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Giorgio Serci - Creative Fingerstyle Guitar Advancing Studies Part 13: Study n.30

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 43 **

For this column, I decided to share a short composition of mine Á la Paganini, simply called Study n.30.

The Italian violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) often used fast ascending and descending arpeggios and scales as a compositional technique. For his Caprices, for example, he used to begin the composition with a fast ascending arpeggio, followed by a descending scale and a descending arpeggio.

Study n.30 is based on a simple and quite common chord progression, which can be described with the following roman numerals. These are useful as an analytical tool, as it makes it easier to transpose the piece in all the 12 keys:

iV7 iI7 iv(m6) iII7 V7

NB. Lower case roman numerals indicate a minor chord quality (i = tonic minor)

The above sequence in the key of Am consists of:

Am E7 Am A7 Dm6 Am B7 E7

This piece provides an opportunity to improve understanding and technical prowess needed to execute arpeggios, broken chords, inversions and fast descending scales, as well as refining and consolidating legato techniques, including hammer-on, pull-off and ‘a Campanella’ technique (one of my favorite legate techniques).

Below is a short description of the above-mentioned devices:

1. Arpeggios are a melodic presentation of a harmonic structure in following an ascending or descending sequence.

2. Broken chords are arpeggios following a broken melodic (directional) pattern.

3. Inversion refers to the way a harmonic structure (a chord) is voiced (organized).

Triads can be voiced in three different positions/inversions:

a): Root position: root is lowest note in the chord

b): 1st inversion: 3rd is the lowest note in the chord

c): 2nd inversion: 5th is the lowest note in the chord

Seventh chords could also be voiced as a 3rd inversion (7th in the bass) For example D/C = D7 3rd inversion.

‘Campanella’ is a technique used to present a melodic pattern in the most legato way as possible, utilizing frequently open strings to create a ‘Bell-like’ sound (‘Campanella’ is Italian for ‘little bell’).

This technique is evident in bar 5, featuring a descending D dorian mode (C major scale super-imposed to a Dm6/9 chord). Furthermore, this peculiar type of legato technique has been discussed and demonstrated in a few of my previous columns.

Inversions are another effective harmonic ingredient utilized in this piece, particularly to create the broken chord effect. These are evident throughout the piece, from bar 1, for example, which features an Am - Am/C, bar 2: E - E/G# etc.

One of the technical hurdles of this piece is the need to use the ‘p’ finger on consecutive notes in a fast passage, using adjacent strings. (see bar 1 etc.)

The harmonic content of this piece is very guitaristic, as it gravitates around the key of Am allowing the use of many open strings with many diatonic intervals, which often produce a bell-like effect.

As always, I would like to recommend researching the above-mentioned techniques in order to be able to use these to compose your own pieces. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes and reflect on the reasons why we like, or not a particular sound, a chord progression or modulation. Eventually, these sounds will become part of your musical lexicon and we should be able to use these effectively and creatively.

The picking-hand pattern is predominantly as follows:

(Please note E=low E string, e= high E string)

‘p’ often plays the first two notes of each broken chord, as in bar 1 and ‘i, m, a’ follow.

Play each part in a relaxed and clear manner, making sure your thumb is a little forward compared to the ‘i, m, a’ fingers, in order to prevent it from colliding with the ‘i’ finger. As always, focus on attack and tonal consistency. The melody and the supporting harmonies will be played with the ‘i, m and a’ fingers, so attack is needed to outline the melody.

Next we are going to look at the left hand part (chord shapes):

Bar 1: Start with open A as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 3 with little f. Middle and ring f on fret 2 of D and G, index on fret 1 of B and open e. Barre’ on fret 5: play fret 5 of G, B and e, followed by little f on fret 8 of e. Next, index on fret 5 of B, e, little f on fret 8 and 12 of e.

Bar 2: Start with open E as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 4 with little f. Middle and index f on fret 2 and 1 of D and G, open B and open e. Barre’ on fret 4: play fret 4 of G, 5 of B and 4 of e, followed by little f on fret 7 of e. Next, middle f on fret 5 of B, index on fret 4 of e, little f on fret 7 and 12 of e.

Bar 3: Start with open A as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 3 with little f. Middle and ring f on fret 2 of D and G, index on fret 1 of B and open e. Barre’ on fret 5: play fret 5 of G, B and e, followed by little f on fret 8 of e. Next, index on fret 5 of B, e, little f on fret 8 and 12 of e.

Bar 4: Start with open A as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 4 with little f. Index on fret 2 of D, G, B strings and open e. Barre’ on fret 5: middle f on fret 6 of G, index on fret 5 of B and e, followed by little f on fret 9 of e. Next, index on fret 5 of B, e, little f on fret 9 and 12 of e.

Bar 5:  Start with open A as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 5 with little f. Middle and index f on fret 3 and 2 of D and G, open B and open e. Hammer-on to fret 5 of e with ring f. Pull-off to fret 3 with index, little f on fret 6 of B, open e, index on fret 3 of B, ring on fret 5 of G, open B. Index on fret 2 of G, pull-off to open G, middle f on fret 3 of D, pull-off to fret 2 with index and open D.

Bar 6: Start with open A as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 3 with little f. Middle and ring f on fret 2 of D and G, index on fret 1 of B and open e. Barre’ on fret 5: play fret 5 of G, B and e, followed by little f on fret 8 of e. Next, index on fret 5 of B, e, little f on fret 8 and 12 of e.

Bar 7: Start with open A as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 2 with middle f. Index f on fret 1 of D, little f on fret 4 of D, G and B. Ring f on fret 9 of D, middle f on fret 8 of G, index on fret 7 of B and e. Next, fret 8 of G, 7 of B and e; little f on fret 11 of e.

Bar 8: Start with open E as a pick-up note, hammer-on to fret 4 with little f. Middle and index f on fret 2 and 1 of D and G, open B and open e. Barre’ on fret 4: play fret 4 of G, 5 of B and 4 of e, followed by little f on fret 7 of e. Next, middle f on fret 5 of B, index on fret 4 of e, little f on fret 7 and 13 of e with open E, followed by fret 12 of e, with ring f.

Bar 9: Index on fret 10 of e, little f on fret 13, ring on fret 12 and index on fret 10 and fret 9 of B. Middle f on fret 10 of G, index on fret 9 of G. Little f on fret 12, middle f on fret 10 and index on fret 9 of D. Little f on fret 12 of A, middle f on fret 10 and rind f on fret 11 of A.

Bar 10: index on fret 1 of e, and open e. Little f on fret 4 of B and open e. Index on fret 1, middle f on fret 2, ring f on fret 3 and little f on fret 4 and 5 of e. Open A.

Bar 11: Hold the open A, played in the previous bar. Index on fret 4 of D, middle f on fret 5 of G and B. Little f on fret 7 of e.

Congratulations, you have completed Study n.30!

As always, you will be able to download a transcription by selecting the menu option in this page.

I strongly recommend experimenting with a few picking variations, changing the chords as you wish in terms of voicing (higher or lower), as well as trying the same picking pattern on a different chord progression, or using a ‘capo’ on fret 2 for a brighter outcome.

When repeating any section twice or more, you may want to play ‘sul ponticello’, (closer to the bridge) or ‘sul tasto’ (over the frets) for more contrasting results.

Make sure you highlight the melody (singing is a great strategy to play the melody in more assertive and singing-like manner)

Focus on minimum-movement approach, as this will help delivering the piece in a more accurate and consistent manner, while saving energy.

This will complete this creative fingerstyle lesson.

I hope you will enjoy playing this study piece and that this will give you some ideas on how to write your own solo guitar compositions.


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