Sor head !

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BellyDoc
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Re: Sor head !

Post by BellyDoc » Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:34 am

PeteJ wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 1:15 pm
Erm, no, that's not it. The direction of the stem is not an instruction for fingering. It indicates which part the note belongs to. Usually the lowest part is played by the thumb but it's not a rule and you can play the tune (all with stems up) with your thumb if it works. Generally it's the bassline that is played with the thumb, not all the notes with stems down. The latter approach would tie your RH in knots.

Yisrael - Sor uses down-stems to indicate the part, as do all composers. This is just the convention. If he writes in three parts on the one stave then the middle part will have stems down and will not be played with the thumb. If we try to play Sor using our thumb on all the down-stems we'll find it impossible.

Sor may have given instructions additional to the score for some didactic pieces, but these are additional. If we split Sor's stave into three or four individual parts then all the notes below the centre of the stave would have stems down, and this would have nothing to do with fingering.

Where a note has both up and down stems this indicates that the note belongs in two parts, one of which may be the bass.
I really think you're missing something. Maybe you have some sort of printing of Sor's works that have deleted all of his original stem directions that we're talking about? It doesn't sound like you're looking at what I am, because I see stem down all up and down the staff, as well as stem UP all up and down the staff. It's not at all what you describe. It sounds like you're reading more modern compositions and maybe you're just assuming that Sor's work goes the same way? If so... please look! I'm most of the way through opus 60, and have launched into the first studies in 31, 35, and 44, which are all consistently as I describe. I've compared my Mel Bay printing against my teacher's copies as well as the files here on this board and they're all faithfully the same in stem directions.
1
Please go back and look carefully at opus 60, starting with study number 5 and going forward. Prior to that, the 1-4 studies are mostly a game of finding the notes and stem direction probably isn't meaningful, but from that point forward, it is! REALLY LOOK at numbers 8 and 9. Look at 10-14!! His down-stems are NOT just bass voice. Often the bass voice IS down stemmed but not always. Sometimes it's deliberately NOT down-stemmed while other notes in the middle or even UPPER voice ARE. In some pieces, a sequence of notes rises up through strings 6-5-4-3 with stem up and then he throws the stem down indicator on the upper notes played on strings 2 and 1 to tell us to play those upper notes with the thumb! Then he descends, only to throw a couple of stem-up notes at the bottom!! This clearly has nothing to do with modern notation conventions and it's not random! This is purposeful.

In the very study that launched this thread (9), there are measures where the notes rise up and then fall back down and the SAME note played a second time in the SAME measure is stemmed in the opposite direction. This is middle voice both times and stem direction, again, has nothing to do with the voice but rather the right hand instructions. Again, not modern, it's Sor's technique, which I accept as a challenge to explore my right hand's capabilities.

The question isn't really whether he meant to communicate this. HE DID. Fortunately, though, you don't have to take my word for it since he actually wrote about it in his "method" which is available in translation from multiple sources. The real question is whether or not there's any value to pursuing it like I do. The assessment of several people much more experienced than I (no doubt including yourself) is that there isn't a lot of value to faithfully studying this, which I'm guessing would be your point of view as well.

I can accept that. :lol:
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Re: Sor head !

Post by Rasputin » Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:39 am

I don't think PeteJ is saying the stemming is random - he is saying that it shows which voice or part or line a note belongs to. I think you may have misunderstood what it means for a note to belong to a given voice - just because a note is the lowest one sounding at a given moment, for example, it doesn't mean that it is in the bass voice. If you have a specific measure of a specific piece in mind, maybe we could look at it.

It's not that there is no connection between down stems and the use of the thumb - it will often make sense to use the thumb for lower voices. It's just that stem direction is not a direct indication of what fingering to use. You still should ask yourself what fingering works best, even if - 9 times out of 10 - the answer is to use the thumb.

When you say Sor wrote about this in his method, which opus is that, and do you have a page ref?

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Sor head !

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:19 am

BellyDoc wrote:The real question is whether or not there's any value to pursuing it like I do.
Yes indeed there is.

You will reap rewards as you approach his more complex pieces - especially the editions overseen by him where stemming and rests are used in subtle and various ways informing us of voicing, string changes and position shifts. I would go further - relegate the "a" finger to the role of emergency assistant as he did. This puts you directly in touch with his style in a way that modern fingering completely bypasses.

Of course it's perfectly possible to play Sor beautifully using an entirely modern approach, and there's nothing wrong with that but, if you enjoy the process of (maybe) getting closer to the composer, then your route is legitimate and worthwhile.

You hit the nail on the head in invoking Sor's "method" by the way. Every supposed teacher should have read this - some hope ...

At the same time remember that Sor's way is not the only way, nor necessarily the best when it comes to other 19th century guitar works. Several of the well known names from that era had their own approach to scoring and fingering - some evolving their systems through experience (Carulli springs to mind) and some using a particular notation for a specific piece e.g Giuliani's occasional use of stemming to indicate open strings or the word "pouce" to indicate 'cello fingering.

The subject is not really difficult but may appear overly complex if one tries to apply the rules of one system to the work of all. For example we can take issue with almost everything in the following:
someone wrote:Sor uses down-stems to indicate the part, as do all composers. This is just the convention. If he writes in three parts on the one stave then the middle part will have stems down and will not be played with the thumb. If we try to play Sor using our thumb on all the down-stems we'll find it impossible.
If we break this down it can be seen to be inaccurate or incorrect in almost every way.
someone wrote:Sor uses down-stems to indicate the part, as do all composers.
Not all composers and not all the time. Carulli for instance sometimes used a stem down simply to indicate use of the thumb on a non bass part and clearly states this.
someone wrote:This is just the convention.
What convention - who's and when? Conventions change.
someone wrote:If he (Sor) writes in three parts on the one stave then the middle part will have stems down and will not be played with the thumb.
There are many examples contradicting this statement e.g. Op.35, No.22
someone wrote:If we try to play Sor using our thumb on all the down-stems we'll find it impossible
This surely depends on the complexity of the piece, one's musical acuity and the agility of the thumb but is easily refuted simply by trying it.

Nit-picking? Perhaps - but it illustrates how such a broad based approach is insufficient. Any perceived "convention" is actually no such thing, simply pertaining to a particular individual, region or period.

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Re: Sor head !

Post by PeteJ » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:21 pm

In the first post on this thread is an extract from Sor that clearly shows that we do not play all the notes with stems down with the thumb. The middle part has stems down to distinguish it from the upper voice, not to signify the use of the thumb. It's right there for anyone to see. If we play the inner part with our thumb it will be too heavy, technically awkward and not at all what Sor intended.

It is not just a convention but strictly necessary to use notation in this way. There is no other way to do it. If there are three parts on a stave two have to share a stem direction regardless of how the notes are played. I stand by my previous post. I've never come across the idea that stems down indicates the use of the thumb and it would usually make the music impossible to notate. It's an idea without a future...

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Re: Sor head !

Post by mverive » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:15 pm

I think if you look at the previous study (Opus 60 No.8 ) you'll understand how the 3 voices interact. This study (Opus 60 No.9 ) is meant to expand on the previous, so it may be hard to interpret the voices without taking the previous piece into context.
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Re: Sor head !

Post by Rasputin » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:54 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:21 pm
IIt's an idea without a future...
Ah but the question is whether it has a past. Some people think things ought to be played according to the conventions of the day, and for the rest of us, it can still be interesting to make the comparison.

I feel pretty confident that Sor's method will say what the others say it says, although I can't say I have found the passage myself.

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Re: Sor head !

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:20 pm

PeteJ wrote:In the first post on this thread is an extract from Sor that clearly shows that we do not play all the notes with stems down with the thumb. The middle part has stems down to distinguish it from the upper voice, not to signify the use of the thumb. It's right there for anyone to see. If we play the inner part with our thumb it will be too heavy, technically awkward and not at all what Sor intended.
I don't want to get into a personal tit for tat exchange PeteJ. My post was simply in support of Bellydoc in his pursuit of Sor's thinking - I accept (as does he) that there may be some way yet to go.

However -just to be clear - while agreeing that stem direction is not always an indication of which digit to use, that is no reason to avoid the thumb for "middle" voices. If it is the case, as your comment suggests, that your thumb is too heavy or awkward that's a personal technical issue and nothing to do with what a composer may or may not have intended. Others use their thumbs for "middle" voices all the time.
PeteJ wrote:I've never come across the idea that stems down indicates the use of the thumb ... an idea without a future...
Well now you have - clearly and unequivocally.
carulli_example.png
"Les notes avec une double queue doivent être pincées avec le pouce de la main droite."
Ferdinando Carulli, Méthode Complette (1810)

Notice that the actual bass notes do not utilise a downward stem - which is reserved solely for the purpose of indicating use of the thumb. As I suggested - ideas change.

This is neither an isolated case nor the only approach taken. Guitar notation was in a state of flux as composers strove to indicate their intentions with more and more clarity.
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Re: Sor head !

Post by BellyDoc » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:52 am

Rasputin wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:39 am
I don't think PeteJ is saying the stemming is random - he is saying that it shows which voice or part or line a note belongs to. I think you may have misunderstood what it means for a note to belong to a given voice - just because a note is the lowest one sounding at a given moment, for example, it doesn't mean that it is in the bass voice. If you have a specific measure of a specific piece in mind, maybe we could look at it.

It's not that there is no connection between down stems and the use of the thumb - it will often make sense to use the thumb for lower voices. It's just that stem direction is not a direct indication of what fingering to use. You still should ask yourself what fingering works best, even if - 9 times out of 10 - the answer is to use the thumb.

When you say Sor wrote about this in his method, which opus is that, and do you have a page ref?
I wouldn't say that I believed his comment was that the stems were random, but until you mentioned this, I didn't entertain the thought that a single "voice" may cross over another and stems could follow the "voice" and not the bass... which is an interesting thought. However, I maintain my position that the down-stems indicate thumb notes regardless of voice. Sometimes they are accented middle and upper voice notes, sometimes they are bass notes.

When I refer to "Sor's Method", I mean the written treatise titled "Sor's Method for the Spanish Guitar" which is available from multiple publishers. Mine is the Tecla printing of the original translation to English by A. Merrick but there is a good quality online .pdf of the same translation here:



http://www.crgrecordings.com/Sor-PDF-Fi ... glish).pdf



Specific passages that talk about his use of the thumb are in several places within this work. Here are two:

Page 22:

Use of the Fingers of the Right Hand

I have already explained, in the first part, the reasons which induced me to lay down, as a general rule, to employ commonly but three fingers. In consequence, I always hold my hand elevated, so as to enable the thumb to pass over four strings, and the other two in front of the other two strings, so that, without shifting the hand, I may find the strings which are to produce the notes of the twentieth example, plate V., which is only the detailed expression of a chord.
This fingering has for its object, not only to economise as much as possible the number of fingers, but to make my operation conduce to the expression of the musical accent, which is nothing else than the commencement of each of the aliquot parts of the measure. The exercise, example the twenty-first, as music, differs in nothing from the preceding; but, if my opinion were referred to, I should very particularly recommend the learner not to practise it till after having acquired great certainty in the other, because the two fingers having already acquired the habit of always answering in a uniform manner to the motions of the thumb, would experience greater difficulty in choosing the moment wherein each should answer to it. But in the habit, once acquired, the other exercises will no longer appear difficult. …


here the two examples #20 and #21 are short phrases of first pmpipmpi… and then pmipmipmi… with the thumb ranging over the 5th, 4th and 3rd strings)


Page 32:
Fingering for the Right Hand
The common position of my fingers places my first below the second string, the second below the first string, and the thumb within reach of all the other strings, without displacing the hand. If the melody is lower than the note of the open first string, I pass my first and second fingers to the third and second strings. I touch every base note forcibly with the thumb, which I likewise employ very frequently to play notes not belonging to the base, but which mark an accented part of the measure, or the commencement of an aliquot part. If the melody is doubled in sixths, I remove a little my second finger from the first, elevate the hand a little (not by contracting the wrist, but by slightly depressing the elbow), and my first and second fingers are found each by its respective string. If the intermediate part has more motion than the upper part, and the intermediate string is to be played, I always employ the first finger, because my fingers have less facility of action in proportion as they approach the fourth. It is for this reason, that, when I have a succession of sixths to make, without being accompanied by a string, I use the thumb for all the notes belonging to the fourth string, and even for several of those belonging to the third. ...

(he goes on to say more about the thumb in this section including use of alternating pipipi…, and how he composed his “19th lesson and 5th study to habituate the learner to this…” as mentioned in Brian Jeffrey’s intro to Carcassi that I alluded to earlier in this thread)


My take from the reading of the monograph from which the above is excerpted, is that Sor's method was to use his thumb freely and over all the strings, for purposes of its particular tonal quality. I believe Mr. Jeffrey agrees with this based on his writing as well.

For reference, the excerpt of interest from Mr. Jeffrey's introductory passage to the Tecla edition of Carcassi's opus 60:


FINGERING AND TECHNIQUE

The right hand ring finger (a)

Today the right hand ring finger (a) is commonly used a great deal, but it wasn’t in Carcassi’s time. Here is Carcassi writing about right hand fingering in about 1836 in his Method:

“Les 6me. 5me. et 4me. cordes, sur lesquelles s’exécutent le plus souvent les notes appelées basses, se pincent du pouce; les trois autres cordes se pincent, dans les gammes et les phrases de mélodie, avec l’index et le médium alternativement en changeant de doigt à chaque note. Le doigt annulaire ne pince que dans les accords et arpèges composés de 4 5 et 6 notes.”

(‘The 6th, 5th and 4th strings, on which the notes called bass notes are usually played, are plucked with the [right hand] thumb. The three other strings are plucked, in scales and melodic passages, with the index and middle fingers alternately, that is, changing the finger at each note. The ring finger [of the right hand] is used only in chords and arpeggios which contain four, five or six notes.’)

I played and play a lot on guitars of the time, and I find that the use of mostly the thumb, index and middle fingers (p i m) without much ring finger (a) is perfectly practical. Also as a bonus, I find it much, much easier.

Scales

In the time of Carcassi and Sor the right hand ring finger (a) was not generally used for scales. Instead, sometimes the index and middle fingers were used in alternation (imim), as Carcassi said in the passage quoted above.

But as well as that, another practice, going back to old lute technique, was to use the right hand thumb and index fingers in alternation, right up to the top two strings. Carcassi doesn’t mention it in his method, but Sor does. In his Method of 1830 Sor writes about rapid scale passages as follows:

“Cette observation m’a décidé à exécuter les traits de cette espèce avec le pouce et l’index, et c’est dans cette intention que j’ai fait ma dix-neuvième leçon.”

(‘This observation [of the anatomy of the hand] determined me to execute passages of that kind [scale passages] with the thumb and first finger, and with that view I made my nineteenth lesson’) (English translation,  from Sor’s Method for the Spanish Guitar published by Tecla).

Sor says that while some players, especially Aguado, use the index and middle fingers in alternation, he prefers to use the thumb and index fingers in alternation, and he gives detailed anatomical reasons why, and even says that he composed his 19th Lesson specifically to give practice in doing this. (This is his op. 31 no. 19, the well-known piece beginning with four demisemiquavers (sixteenth-notes), which Segovia included in his selection of Sor studies as his no. 10, but Segovia gave a modern fingering which did away with the very purpose for which Sor says he composed this piece).
Again my personal experience is that alternating right hand thumb and index finger (pipi) in scale passages works just fine, and indeed the strength of the right hand thumb gives an added punch, a zest, to them.
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Re: Sor head !

Post by BellyDoc » Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:06 am

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:19 am
BellyDoc wrote:The real question is whether or not there's any value to pursuing it like I do.
Yes indeed there is.

You will reap rewards as you approach his more complex pieces - especially the editions overseen by him where stemming and rests are used in subtle and various ways informing us of voicing, string changes and position shifts. I would go further - relegate the "a" finger to the role of emergency assistant as he did. This puts you directly in touch with his style in a way that modern fingering completely bypasses.
Thank you! I find this very encouraging.
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Re: Sor head !

Post by Rasputin » Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:16 am

BellyDoc wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:52 am
Rasputin wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:39 am
I don't think PeteJ is saying the stemming is random - he is saying that it shows which voice or part or line a note belongs to. I think you may have misunderstood what it means for a note to belong to a given voice - just because a note is the lowest one sounding at a given moment, for example, it doesn't mean that it is in the bass voice. If you have a specific measure of a specific piece in mind, maybe we could look at it.

It's not that there is no connection between down stems and the use of the thumb - it will often make sense to use the thumb for lower voices. It's just that stem direction is not a direct indication of what fingering to use. You still should ask yourself what fingering works best, even if - 9 times out of 10 - the answer is to use the thumb.

When you say Sor wrote about this in his method, which opus is that, and do you have a page ref?
I wouldn't say that I believed his comment was that the stems were random, but until you mentioned this, I didn't entertain the thought that a single "voice" may cross over another and stems could follow the "voice" and not the bass... which is an interesting thought.
Yes - it doesn't even mean they have to cross, in the sense that one voice moves up over another one which is sounding the whole time, or which moves down when the other one moves up (which is usually considered bad voice leading). It can just be, for instance, that one voice goes down where another has just been, after the the other one has moved down further or where it has a rest. In other words, the ranges overlap, just as the range of a tenor overlaps with the range of a baritone. The point of part writing is that each line is supposed to make musical sense considered independently - so if you imagine performing a three-part piece by assigning the parts to three singers instead of playing it on the guitar, you would probably give the lowest line to the person with the lowest voice, but the lowest line does not necessarily contain all the lowest notes. You can identify the lines by ear, but there is also a practice of using stem direction to indicate the part that a given note belongs to. I think we've established now that this was not the only factor in Sor's choice of stem direction, but the practice certainly does exist.
However, I maintain my position that the down-stems indicate thumb notes regardless of voice.
I think you are overstating it there. It seems that Sor mostly used down stems that way, but you will also find some chords where more than one note has a downward stem and it wouldn't make sense to play both with the thumb - so this is not the only factor influencing the stem direction.

This thread has established that you can't apply modern assumptions to Sor's notation - but equally I think you will go wrong if you try to apply Sor's system to modern notation.

Thanks for taking the trouble to set out the extracts from Sor's method etc. They are interesting, although they don't touch on the issue of stem direction. It would still make sense for someone writing against the background of the p i m approach to use stem direction to indicate parts rather than as an aid to RH fingering. Also, while I note that Sor says the thumb is used for accented notes in the middle voices, I don't think he can have intended that it should always have a different timbre from the fingers - if you are going to use the thumb systematically on the bottom four strings, that is going to produce a change of timbre at more or less random moments in the middle of a line, which makes no musical sense. IMHO, if you are going to use the three-digit approach, it would be a good idea to work on getting the same default tone out of the thumb as you get out of the fingers. This obviously doesn't stop you from accenting the thumb notes where appropriate.

Edit: Without the concept of a voice as an independent line which may go into the same territory as a neighbouring voice, I can see that it would seem totally pointless to use stem direction to indicate what a voice belonged to, as this would be obvious and anyway would not be very important.

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Re: Sor head !

Post by PeteJ » Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:01 pm

It seems to have all been said. Thanks for the extracts about methods. I see no suggestion in them that the stem-direction indicates the fingering. Pardon me if I've seemed a but bullish but it is simply a fact that stem-direction is about the clarity of the parts, which is not directly connected to the fingering except for the considerations mentioned by Rasputin.

Mark - Your example is not clear. The bass part is indicated by the stem direction and perhaps Sor would have used his thumb for this (as would I) but this is because it is the bassline, not because the stem direction is an instruction.

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Re: Sor head !

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:47 pm

PeteJ wrote:Mark - Your example is not clear. The bass part is indicated by the stem direction and perhaps Sor would have used his thumb for this (as would I) but this is because it is the bassline, not because the stem direction is an instruction.
Really? It's clear to me. If the stem direction is indicating the bass line can you explain why the low E and A do not have down-stems?

Did you not read Carulli's explicit direction? The extra (down) stem only indicates that the note should be played by the thumb. I'm sorry, but if you are translating his words in some other way then we are at an impasse.

As to Sor - if he was performing Carulli's little waltz I am sure that he would have used his thumb to execute those same notes with or without an instruction, but not because they constitute a bass-line - rather that they fall comfortably under that digit according to his technical principles as outlined in the quotes presented by Bellydoc.

In the end we will all take our own paths. I'll continue to involve my thumb for some secondary voices and accompaniment roles when performing Sor's works; it suits me well and I believe it to be the approach described by the man himself.

I don't interpret your posts as "bullish" by the way. Written responses may sometimes appear blunt but who wants to spend time massaging egos? I just say what I think (whilst reserving the right to alter my judgement should an argument supports such a change).

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Re: Sor head !

Post by PeteJ » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:05 am

What about the two low notes with stems up? Clearly they are played by the thumb but do not have down-stems. How can this be an example of stem direction indicating use of the thumb? It seems to be the very opposite.

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Re: Sor head !

Post by BellyDoc » Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:40 pm

I don’t think they’re clearly thumb notes. I play the low note up stems with i and m! I also play notes at the top of the staff with down stems as p!

I wish I had a way to share an image file of opus 60 number 10 where there are numerous stem findings of great interest with respect to this conversation. There is mostly one voice in many places where the melody ranges up and down the staff and across the strings. There are measures where the the up stemmed notes rise up to the second and first string where down stems are deliberately placed to indicate thumb notes at the top! There are thumb descents followed by finger ascents in the same voice! The notation is deliberate. It CLEARLY indicates thumb with down stems in interesting, unexpected and very feasible ways.
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Re: Sor head !

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:58 pm

BellyDoc wrote:
Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:40 pm
I don’t think they’re clearly thumb notes. I play the low note up stems with i and m! I also play notes at the top of the staff with down stems as p!

I wish I had a way to share an image file of opus 60 number 10 where there are numerous stem findings of great interest with respect to this conversation. There is mostly one voice in many places where the melody ranges up and down the staff and across the strings. There are measures where the the up stemmed notes rise up to the second and first string where down stems are deliberately placed to indicate thumb notes at the top! There are thumb descents followed by finger ascents in the same voice! The notation is deliberate. It CLEARLY indicates thumb with down stems in interesting, unexpected and very feasible ways.
More power to you, BellyDoc. I do not have sufficient control over the thumb to play as you suggested, but for sure that is what Sor meant, otherwise the stems make no sense. This piece would be very boring if you ignored Sor's detailed right-hand fingering instructions. But by playing with right-hand fingering as written, the piece becomes much more interesting. I do not want to take six months off right now to train my thumb to do that accurately, but I am working on #15 of the same opus and it has very similar detailed right-hand fingering instructions. I am trying to play the thumb strokes apoyando, or at least accented.
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