A Technical Workout for Guitar

Quick Update!

In addition to the kindle format, my  A Technical Workout for Classical Guitar – Base Building is now available in print via Amazon:

Stay tuned! I’ll be posting some videos to supplement the book soon.

A Technical Workout for Classical Guitar

Thought I’d let you all know that I’ve published the first of a series of technique workouts for classical guitarists. This first book, A Technical Workout for Classical Guitar, Level 1 – Base Building, is all about developing a strong foundation with a focus on the most common movements necessary for technique development in both hands. It is suitable for all levels – beginners trying to develop their own routine or advanced players looking for a systematic way to approach technique development. I wish I had had this when I was a young guitarist! It is available on kindle for now with more options soon. Stay tuned for videos going through some of the movements, supplemental publications, and more advanced workouts!

Leo Brouwer’s Axioms

Years ago, I came across an article on a Spanish site guitarra.artepulsado.com posted by Oscar López who had taken notes during a summer course with the great Cuban composer and guitarist, Leo Brouwer. The title of the post was Axiomas básicos de Leo Brouwer. I found the word file and thought I’d translate it for all non-Spanish speakers. It provides a wealth of advice. I’ve added a few commentaries below to expand the ideas a bit. Hope they are helpful.

Warm Up

Use chromatic octaves for the left hand and arpeggios and rasgueados for the right hand. Play close to the body in higher resonant positions upon starting your practice.

*I think this may mean to start your practice without having the left hand in an extended position. Starting in higher positions is less stressful for the left hand.

Speed and Scales

Use fixed, non-shifting positions in the left hand that are close to the body (i.e. higher positions) to play short bursts of notes. Play bursts in short crescendos (soft to loud or light to intense). Start on one string, then expand to two strings. Add one note at a time and pause between each mini-scale.

Add color and articulations to scales.

Left Hand Shifting

Left-hand notes should be played staccato (*perhaps he means before a shift). Focus on the arrival (not the departure) as you shift from 1st to 2nd, 1st to 3rd, 1st to 4th, etc., position.

Left Hand Independence

With a fixed first finger bar, play slurs and scales across all the strings with the rest of the fingers. Try all combinations possible.

Memory

To avoid embedding errors, do not start memorizing at the very beginning of learning a piece.

Fingerings

There are never definitive fingerings.

*What Brouwer most likely means to covey here is that fingerings evolve throughout the lifetime of learning a piece. Inevitably, we discover better, more efficient, more musical, more interesting ways to play passages and discard or change older fingerings as our familiarity with the piece increases.

Color

Exploit the three primary sonorous zones of the guitar: over the sound hole (resonant zone), over right part of the rosette (resonant and clarity zone), and near the bridge (clarity zone).

Harmonics

Do not pluck harmonics diagonally.

More Advice

  • The position of the guitar to your body should remain consistent.
  • Remember that the 2nd and 3rd strings tend to be the weakest so we must compensate when necessary.
  • Pluck consonant chords with no arpeggiation. Pluck rare (dissonant) chords with arpeggiation for clarity.
  • Velocity contains impulse and direction.
  • Cadential ornaments should be in time.
  • Resonance is at the heart of the guitar.
  • Vibrato is used for intensity not rest.
  • The thumb (left-hand) acts as a pivot during slurs.
  • Forte is found at the limit of a beautiful sound.
  • Breathe between phrases and project energy towards the end.
  • During rasgueados the energy is channeled towards the 1st string.
  • Anything that is repeated should be varied. Change either the color or the volume or the timbre.

The Best of YouTube

YouTube is both a blessing and a curse. Among thousands of videos not worth watching, there are a few gems waiting for discovery. I’m hoping to add video tutorials on the elementary pieces that my students enjoy playing after they’ve finished the KinderGuitar curriculum. In the meantime, I’ll share some great videos I’ve discovered after being trapped in the YouTube world a few weeks ago. If you are still developing your technique, watch them over and over. If you are far along, there are still wonderful moments of insight to extract. I watched most of them in one sitting at 1.5x speed, taking notes, and sipping coffee. These videos come from Russian guitarist Andrey Parfinovich. He’s done the guitar world a great service when he decided to film his lessons with the masters!

Pepe Romero on left hand technique:

Pepe Romero on rest stroke technique:

Pepe Romero on tremolo:

Pepe Romero on rasgueado:


More soon….

 

Right Hand Technical Workout Part 1

Just like in our Left Hand Technical Workout, I’m going to break this post into a few parts. This first part focuses on developing the macro movement of the hand as a unit.

Right Hand Movements

For all of the following movements, begin with the right hand positioned over strings 4, 3, 2, 1 with fingers p, i, m, a, respectively. Later, to expand into tremolo movements, p can remain on a different string and i, m, a can be used on the same string.

This part of the workout for the right hand involvies larger gross-motor skill requiring movements: chords and rasgueados.

Go through all fingerings for each movement.

Step 1

Chordal Movements – pima, pim a, pi ma, pma i, pm ia, pia m, pa im

Groups of fingers that are underlined move together and alternate with the next finger/fingers. Below is an example of pim a. I tend to use a simple scale of thirds or if you are craving dissonance, a diminished 7th chord (think Villa Lobos) as I ascend and descend the fretboard.

right hand chord 1.jpg

Focus on keeping the right hand relaxed but still. All movement must originate from the knuckles as if lightly closing your fist. I really have to get some short videos demos of this stuff…

Step 2

Rasgueado movements – cami, amii, pai, camii, im mi

For the movements below, rest the thumb (p) on string 5 when not using it in the pattern. Movement should originate from the knuckles outwards. Time to develop those flexors. Don’t overdo it though!

right hand rasgueado.jpg

Stay tuned for part 2!