is with links and brief descriptions of what I recommend to students as they get further into their guitar ambitions.

GUITARS – Up to about $1500, your best bet is a Cordoba student guitar. They are set up extremely well, are well-balanced and well-made, and they sound great. For a factory made guitar Córdoba has really cornered the market in quality because of how consistently good the guitars are at each price point. Both my children grew up playing the Cordoba fractional guitars and they are hands down the best out there. Now they use an all solid Cordoba C10 when they have their guitars at school or for travel but they do prefer to borrow my concert guitars when they are home. Lucky kids.

Spruce or cedar? It really depends on taste but the nuances of a truly great spruce or a truly great cedar concert guitar don’t make as big a difference in student guitars so I usually recommend cedars for their response, warmth, and open sound. Spruce will sound a bit more firm and it may take some playing to get the sound to open up a bit.

The C5 is there introductory model with a solid top:

Cordoba C5

The C7 and C9 are both a big step up for not much more:

Cordoba C9
Cordoba C7

GUITAR CASES

Again, Córdoba’s humicase line is a great option. Even for traveling. But if you want a sturdier case and want the ease your nerves when checking the guitar, I would recommend a TKL Crossrock, Hiscox, BAM, or Visesnut or even a Carlton or Leona if you really want overkill. But for a student guitar it might be worth more than the guitar.

Humicase Hardshell Case
Crossrock Poly Carbon Case

THINGS YOU NEED IN YOUR GUITAR CASE

STRINGS AND STRING WINDER – I’ve experimented with Savarez, Knobloch, Aquila, Galli, and a few others over the years but I seem to always come back to D’Addario. Some guitars don’t do well with higher tension strings but some sound great. Your left hand might appreciate normal tension if you practice a lot. Don’t forget the string winder. If you change strings once every week or two, you want one.

D’Addario EJ45 normal tension strings
D’Addario EJ46 hard tension strings
D’Addario String winder and clipper

NAIL FILES AND SANDPAPER – You need a rough diamond or glass file (I’ve used the same one for over a decade), this specific sandpaper, and a nail buffer to get your nails to a glass finish. I’ll cover shaping in another post but you check this post out if you want to get to the bottom of it.

3M 500 Grit Open Coat Sandpaper

Nail Buffer

Revlon Nail File

CAPO – I think the Schubb classical capo is the best one. Classical guitar capos are different than steel string capos because the contour of the neck is more flat in a classical.

Schubb classical capo

TUNER – I think most electric tuners work the same way. I like the Korg tuner because the battery fits in the attached part and the tuner is super slim.

Korg Pitch Clip

THINGS YOU NEED IN YOUR PRACTICE ROOM

METRONOME – You would think that the sheer number of metronome apps available would render this metronome obsolete but I love it. The percussive click is so satisfying and if you are tired of staring at screens, this is the way to go. By the way, what do you call a dwarf who hangs out in the subways of Paris?

Seiko Quartz Tuner

FOOTSTOOL AND SUPPORTS – For the most part, I still prefer using a footstool and the one below is my favorite. It’s solid and adjustable. I’ve experimented with most of the supports out there and while they do provide some comfort because you can sit in a more centered way, the idea of suction cups possibly popping off while performing has always stopped me from fully embracing them. However, I know many performers who love them.

K&M Footstool
Ergoplay

CHAIR – This is more important than you think. Face it, you are going to be sitting for many hours of your day if you practice a lot. I’ve searched and searched over the years for a chair that was comfortable, affordable, adjustable, ergonomic, practical, and passably stylish to use in a performance. So far, while it’s not perfect it’s what I’ve settled on until I find better. I love that it is adjustable and it tilts slightly forward to promote better posture.

Adjustrite Practice Chair

MUSIC STAND – There are plenty to choose from but I stay away from the wire music stands where you can’t write or balance more than a few scores on. Who needs that type of frustration? So I prefer the old school Manhasset. I have several in the house but my favorite is the lower one because it is good for performing. It does not block the performer like the higher stands and it sort of sympathetically resonates a bit if you listen.

Manhasset Music Stand

While that doesn’t quite cover all the gear, it’s a start. I’ll post another soon with fake nail, recording, and other stuff that I’ve found useful in my practice room…

Disclosure: some links earn a commission and as a KinderGuitar educator I offer Cordoba guitars to my students.

Great Exercise for Building Your Right Hand Skills

by Leo Garcia, © 2022

If you’ve been working on right hand arpeggios or etudes and find that alternation between m and a is not as comfortable as i and m (or i and a) then you’ve come to the right place. The exercises below will help remedy this problem. Simply because of our hand anatomy, independence between m and a is more difficult to develop, so I often suggest adding a bit of extra mama to the basic patterns most students use to develop their right hand position and their arpeggios. Adding a little bit extra mama consistently will pay off over the course of weeks, so keep at it.

Here are the six patterns I encourage students to practice regularly:

Here is pima with extra mama (I like to add some activity in the left hand but it is not necessary):

pima + mama

Continue through the other patterns in a similar way. As always, use a metronome, strive for a consistent sound, and relax your right hand.

piam + amam

pmia + mama

piam + amam

pami + mama or amam

paim + amam

Good luck!

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Artist Spotlight and Interview: Jason Vieaux

A consummate soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and teacher, Grammy Award-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux recently sat down to share some of his thoughts and insights with our readers. Hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did and check out Jason’s new recording, Bach Volume 2: Violin Works.

photo: Tyler Boye

Personal

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

Initially I was drawn to the guitar and drums through listening to my parents record collection, which was mostly my mother’s soul, R&B and rock records. Seeing the Bay City Rollers on TV as a 5-year old, eg, was a very exciting thing to me, and I regularly drew pictures of drum kits and guitars as a kid. Seeing Roy Clark and Buck Owens on TV regularly at 3-4 years old, Owens’ red, white, and blue guitar is an iconic image for me. I was also a big fan of The Beatles music from age 3, and I heard a lot of my Dad’s jazz records. This keen interest prompted my mother to buy me a 3/4-size classical guitar one day when I was 5; she might have known it as a “Spanish Guitar”. The Buffalo Guitar Quartet did an outreach program at my school when I was 7, and my mother’s secretary work happened to be in the school library during that time. So that summer I began classical guitar training with Jeremy Sparks.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most? 

I don’t really have a preference for the style or period; just particular pieces that I’m working on at the time. It’s such a luxury for me when I get to actually work on something with any kind of regularity, since I professionally have always dealt in “volume”, if you will. With the way my career developed professionally, I don’t usually get to choose what or when, unless I’m preparing a recording. I just try to dive as deeply as I can into whatever I’m working on for live performance at the time – and I’ve enjoyed that rhythm or process. I’m very much geared/wired toward live performance, and so I feel blessed to have either performed or recorded some 60-70 hours or so of stuff. I perform a lot of pieces just once or twice every year, or every 5 years, like Castelnuovo-Tedesco Quintet, for example.

But Bach is the most satisfying when everything is going well, I’m almost always working on his music for something. And I never tire of playing Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez – mainly because I keep getting better every year at the passagework. Aranjuez is probably like Pebble Beach or Augusta National for a professional golfer, I suppose.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

I only have one concert guitar, my hope is to acquire another. My guitar is by Gernot Wagner, who is based in Frankfurt. And I like Augustine Regal strings.

photo: Tyler Boye

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

As far as the guitar corner of things, the classical guitarists that had the biggest influence on me are probably Julian Bream, David Russell and Manuel Barrueco, mainly because I got to hear them live, although Bream’s records I enjoyed the most as a kid. And prior to age 15, “non-classical” guitar players like Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Andy Summers were influences, mainly because you couldn’t really escape Van Halen, The Police, Led Zeppelin on the radio or TV then, especially if you were a drums-and-guitar fan like me. And every kid then had a clock radio to wake up to, so many guitar solos from the Top 40 in the 80s are burned into my memory.

But even more so, it’s specific pieces or albums that were impactful before age 20: Bach Chaconne, 3rd Cello Suite, Villa-Lobos etudes, “Drei Tentos” by Henze, all Fernando Sor, Beethoven Symphonies, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Copland, Ravel, Debussy, so many Spanish and Latin American guitar pieces. Getting to know Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” especially was a real experience (and temporary obsession) for me.

Hearing Cleveland Orchestra often in college at CIM, and being exposed to way more live orchestral and ensemble music had a big impact, particularly latter 19th C, and tons of modern music (Erb, Carter, Ives, Varese, Stockhausen, Glass, Reich, Sessions, Boulez). Also certain early hip-hop albums (Public Enemy, ATCQ), certain albums by Miles Davis, Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, Beatles, Steely Dan, Pat Metheny. Attending Cleveland Orchestra performances of Strauss “Metamorphosen”, and Mahler 2nd Symphony, eg, were kind of life-changing experiences for me.

What recording/s are you most proud of? 

I’m kinda enjoying my latest Bach recording. It’s nice to hear what I was doing at the time (2019) with the ornamentation, and how my Bach playing is less stiff/stuffy on this record. It’s a more accurate representation of what my live playing is like.

But it’s nice to see how particularly the Images of Metheny (2005), Ponce Sonatas (2001), Albeniz (2003), PLAY (2014), the 1996 Naxos CD, and the previous Bach record have been so well-received by people, and not just by guitar players. I’ve read so many notes over the years from people and musicians about how those records were influences or references for them.

I’m also really glad I got to make those ensemble and chamber recordings over the last 20 years with regular collaborators, like Gary Schocker, Julien Labro, Yolanda Kondonassis, the Eschers, and all the “one-offs”, like recording the Ginastera Sonata, Jeff Beal and Jonathan Leshnoff concertos, etc.

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

I don’t listen to many guitar records, unless I’m researching something, and that’s only because I’m always so “inside” of my own playing and musical work as a professional musician. And really I just prefer ensemble music or solo piano anyway, when I get free time to just listen for pleasure. But I have to say, especially since David Russell is now a label-mate on Azica Records, I recently heard his latest CD at their studios, and it sounds absolutely terrific – in my opinion, Azica has really captured the majesty of David’s sound. I did hear some early Bream Westminster LPs on a friend’s good stereo about 10 years ago, and that was kind of a revelation, the recorded guitar aspect. It’s like Bream playing in your living room.

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

I’m looking forward to getting my re-tooled BWV 1001 and 1007 on the road again. The pandemic halted what was just starting to really cook. Also my new record with violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is out this May, so we’re hoping to play that material over the next 2 years. My next San Francisco residency concert will be with mezzo Sasha Cooke at Herbst Theater. We’ve been trying to play together again live for a few years. Also, Avner Dorman is making a concerto version of his quintet that I premiered in 2016, “How To Love”, and I’m performing that with Gerard Schwarz and the EMF (Eastern Music Festival) Orchestra this July. We’ve always done a guitar concerto together every summer at my guitar program there, really due to Maestro Schwarz’s efforts and support – that’s a really great thing for the guitar. (link?) And playing concerts with the great Escher Quartet is always a blast, we’re good friends.

Technique and Performance

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

I’d love to practice 4 hours a day, but it’s just not possible with all the other responsibilities. I get about 2 hours most days, sometimes 3 in a day.

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

Not really. The experience and hours of different challenges and situations in all the repertoire I’ve played ended up adding aspects to my technique, mechanics, performance comfort, etc., that I wouldn’t have had if I were just playing solo pieces. We’d all like to have faster scales and arpeggios, etc. We all want more. I actually have gigs where I wish I was more nervous, where there’s no nerves at all, and still some where I wish I was more relaxed.

photo: Tyler Boye

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

Memorization came fairly easily to me, although once the repertoire crunches came, I was able to teach students how I made up the deficits in time through visualization techniques, repetition strategies, fingerings, etc.

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

Not really, mainly because I’m often discovering new things and thus changing fingerings, every time I come back to those core repertoire pieces. My fingerings are often “weird” anyway, which is why I prescribe (and demonstrate) 2-4 different fingerings per questionable passage to my Curtis and CIM students. I don’t hand out a score photocopy with fingerings on it to a student. We work on them together, guitars on laps, playing.

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

I mainly use passagework from approaching deadlines, that works great to develop your technique over time. The more puzzles you put in front of your hands and brain, the better.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I used to have no rituals for the longest time, because it was so often a disappointment to not be able to keep the ritual, if things went wrong or were disorganized beyond your control. So my takeaway from that in the early days was to have little to no ritual. I learned that from Gary Schocker. Nowadays, it’s better, more folks allow me to have some personal time. As long as I can have 90-120 minutes on everything I’m playing that evening, I’m happy.

Advice to Younger Players

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

Practice as much as you can, without burning yourself out, because you have to WANT to do this, for yourself; not for anyone else.

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

19th century stuff, especially Sor. He was the best musician we know of in that century that played guitar, except maybe Regondi, and he wrote almost entirely in parts/voices. His music is solvent, and it really isn’t all that “idiomatic” in terms of ease. So it prepares you for everything else written by a proper composer, except ornate Baroque transcriptions, or modern/dissonant textures. But when I hear guitarists joke about “easy Sor studies” it makes me laugh. Most guitarists play Sor very poorly, because you have to play his music with your ears, not your fingers. Your fingers have to follow.

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

OK, this is a long answer. Classical Guitarists seem like they are already very familiar with Dyens, Morel, Assad, which is great, and important, but they should also at least familiarize themselves with player-composer-arranger-improvisers like Rabello, Yamandu, Lagrene, etc. And in jazz you can’t go wrong with Christian, Green, Montgomery, Pass, Hall, Bertoncini, Benson, McLaughlin, Metheny, Scofield. I lost track of almost all of the newer “cats” due to my professional and family life, but Rosenwinkel, Kreisberg, Hekselman, Monder – heavy. I love it.

In classical playing, can’t go wrong with the usual suspects, but it’s important to hear their best stuff: Segovia, Barrios, Díaz, Yepes, Presti, Bream, Ghiglia, Williams, Starobin, Barrueco, Russell, Fernandez, Galbraith, Holmquist, Tanenbaum, Isbin, Fisk, etc etc (maybe leaving out like 20-30 players). 

For me, Galbraith and Barrueco were crucial players for me to hear conceptually, and quite possibly had the biggest impact on me as a guitar player right now, even though many would rightly say I sound nothing like them at all. As many know already, my favorite contemporaries that are well-known are Micheli, Dukic, Dylla, Vidovic, Gallen, Desidrio, Azabagic, maybe some others I can’t remember now. But too many people are absolutely sleeping on Colin Davin, Petra Polackova, JiYeon Kim (Jiji), Hao Yang, and Jordan Dodson.

photo: Tyler Boye

Tangent

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

The autobiography of Larry Rivers, “What Did I Do?”, the Keith Richards autobiography.  

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

I try. Getting better each year. I walk a lot. My weight is optimal, but I have to remind myself to strengthen my core. No real pre-concert foods (again, the road plus my background sort of taught me to not get too particular.)

Do you meditate in any way? 

In some different ways, even if it’s for 30 seconds. It’s like practicing an instrument, it’s often better to practice 45 minutes 6 times a day than to practice 4.5 hours in one stretch. Same with meditation. Unless you’re independently wealthy.

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

Walking long distances in our neck of the woods or on the road. Watching sports, especially NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, PGA – in that order (I almost never get to do this anymore). Being with my kids, helping them with school work, answering questions, board games, listening to their stories/musings. I take them to the park a lot on the days I’m home. Listening to music, although that’s mostly now during making school lunches and/or breakfast at home. That’s about it. I really need to see that Beatles “Get Back” Peter Jackson thing.

Any things else you’d like to add?

Bach Volume 2 is finally out. Go to live concerts if you love music; there’s no comparison between live and virtual, just like anything else in life. Don’t kid yourself.


Bach Volume 2: Works for Violin is now available on most music streaming and purchase services!
Spotify: buff.ly/3IXMTJd
Amazon: buff.ly/3iWqHok
Apple Music: buff.ly/3tYaxAV

New Release: Jason Vieaux – Bach Volume 2: Works for Violin

Jason Vieaux – Bach Volume 2: Works for Guitar reviewed by Leonardo Garcia

While Grammy Award winning guitarist extraordinaire Jason Vieaux needs no introduction here, it is worth posting when he releases a new solo recording, particularly when it is one by Johann Sebastian Bach. Released on the Azica label, Jason’s Bach Volume 2: Works for Violin includes Violin Partita in E Major, BWV1006, Sonata in C Major, BWV1005, and Sonata in G Minor, BWV1001. This recording comes almost a decade after the release of Bach Volume 1: Works for Lute. And, after listening to both, I can assure you it was worth the wait.

Jason’s strengths as a musician seem well channelled through Bach’s works. His fluidity in phrasing coupled with his rich and expressive sound solidify his interpretations as ones that are definitive. He is clearly up for the task after such a convincing and erudite reading of Bach’s Lute works.

Starting with Partita in E Major, BWV1006, Jason plays the often heard and recorded suite with a familiarity of an old friend. Clear, energetic, and expressive as always, the virtuosic playing in the prelude paves the way for the other dances. The Gavotte en Rondeau has some wonderful and original ornamentation which breathes new life into somewhat overplayed movements. The lines of the Bourree and Gigue are crafted beautifully as if Jason were highlighting a dance between the melodic and harmonic lines as would a master conductor. Though the exalted Partita in E Major follows the Sonata in C Major, BWV1005 in the series of violin sonatas and partitas, it does serve as a great opener for the recording.

The Sonata in C Major, BWV1005 has one of the most demanding fugues (or movements in general after the Ciaccona from BWV1004) for solo violin and though it is considerably easier to craft the counterpoint with the guitar, it makes the movement no less challenging as it opens yet another element to control and balance with the whole and contrapuntal motion of the lines. Jason’s comfortable tempo never relents but still manages to provide enough space to let voices breathe and sing while letting the harmonic architecture remain audible to the listener.

The Largo, one of my favorite movements of all the violin works, is approached simply and elegantly. Jason allows the purity of the melodic lines, always at the forefront of the interpretation, to sing openly. The end of this movement is magical with Jason’s ornamentation sounding more violinistic as it fades to the Allegro. While the E Major Partita was transcribed for Lute by Bach himself adding subtle harmonic support to the violin score, the Sonatas were not (with the exception of the Fugue in the G Minor Sonata). Jason has tastefully added supporting voices to the Allegro to enhance the sheer joy and rise of spirit as Bach approaches the end of the violin cycle of solo works.

What struck me first while listening to Jason’s interpretation of the Sonata in G Minor, BWV1001 was how relaxed it was – more like the telling of a story where the pace allows the energy to build versus one where everything is given away too soon. The exquisite ornamental lines of the Adagio, to the crispness of the voices in the Fugue, which is one of the finest renditions I have heard to date of this movement, all point to Jason’s natural ease with the complexity of what is truly before him. Clear, crisp, while also resonant and rich, this quality cannot be attributed to the wand alone. Jason’s playing sparkles here and to put it as my teenage sons often say, “it just vibes!”

And as a fantastic way to end the journey with Jason and Bach through this recording, he leaves us with the Presto. Virtuosically played with joy and intensity, a statement more than a suggestion, “This is how it is!”

To paraphrase Jason when he says that Bach is always there for us to explore, Jason’s explorations are of the highest kind – ones with a clear command of the instrument, a prodigious musical mind, and what sounds like a heart in the right place. Here’s hoping there is a Volume 3!


Bach Volume 2: Works for Violin is now available on most music streaming and purchase services!
Spotify: buff.ly/3IXMTJd
Amazon: buff.ly/3iWqHok
Apple Music: buff.ly/3tYaxAV