Sor thumb?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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BellyDoc
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Sor thumb?

Post by BellyDoc » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:16 am

I apologize for the pun!

I'm an enthusiastic beginner of about 18 months practice so far, and I'm absorbing everything I can. I'm working out of several books but by far the bulk of my attention has now turned to Sor. I have read snippets about the way he approached playing predominantly with p,i and m right hand technique, avoiding a. I can tell that his compositions are compatible with that, as opposed to Tarrega's beginner etudes which are composed of arpeggios that lend themselves to p/ima and p/ami patterns.

I'm particularly enthralled with the use of stem up/down notation in Sor's beginner studies as instruction to use or avoid the use of the thumb. It's not always what I might initially think is convenient!! I've correlated my modern Mel Bay edition with others including very early printings found as online PDF, and find few if any discrepancies. I do believe that these notations are very intentional and represent important teaching points, either as opportunities to expand the mobility of the right hand or opportunities to experience different tonal qualities on similar notes resulting from experimenting with different picking.

My teacher shares my enthusiasm for this, but I don't think he's seen anyone looking to embrace this notation as literally as I. My sense is that there's a spectrum of responses. At one end there's what I'm doing which is to commit to the literal interpretation and follow it to see what comes of it as I progress. In the middle, there are those who maybe look at it as suggestion that can be considered, perhaps to be played and later outgrown. Finally there are those for whom only the notes matter and they'll play them however they please.

Perhaps when people approach these early lessons already having amassed some degree of personal experience, the teaching points are less important, though the beauty of the music remains attractive.

So is it just me? Who else adheres religiously to stem down = thumb and stem up = i or m in Sor's beginner and intermediate works?
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." -Sir Isaac Newton

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Yisrael van Handel
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Re: Sor thumb?

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:10 am

BellyDoc wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:16 am


So is it just me? Who else adheres religiously to stem down = thumb and stem up = i or m in Sor's beginner and intermediate works?
Hi, BellyDoc,
I am going through Sor's Opus 60 and Opus 31 because this is an excellent basis for systematic technical development. I started adhering to Sor's use of the thumb, and it offers some interesting musical possibilities (greater musical independence and clarity of the bass line). It also has a disadvantage: requires very accurate and agile use of thumb. As I fall down occasionally on the second point, I do not hesitate to cheat and use the modern method of one right-hand finger on each string, where I do not have the accuracy and agility to do it Sor's way.
.
Yisrael van Handel
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Sor thumb?

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:59 am

My little mantra again I you don't mind - you want to be able to choose. For an early stage player, following the technical approach of an early composer is not normally recommended, simply because we assume you will want to play other repertoires, and to train oneself to play like, e.g. Sor, will not be as helpful as one would wish.
I always get people to use the thumb for whatever is meant to sound like a bass note, and only use it for other voices if there really is no time for anything else. So if you think of a piece as being like an ensemble, perhaps a vocal or string ensemble, there is only one actual bass performer, and they typically have a characteristic bassiness of tone. This is handily (pun intended) supplied by the thumb. So if in Op 35 no 2 we look at the second section, we find that the down-tailed bass note is followed by a down-tailed middle voice in several bars. Using the thumb for that middle voice would defeat the object of communicating the bass tone where it really should be.
Btw stem direction in middle voices esp is often determined by graphical convenience rather than actual musical considerations. So in Op 35 no 1, the middle voice Gs are very like those in no 2, but are stemmed upwards (actually the no 2 Gs have double tails but the principle remains, and other examples may be clearer, e.g. op 31 no 1).
Coming back to the thing of being able to choose; try to make sure that decisions such as this are driven first by conscious decision, and try to make that decision on a musical basis e.g. in terms of the sound you make. And seek at your stage to do so in a 'modern' manner, so that if in future you want to specialise in another approach, or adopt another approach for particular repertoires, you can choose to do so.
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BellyDoc
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Re: Sor thumb?

Post by BellyDoc » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:27 am

Thank you! It's a good mantra - seriously! One of the challenges of guitar for me is managing number of choices available for how to play the same written music... with the same notes on different strings and available by different fingerings. Those particular studies are ones that I play so your examples are spot on.

Taking this to heart, over the last couple days I've been experimenting with relaxing the constraint of adherence to the stem notation and asking myself about what choices I would make if there were no indications at all. There are layers of educational value to this as well and indeed I will continue to explore both!
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." -Sir Isaac Newton

Armin Hanika 56PF

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