** As featured in issue 11 **
In this acoustic guitar lesson we will be looking at the lovely fingerstyle classical guitar piece ‘Allegro’ written by the Italian composer Mauro Giuliani, who lived from 1781 till 1829 and who has been one of the most prolific guitar composers of his time.
This composition consists of a repeated eight-bar section and final tag, with the theme played in the lower register. In fact the 4th, 5th and 6th strings as well as the ‘p’ finger, will be used to generate the main theme as well as supporting the harmony with its root movement.
One of the most challenging aspects of this composition is the use of rests added by Giuliani in certain parts, to help the performer generating different shades of light in the delivery. This may feel counter-intuitive in places, particularly as it is tempting to want to learn the piece as quickly as possible, without paying the necessary attention to similar details (dynamics, texture, tone etc). I made the same mistake in my first efforts with fingerstyle guitar, as I literally couldn’t wait to be able to play any piece in its entirety and as fast as possible! Eventually, I realized that I was cutting corners, with obvious unmusical repercussions.
With hindsight, I strongly recommend learning with patience and dedication, as this is indeed the fastest and most effective way to learn any subject matter. Since we are on the subject of learning, I would also like to suggest refining our technique but continuously self-evaluating our progress, or the lack thereof, comparing what we do now with what we did six months before as well as with what the leading exponents of that particular technique do.
A recurrent issue when learning a new piece, is to memorise mistakes or uncomfortable fingerings and carry-on practising regardless. Recording ourselves can be useful, as recordings don’t lie!
With all these tips in mind, let’s venture the meanders of this 200 years old composition.
The picking pattern is as follows:
(p, i, m, i, a, i, m, i, p, i, p, i, p, i, p, i) this is repeated three times and then:
(p, i, m, i, a, i, m, i - p, i, m, i, a, i, m, i) Once
(p, i, m, i, a, i, m, i, p, i, p, i, p, i, p, i) Twice
(p, i, m, i, a, i, m, i - p, i, m, i, a, i, m, i) Twice
(p, i, m, a, p, i, m, a, pi, pima, pima)
Practise the above picking-hand patterns using open strings to start with, using the planting technique explained in the previous issues with the ‘p’ finger on the low E, A and D strings, the ‘i’ on the G string, ‘m’ on the B and ‘a’ on the high E string.
The fretting hand: (Please see the included transcription for a graphic representation)
Bar 1: Beat 1 and 2: 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.
Beat 3 & 4: alternate open A string, index f. on the 2nd fret of A and ring f. on the 3rd fret of A, with 2nd fret of G.
Bar 2: Similar to Bar 1: Beat 1 & 2: Place your middle finger on fret 2 of the G (3rd string) the little f. on fret 3 of B and the index f. on fret 1 of E. Arpeggiate as explained above for 2 beats.
Beat 3 & 4: alternate open D string, index f. on the 2nd fret of D and ring f. on the 3rd fret of D, with 2nd fret of G.
Bar 3: Similar to Bar 1: Beat 1 & 2: Place your middle finger on fret 2 of D (4th string) the index f. on fret 3 of G, open B and E. Arpeggiate as explained above for 2 beats.
Beat 3 & 4: alternate middle f. on the 2nd fret of D, ring f. on the 3rd fret of D and open D with the 1st fret of G.
Bar 4: Beat 1 & 2: Place your ring f. on fret 3 of A, middle finger on fret 2 of the G, index f. on fret 1 of B and open E. Arpeggiate as explained above for 2 beats.
Beat 3 & 4: Similar to beat 1 & 2: Place your middle f. on fret 2 of A, index finger on fret 1 of the G, little f. on fret 3 of B and open E. Arpeggiate as explained above for 2 beats.
Bar 5: as Bar 1
Bar 6: as Bar 2
Bar 7: Beat 1 & 2: Place your middle f. on fret 2 of D, ring finger on fret 2 of the G, index f. on fret 1 of B and open E. Arpeggiate as explained above for 2 beats.
Beat 3 & 4: as previous 2 beats but replace first note with low E.
Bar 8: Similar to Bar 7: Beat 1 & 2: Place your middle f. on fret 2 of D, ring finger on fret 2 of the G, open B and E. Arpeggiate as explained above for 2 beats.
Beat 3 & 4: as previous 2 beats but replace first note with low E.
The first 8 bars can be repeated, perhaps using different dynamics and tonal colours like for example playing ‘sul ponticello’ , (closer to the bridge) or ‘sul tasto’ (over the frets).
Bar 17: Beat 1: Open A, middle f. on fret 2 of G, index f. on fre 1 of B and open E.
Beat 2: Open E, index f. fret 1 of G, open B and E.
Beat 3: Open A and another A one octave higher, fret 2 of G.
Beat 4: Simultaneously, open low E, ring f. on fret 4 of G, middle f. on fret 3 of B, and little f. on fret 4 of E.
Bar: 18: Simultaneously, open A, and half barre of fret 5, to play a final A minor.
Congratulations! You’ve completed this tune.
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, memorising the fretting hand shapes and pattern.
It is wise to follow the recommended fingering and muting techniques, as per the video and the transcription included. Practise singing the melody in the low register played with the ‘p’ finger while playing the piece. This strategy 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.
Please 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 ‘Allegro’ by Mauro Giuliani.
Whether you will play this composition on a steel strung or a nylon strung guitar, this will provide a great opportunity to improve your muting techniques as well as co-ordination skills of the picking and fretting hand.
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.