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. : )
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.
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. : )
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!
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).
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.
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.
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!
I first stumbled upon Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell’s recording Estudos while scouring the listening library at my high school. It was hard to resist the immediate appeal of his Vals sem nome (Waltz Without a Name). I sat in that listening room for hours afterwards until the librarian kicked me out that night and went back the next day armed with a cassette to record it. His music has captivated me ever since.
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) needs no introduction. His Milonga del Ángel is one of my favorite pieces. It is part of his Serie del Ángel: Milonga del Ángel, La muerte del Ángel, and Resurrección del Ángel. I remember getting lost in his recording Zero Hour when I was in music school. Haunting, sad, and nostalgic, Piazzolla transports me to Argentina every time I play this.
All three pieces in the series were beautifully arranged by Agustín Carlevaro. This version is not often played but I find it more compelling than the usual transcription by Baltazar Benítez despite liking that one as well.
Thanks for listening!
Guitar: Paco Santiago Marín XXX Aniversario
Here is a recent home recording I did at the end of a practice day last week. The songs I have been revisiting these last six months all have the theme of conjuring places far away – in both geography and time. The great Spanish guitarist, Francisco Tárrega’s (1852-1909) wonderful tremolo piece, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, is magical in so many ways. It conjures the great fortress overlooking Granada with the illusion of a sung melody and it reminds me of its infinite mosaics, fountains, streams, and trickles of water echoing everywhere throughout.
I’ve just released the first edition of my new book! Over the next few weeks, I will post a few excerpts or ideas from the book for Six String Journal readers. If you can’t wait, order a copy (and leave a review!). : )
Mastering Diatonic Scale Forms represents a book I wish I had had 35 years ago. Here is the description of the book from the inside cover:
MASTERING DIATONIC SCALE FORMS
Scale mastery is absolutely essential for the ambitious and serious guitarist. Touted as the single most effective way to solve technical problems by the most distinguished pedagogues and professionals, developing a scale practice and understanding the most useful way to develop it will lead to breakthroughs and improvement in your technique. Mastering Diatonic Scale Forms is geared towards the advancing guitarist and offers a practical approach for understanding the various necessary scale forms and some insightful methods to supercharge the results of your study.