** As featured in issue 7 **
Hello there and welcome to this acoustic fingerstyle guitar lesson! First of all, I would like to thank all the kind readers who have shared their appreciation of these columns. It’s great to have you onboard and definitely useful to get your feedback!
In this guitar lesson we will be looking at the second half of the legendary classical guitar piece ‘Spanish Romance’. The first half was covered in Gi 6 (still available via our website), where, as well as the step-by-step video and written commentary, you will be able to download some background information and a transcription in notation format, as well as in tablature.
This lovely and perfectly crafted composition is an excellent fingerstyle study piece, which, while providing the opportunity to strengthen the picking hand, can help improving our attack and dynamic awareness. The latter, is particularly important in this piece, as we have to highlight the melody with the appropriate attack, tone and dynamic. In order to do improve on this particular area, I recommend practising the permutation exercise I covered in my previous columns, training each picking-hand finger to play with the chosen dynamic and tone.
While the first half of this piece is in E minor, the second is in the contrasting E major (this is often referred to as its parallel major). Using these contrasting tonalities is a quite common compositional strategy, used in any genre in order to add an element of surprise or harmonic tension and release to the piece. Often-times, interpreters approach these two different sections using contrasting performing techniques by using a type of attack and tonal colour in the Minor section and a different, contrasting one in the major section. For example, the use of sul ponticello (nearer to the bridge) or sul tasto (nearer to the neck) can help differentiating the two romantic and melancholic sections in an effective manner.
Being in E major, this composition makes the most of the resonant qualities of open strings. However, a few barre have to be used, which provide some technical challenges in places. These in fact make the second half, slightly more technically demanding than the first. As a result of this, slow practice is of paramount importance, making sure our posture is correct and that our hands are never over-stressed.
The rhythm of this section doesn’t differ from the first half and it equally can be described and notated (as you can see in the downloadable PDF) in ¾, or in its relative compound time signature, 9/8.
As recommended in the previous columns, where we mainly focused on the picking hand, we ought to focus most of all on accuracy and consistency of tone. Strategies to further improvement include the use of the planting technique described in the previous columns, resting our fingers onto the chosen strings, and executing each stroke with a controlled and even pressure and with tonal and dynamic awareness. Each note we play should sound as full-bodied and as good as the previous one.
Considering that the melody of this tune is mainly played on the 1st and 2nd strings with the annular finger, we should slowly practise arpeggiating the following open strings with the picking hand, trying to play the 1st or 2nd string slightly louder than the other strings.
Here is a recommended hierarchy of dynamics and velocities:
Melody: Loud with the ‘a’ finger
Bass: Quietly with the thumb or ‘p’ finger
Accompaniment: Moderately loud, with the ‘i’ and ‘m’ fingers
As you can see in the attached score, the ‘p’ finger will play the appropriate notes (mostly the root notes of each chord) every 3 beats or 9 subdivisions.
The picking hand:
Plant, press and release the ‘p’ and ‘a’ fingers together respectively on the 6th and 1st string.
Next ‘m’ and ‘i’ fingers on the 2nd and 3rd string.
Finally, twice more a, m, i, to complete one bar.
Practice this pattern for a while with open strings, paying attention to accuracy, consistency of tone, dynamics and emphasising the 1st string, where the melody will be played.
Bar 1: Place your little finger on fret 4 of the E (1st string) and the index on fret 1 of G and arpeggiate as explained above for 3 beats.
Bar 2: As above for the first beat. Next beat: middle finger on fret 2 of E and than open E for beat 3.
Bar 3: (The ‘p’ finger plays an open A string). Beat 1: barre on fret 2. Little finger on the 5th fret of B and ring finger on fret 4 of D. Beat 2 and 3: same position, except for the little finger on fret 4 of B.
Bar 4: beat 1 as previous beat. Beat 2 middle f. on fret 3 of B. Beat 3: as beat one.
Bar 5: (The ‘p’ finger plays an open E string). Barre on fret 7. Beat 1, 2 & 3: Little finger on fret 9 of E, middle f. fret 8 of G. on beat 1, 2 and 3.
Bar 6: Beat 1: As previous beat. Beat 2 & 3: Little finger plays respectively the 11th and 9th fret. (Please check the video for the alternative fingering often used)
Bar 7: Beat 1: Little, ring and middle fingers on fret 9 of respectively the E, B and G strings. Beat 2 & 3: Index replaces little finger on fret 7 of E.
Please focus on minimum-movement approach, as this will help with delivering the piece in a more accurate and consistent manner, while saving energy.
Bar 8: Beat 1: As previous beat. Beat 2 & 3: Little finger to play fret 9 and 11.
Bar 9: 3/6 barre on fret 9. Little finger on fret 12 of E for 3 beats.
Bar 10: Beat 1 as the previous. Beat 2: ring f. on fret 11. Beat 3 middle f. on fret 10.
Bar 11: (The ‘p’ finger plays an open A string). 2/6 barre on fret 5 and index on fret 6 of G. Little f. on the fret 9 of E for 3 beats. Make sure you are warmed-up for this stretchy position and make sure your wrist, arm and hand are as relaxed as possible.
Bar 12: Beat 1 as previous beat. Beat 2 ring f. on fret 7 of E. Beat 3: lift your ring f. and play the A note (fret 5 of E) with the prepared barre.
Bar 13: (The ‘p’ finger plays an open E string). Beat 1,2 & 3: Same shaped used in bar 1. Place your little finger on the 4th fret of the 1st string and the index on the 1st of G.
Bar 14: (The ‘p’ finger plays an open A string). Barre on fret 2. Play a B13 chord by positioning your little f. on fret 4 of E and ring f. on fret 4 of B. Arpeggiate for 1 beat, then move little f. on fret 4 for beat 2 and lift it for beat 3, to play F# on fret 2 of E.
Bar 15: Back to an E major chord, (E shape). Index finger on the 1st fret of G, ring f. fret 2 of D and middle f. on fret 2 of A. The arpeggio will be the same as before for the ‘a’, ‘m’ and ‘i’ fingers, however, the ‘p’ finger will target respectively the 4th, 5th and 6th string to generate a descending E major arpeggio. (E, B, G# played with the little f. on fret 4 of the low E string).
Bar 16: Low and high E played simultaneously.
This will complete the second section of Spanish Romance.
Whether you will play this composition on a steel strung or a nylon strung guitar, this will provide a great opportunity to improve co-ordination skills of the picking and fretting hand.
When executing each Barre remember to use the middle finger together with the index whenever possible, in order to strengthen the Barre as well as using the weight of the fretting hand and the arm to help pressing our index to the fretboard with minimum effort.
I hope you will enjoy playing this piece as much as I did and still do after all these years.
Till the next time, Good-bye!