** As featured in issue 9 **
In this classical fingerstyle guitar lesson we will be looking at the wonderful solo acoustic guitar piece simply called ‘Lesson’ by the Spanish composer Dionisio Aguado.
The difference between this composition and ‘Spanish Romance’, which we have covered in the previous two columns, is that the melody of the former is in the lower register, rather than in the most common higher one.
This is a bespoke composition, designed to improve coordination skills of the picking hand, particularly the p, i, m fingers, but particularly to highlight the melody played with the ‘p’ finger from the accompaniment played by ‘i’ and ‘m’ fingers.
These play a repeated pattern consisting of p, i, m, i. Those of you familiar with Country Music may find some affinity between this picking pattern and the one normally used on a banjo (banjo rolls).
As always, tonal and dynamic awareness is what makes our playing sound ‘expensive’ or ‘cheap’. To meet the former objective, slow practice is key, as we certainly don’t want memorise wrong parts or develop bad technical habits.
Take one beat at a time, memorizing the fretting hand shapes and pattern.
It is wise to follow the recommended fingering as per the video and the transcription included. Please notice how the first note of each beat (the melody) has been notated with a secondary stem pointing downward. This is to indicate that the composition has two parts (voices) melody and accompaniment, but most importantly, that each melody note should last for a full beat rather than just a semi-quaver.
Practice singing the melody played with the ‘p’ finger while playing the piece can help performing the tune in a more ‘cantabile’ (singing like) manner.
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.
Here is a recommended hierarchy of dynamics and velocities:
Melody: Loud with the ‘p’ finger
Accompaniment: Quiet with the ‘i’ and ‘m’ fingers.
The picking hand:
Plant, press and release the ‘p’ ‘i’ and ‘a’ fingers together respectively on the 3rd 2nd and 1st string. Next, ‘i’ fingers on the 2nd string.
Practice this pattern for a while with open strings, paying attention to accuracy, consistency of tone, dynamics and emphasizing the 3rd and the 4th string, where the melody will be played.
The fretting hand:
Bar 1: Place your middle finger on fret 2 of the G (3rd string) and the index on fret 1 of B and open E. Arpeggiate as explained above for 2 beats.
Bar 2: Beat 1: Same shape one string up. Beat 2: ‘p’ finger plays D string:
Bar 3: Little finger on fret 4 of G. Ring finger on fret 3 of B. Open E.
Bar 4: Beat 1 as bar 1. Beat 2 As previous apart from ‘p’ which plays an open A string .
Bar 5: Beat 1 as bar 1. Beat 2: Open G, middle f. on fret 2 of B and open E.
Bar 6: Beat 1: Ring f. on fret 3 of D. Little f. on fret 3 of B. Index on fret 1 of E.
Beat 2: The same but with an open D.
Bar 7: Beat 1: Middle f. on fret 2 of D. Index on fret 1 of B. Open E. Beat 2: Index on fret 1 of G. Open B and E.
Bar 8: As bar 4 but without the arpeggio on beat 2.
Congrats! You’ve completed the first half of the tune.
Please focus on minimum-movement approach, as this will help delivering the piece in a more accurate and consistent manner, while saving energy.
Bar 9: As bar 1.
Bar 10: Beat 1: Open G and B. Index on fret 1 of E. Beat 2: The same but with a low G fret 3 of E with ring f.
Bar 11: Beat 1: Ring f. on fret 3 of A. Index on fret 1of B. Open E. Beat 2: same but starting with middle f. on fret 2 of D. (It would be wise to finger a Cmaj chord ‘C shape’). However, make sure that the low C note is not sustained on beat 2, as this would mask the sound of E.
Bar 12: As bar 10
Bar 13: Beat 1: Ring f. on fret 3 of A. Index on fret 1 of B. Open E.
Beat 2: Middle f. on fret 2 of A. Little f. on fret 3 of B. Open E.
Bar 14: Beat 1: Open A string. Index on fret 1 of B. Open E. Beat 2: Ring f. on fret 3 of A. Index on fret 1 of B. Open E.
Bar 15: Beat 1: Open D and B strings. Index on fret 1 of E. Beat 2: Middle f. on fret 2 of D. Little f. on fret 3 of B. Open E.
Bar 16: As bar 8.
This will complete ‘Lesson’ by Dionisio Aguado.
Whether you will play this composition on a steel strung or a nylon strung guitar, this will provide a great opportunity to improve coordination skills of the picking and fretting hand.
I hope you will enjoy playing this piece and that your attention to detail such as tone quality, attack, dynamic awareness etc. discussed in these columns are paying off.
Till the next time, Good-bye!
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