This is the first of a series of articles I will be posting, on an aspect of classical guitar pedagogy that I feel has not been sufficiently explored. Much of pedagogy deals with technique, but not enough with interpretation. Of course a good teacher will help his or her student with interpretation, but many players do not have teachers for any one of a number of reasons. And some teachers are reluctant to delve into interpretation with their students, feeling that interpretation is too personal. Others might be focused too intently on technique.
While interpretation is frequently a matter of "play it the way you feel it," there is one important facet of the music that can be used as a guide to interpretation - structure. The structure of a piece can often be used as something of a blueprint for interpretation. I am speaking of going beyond the obvious - e.g., a lyrical passage more quietly, etc. I mean a minute linear breakdown and analysis of the structure.
The following structural analysis of "Lagrima" has ensued from a lesson I recently gave to a Delcamp member. He had no trouble actually playing the notes, so I thought the lesson would be better used for interpretation. What emerged was a focus on a combination of phrasing and dynamics derived from the structure, as opposed to "playing it the way you feel it."
The first thing to do is identify and separate the disparate parts of the music. Lagrima has more parts than just melody and harmony. There are parts that can best be identified as "fills," which strictly speaking are neither harmony nor accompaniment. These should be isolated with the use of dynamics and tempo manipulation.
Dynamics can and should be used in the melody as well, but I am not speaking of fairly obvious wholesale dynamics, but rather incremental dynamics from note to note, as opposed to dynamics applied uniformly to an entire line or lines, sections, etc.
Measures One and Two:
In Measure One the melody line is ascending: G# -A - B. This ascension can be enhanced by ascending in volume as well as pitch, playing each successive note somewhat louder than the preceding note, as opposed to a linear uniformity. By doing that, not only is the ascension enhanced, but so is the peak of the melody line at B. The bass voice E - F# - G# - D# is executed the same way. The accompanying Bs are played softer to separate melody from accompaniment.
The F# on the first beat of Measure Two marks the end of the melody line. But this is a sharp descent from the B, lower even that the very first treble note of Measure One. Consequently, if it is played at or near the volume of the B, it threatens to dissipate the effect of the peak at B. Conversely, a drop in volume at the F# will enhance the peak at the B.
The remainder of Measure Two is a fill. It should be isolated by executing a short fermata after the F# and then playing the fill softly, thus establishing a clear distinction between melody and fill, a distinction that is not clearly delineated when the fill immediately follows the melody in a continuous line and at the same volume.
Measures Three and Four are a repeat of Measures One and Two, and should be played the same way.
Measures Five and Six are the exact opposite of Measures One and Two, as the melody line is now descending. This is a straight and continuous descent to the end of the melody line: E - D# - C# - B. The same principle can be used as was in Measures One and Two. Each successive note is played at a somewhat lower volume than the preceding note, thus creating a deeper emotional feeling of descent. The bottom B was first the peak of the melody line, and is now the nadir.
The balance of Measure Six is a fill, and as the fill in Measure Two should be isolated by executing a short fermata after the B and then playing the fill softly.
Measures Seven and Eight:
The melody line again consists of just four notes descending - G# - C# - B - E. It might seem on the surface that the melody line consists of seven notes, starting with the G# on the first beat of Measure Seven, and reading: G# - E - C# - F# - B - D# - E. But that construction would be inconsistent with everything that precedes it - four melody notes followed by fill - four melody notes followed by fill - four melody notes followed by fill. To be consistent structurally then, one would expect Measures Seven and Eight to consist of once again four melody notes, leading to the tonic, which is in fact the case if one construes the melody line as G# - C# - B - E.
Further evidence that the melody line is four notes and not seven can be discerned by the construction of the other voices. The lower voice is comprised of four notes: B - A# - A - G#. And the third voice - also comprised of four notes - is in the treble: E - F# - D# - E. Play each of these two voices independently and it becomes clear that they are both discrete parts. So Measures Seven/Eight really consists of three four-note voices - one melody line, and two harmony voices.
A useful exercise to illuminate the structure as described above is to extract the melody line and play it in isolation: G# -A - B - F# . . . . G# -A - B - F# . . . . E - D# - C# - B . . . . G# - C# - B - E.
PART TWO - LAGRIMA
The melody line starts with Beat One of Measure One (treating this part as a separate entity)and ends on the first beat of Measure Two. It falls within a fairly narrow range and so should also be executed within a narrow dynamic range.
The run in thirds starting in the second measure and ending on Beat One of the Third Measure is a fill, and as with the other fills, should be played softer than the melody line.
The descending melody line beginning in Measure Three and ending on the first beat of Measure Four: E - C - A - F#, indirectly echoes the descending melody line in Measures Five and Six of Part One, and should be played the same way. Each successive note is played at a somewhat lower volume than the preceding note, thus creating a deeper emotional feeling of descent. This passage also functions as a prelude to the coming climax - the calm before the storm, as it were.
The following B - C - B - B is a fill. Now - beginning with the F# on the second half of the third beat in Measure Four and ending on the D on the first beat of Measure Six, we have a melody line not only ascending to a peak per se, but to THE peak of the piece.
The same principle can be applied here as was used in Measure One of Part One. The ascension can be enhanced by ascending in volume as well as pitch, playing each successive note somewhat louder than the preceding note, as opposed to a linear uniformity. By doing that, not only is the ascension enhanced, but so is the peak of the melody line at D.
However, In Part One that ascending melody line was at the very beginning. Here we have one coming at the end, the very climax of the piece, and this calls for additional treatment. The D on top has to be approached "stealthily" if it is to have its maximum effect. The way to do it is with incremental ritard. That is, starting with the G on the first beat of Measure Five, you execute a very slight ritard before playing the A. Then an ever so slightly longer ritard before playing the B. And then a still longer ritard before finally letting the D create a dramatic climax.
This whole sequence must be handled extremely carefully, and first experimented with for timing. If the ritards come too close upon each other you lose the sense of "stretching." If you drag them out too far you lose the sense of climax. In particular the last ritard is the key. A well timed ritard there creates tension - an agony of anticipation of the peak note and climax. Here again, if you play the D too soon you don't allow the anticipation to build. If you wait a fraction too long, the moment is lost. The D should be played with vibrato and a fermata.
The balance of Measure Six is a fill winding down the climax at D, as is Measures Seven and Eight, all of which should be played gradually softer and with a slight ritard.
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