Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:00 pm

Artdenali wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:11 pm
still have to pratice a lot to get on a decent level of sight reading.
One of the crimes committed by pedagogic classical guitar publishing over the last fifty years has been on the one hand the indulgence of replicating formulae and patterns in words rather than musical notation and, on the other, the deprivation for students of explanatory texts in methods;

this:
Scales for Grade Examinations.jpg
is an example where students will play seven scales and, in six of them, have not the slightest idea of what notes they are actually playing or where they might be, or of where they really are on the fingerboard. This is a crime which should be investigated by the CGP.
As far back as the sixties, last century, John Williams was bemoaning the fact that "guitarists read fingerings rather than notes"; sixty years on, plus ça change …

Just a thought … : it might be a good idea if replies or comments were posted in the Public Space section of “Improve Your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading”, rather than in the Classical Guitar Technique section of “Improve Your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading”, so that that section can remain uninterrupted (?) and be viewed, eventually, as a continuous course).

Further material has now been added in the CGT forum.
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Lawler
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Lawler » Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:40 pm

Fretful wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:49 am
...Geoffrey Burgon was a dear friend whose scores for television would provide me with the odd gig playing bits and pieces in incidental music which we liked to call “B&B Music” (Bread & Butter Music). He rented a lovely old ramshackle house in Woronzow Road...
Interesting! I just took a walk, via Google street view, down Woronzow Road. I'm pretty sure I walked it in real life a few years ago when visiting one of my children who was working in London. She had a flat just around the corner from Abbey Road Studios and we walked almost all the local streets. Beautiful place.
One evening, he was adding final touches to the Title Sequence of the 1981 television production of Brideshead Revisited. He asked me if I might stay the night and help him organise the recording session which was to take place at Abbey Road the following morning. This was fun and quite exciting. We turned up early, had the (hand-written) score photocopied and, as we were placing them on the music stands
What a great story! Burgon fan, here.
Phenomenal, really, just how good these session musicians are at sight-reading.
I've known a few amazing sight readers. I remember sitting in the student lounge of my conservatory with my duo partner when another student put the score of a string quartet on the table and wanted to talk about it. My friend Yoshi picked up his guitar and played the first page. It sounded good! I had thought of myself as a good sight reader and this was certainly humbling to see. (Yoshio later performed with Minoru Inagaki and can be heard on their CD, Bach: Italian Concerto.)
But then, was it sight-reading?
Good question. Personally, I always scan the page first to know the key, pitch range, rhythmic framework, frequent figures, repeats, etc. How could one read without doing that? So when I actually play the piece I guess one could say I'm playing, then, at second sight. But I view that preliminary scan as an integral part of sight reading so, personally, don't see the playing as a second run. For me it's one process.
there was in the band no guitarist having to play difficult contrapuntal stuff not knowing in advance whether the melody or bass or middle might suddenly demand an unexpected
Big issue there! We guitarists would certainly have an easier time sight reading if our typical reading material didn't require us to play two (or more) voices at a time.

Thought-provoking all around! Thanks, Fretful.

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:04 pm

Fretful,

Having read some of your other posts I think that I understand where you're coming from regarding guitarists and their ability to play at sight - I don't need any material myself (done session work for decades) but I recognise the absence of a logical and progressive series of exercises addressing this shortcoming.

Would you please provide an outline summarising the principles behind your proposed course and which reading goals are achieved through the completion of each stage? Thanks.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:59 am

Lawler wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 6:40 pm
We guitarists would certainly have an easier time sight reading if our typical reading material didn't require us to play two (or more) voices at a time.
Before loading up further par for the course (tomorrow Sat. 02/09), here is one last anecdote connected with Sight-Reading, fingerboard technique, an unforgettable man, and a historic guitar, which constitute some of my most indelible memories:

The first time I met Geoffrey Burgon was when he needed a guitarist who could, as the BBC Drama Department had put it, make a guitar sound like a lute. The guitarists Geoff had auditioned for the “purpose” had all said "Why don’t they get a lutenist?"; it was explained to them that that was the sort of questions you learned not to ask the BBC who, in all things, moved in mysterious ways as, indeed, it still does. When I got to Woronzow Road (my first ever visit there) to meet the composer, the question regarding the metamorphosis from guitar into lute was put. Flummoxed at first, I had a sudden inspiration and said "I don’t have a guitar that sounds like a lute but I think I know where I might be able to get hold of something very special." In a flash, the sound achieved by Romanillos had come to mind and, even if his guitars didn’t actually sound like lutes, I hoped their singularity would be persuasive ... if I could get hold of one. So, I wrote to José Romanillos (I shudder at the insolent innocence of my extreme “flash” of youth and at its staggering presumption!). NEVERTHELESS, to this day, I am still astonished to have received this reply:
Romanillos - letter - 1.jpg
You can imagine it didn’t take me long to slide along the Western road to Semley – “Go West, young man!”, indeed! On arrival at the Wiltshire “mansion”, from afar, I did see the legendary guitarist/lutenist (on whose grounds the luthier toiled in a makeshift side appendage) but didn’t speak to him as, ever the keen cricketer, he was – greyhounds in the slips - bowling tennis balls for his dog to retrieve. If I didn’t on that occasion shake the man’s hand, I did stroke his dog, perhaps hoping for some kind of osmosis. Romanillos, whose hand I did shake, warmly, was delightful, brimming over with passion for his timbers, his methods, and his tools. He presented me with a guitar which Bream had, apparently, “exhausted” but which sounded absolutely gorgeous (although not like a lute, even when playing Dowland on it). Barely believing my luck, I drove off with this magical instrument on the back seat of my car. José hadn’t even wanted a deposit or anything in lieu of security, which really beggars belief; when I had tried to discuss terms for hire, he’d said he didn’t want anything after all and that he would think of something (perhaps I was emaciated in those days and aroused sympathy?).

Geoff had not heard of Romanillos but was impressed by the guitar and I was hired. Once I was given my schedule (we were to film inside Glyndebourne House and in the surrounding countryside) I went to see Geoff and asked if I could have my part of the score. He said it wasn’t finished yet and that he would bring it on the day. Being extremely young and as yet inexperienced, this sent me into a mild panic at the thought of having to sight-read with seasoned session musicians, rolling cameras, galloping horses, a screaming director, and famous actors, all intent on testing me to the very limits of my reading ability. I explained all this to Geoff whose first reaction was to laugh (he wasn’t really all that familiar with the “guitarist’s reading dilemma” – as a player [trumpet], he mainly did jazz sessions in pubs where improvisation was the thing, nobody ever read! He “reassured” me, saying “Don’t worry, it’ll be really easy, just a few arpeggiated chords in C Major” … I spent sleepless nights, practiced all the pieces I knew in C Major, as well as the Villa-Lobos Etude No 1 (E minor notwithstanding) for the sake of the arpeggios. In the event, I had nothing to worry about, Geoff had been true to his word and he handed me a score on which a few arpeggios in C Major snaked across the paper in his neat Daddy Long Legs handwriting.

But a problem arose nevertheless: costume drama, Shakespeare in particular, does not film easily, especially outdoors, specifically in Autumn: the sun constantly struggled to peep through capricious clouds as the DOP’s light meters went berserk, the wind played havoc with the tents whose flapping wings tearing the air to tatters saturated the microphones, horses refused to hit their marks, and when everything was going really well, actors forgot their lines. So, take after take after take, all being exacerbated by the fact that I was extremely worried that “my” Romanillos might get kicked by a particular horse who, on every take, and under little control from an actor who had been economical with the truth regarding his riding skills, insisted on brushing right past me; furthermore, the art director had decided that there should be a monkey in the scene and a white-headed capuchin had been cast as the leading lady’s pet on account of its photogenic qualities; the problem was that this ape had a penchant for music and had confiscated the oboist’s oboe and when the second assistant director retrieved it from him, the diminutive capuchin threw a colossal tantrum, made a beeline for me, when I thought my guitar might be next! It took another two A.D.s to restrain the wild beast. So, what is now, with the cosy filter of hindsight, a slice of amusing pandemonium was, at the time, cause for extreme concern; when eventually the simian diva was pacified and some order had been restored to the scene, we started recording again; this went on for ever and the arpeggios proved eventually not to be all that easy after all because, thinking quite rightly that nothing could be easier than I, V7, II, V, I, in C Major, Geoff had actually pitched the guitar notation with barres at Position VIII! By the time the merciful words “Print, that’s wrap” resounded around the Glyndebourne hills, my hand had virtually fallen off. When, months later, and having a good laugh about it, I related all this to Geoff, he said “Oh, you could have played that stuff anywhere you liked, as long as it was in tune! You can hardly hear the music in that scene, anyway.”

Back home, exhausted, nursing my hand, I wrote to Romanillos suggesting - since he had refused payment for the use of the guitar - that he might accept a collection of vinyl records which I would bring him when returning the guitar which, in October, I duly did with great sadness. This was his charming answer:
Romanillos - Letter 2.jpg
My eyes still moisten at the extraordinary act of generosity from a man who, at the time, didn’t know me from Adam! It continues to move and astonish me that José should, just like that, part with the instrument whose label had, through Bream’s hands, become a household name forever printed on the guitar’s world map! Here was a Caesar, when comes such another?
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Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Sep 01, 2018 1:55 pm

Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:04 pm
Would you please provide an outline summarising the principles behind your proposed course
Many thanks for your enquiry. I quite understand that, as an experienced session musician you would have no need for this course. The outline you request requires a rather long answer and I will do my best to reply in the limited time I have at the moment. In any case, we are only two or three “uploads” away from a point where the course’s intentions become clear and self-explanatory but, should your own time in following its progress be limited, I can best summarise as follows:

each section of the course takes as its starting point an aspect of essential music theory and specifically applies it to the guitar’s fingerboard, starting with scales, then intervals and, finally, elementary harmony; you may be interested, for reference, to see the "treatment" given to a particular phrase of Logy in the Thread "Technique and Harmony – anticipation in a new piece" (23rd December 2017) in the CGT forum.

it has always been a cause of amazement to observe just how many guitarists (even fairly advanced ones) are incapable, from a given note, of producing a perfect fourth, or a minor sixth, in different places when, in fact, seeing them on the page should immediately trigger a series of reflexes leading to choices and alternatives.

For about a third of the course, the emphasis is on awareness rather than memory-cramming, although a point will be reached when a note, in three or four (at most!) places, will have to be memorised, albeit always in the students’ own absorption time. Similar procedures will be apllied to various relational aspects between notes, intervals, and chords; also, existing routine studies invariably published in low positions, will be reworked in order to explore the higher positions resulting from newly aquired practices.

Of course, one is aware that innate ability as well as the time devoted to this effort will play their parts. There was in my preface no withholding the fact that this work is no more hedonistic than that required to master trills, arpeggios, or scales, all of which will inevitably respond to the attitude of the student.

Best wishes,
Fretful

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Sun Sep 02, 2018 10:04 am

Fretful wrote:... you would have no need for this course.
No, but possibly for the use of my students.

Thanks for your reply. As I mentioned - I understand the intent, having been aware of a basic lack in (certain areas) of musicianship amongst modern players for far too long. Some of our counterparts from the 18th and 19th centuries undertook to provide a stronger foundation in the area of fingerboard harmony (and therefore aural perception, ceativity etc.) where today emphasis has focused rather heavily on bio-mechanics and recreation.
Fretful wrote:... should your own time in following its progress be limited
I will find the time to run through the presented material at some point - was just looking for a "snapshot" description.

Good story re. Glyndebourne and barring - we all eventually learn where it's possible to side-step (soon find out if the arranger is a stickler) but that very flexibility assumes the knowledge/skills at the heart of the thread.

For those who suggest that Fretful is over-complicating a straightforward task which you have found easy ...
... you are the lucky ones.

It is far from unknown for a post-grad level player to turn up at a local guitar society, give a competent rendition of one their well-learned set pieces and then be completely unable to join in the ensembles due to an inability to read even a single line melody at first sight. Shocking - and I can't think of any other instrument where this would be the norm.

As far as I can ascertain from the (admittedly rather small sample) the worst exponents are from the US, then the UK and then mainland Europe. East European players fare somewhat better whilst the few Japanese students we've seen didn't have a problem. The one Brazilian visitor played one tune absolutely exquisitely ... and foundered at grade 2 level reading.

Having not read through it I don't know if Fretful's approach is valuable or not yet but it's clear that there is room for such a course.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sun Sep 02, 2018 12:16 pm

New uploads for Improve Your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading on CGT:

Those who like scales will be pleased to hear that two more have been uploaded on the Improve Your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading section of the CGT Forum.

Those who don’t like scales will be pleased to hear that they will only take a few minutes of their day (Segovia would have had them doing scales for three hours every day, including weekends!).

There is a fair amount of material this time and quite a lot of “new” ground, so nothing will be added for a week. Some information is there for “interest” only, for those who enjoy exploring “chemistry” as well as “taste”, in the way that some will greatly appreciate a dish just for its own sake, while others will also be interested in the recipe and method, possibly gaining from the related perspectives, both approaches being equally tolerable.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:27 am

Preface to “Pinning the Bass “A” to the Board”:

Work starts in earnest as we begin to tackle one of the aspects which proved so difficult for us all at some point or another: the fact that on the guitar the same note can be found in different places as well as being played, potentially, with different fingers and this – certainly to the beginner, and even the intermediate player – in a seemingly random and irrational fashion.

It is important to discover that notes are where they are for a reason, and as part of well-structured foundations;
so, for instance, with the note that concerns us in this next exercise, think of the Bass “A” at fret V of ⑥ - not as a frustrating and bemusing recurrence of an open string – but as a logical consequence of it being played on the shortened (by five semitones) E string (eventually, you will also perceive that note as being a Perfect Fourth above the open E – [see subsequent section on Intervals yet to be posted]);

in this way, as more and more notes enter the frame, the fingerboard will become an organic ebony loom with the strings as warp and the frets as weft, from which the notes are being weaved, and emerge, interrelating in their melodic and harmonic forms.

In this section, only one note (the bass “A”) is being considered in its two positions: open ➄, and at V on ⑥.

See the new addition in the Classical Guitar Technique Forum] : "Pinning the Bass "A" to the board".

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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:48 am

New upload on "Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique" on the CGT Forum:

the Bass “B” (on ⑤ at II and on ⑥ at VII)

This note should be very easy to memorise because of the knowledge acquired in the previous section in which you memorised the Bass “A”, i.e. you KNOW that the Bass “B” HAS to be two semitones (two frets) above that bass “A”, and this on both the Ⓐ and Ⓔ strings.

Once confident with this newly mentalised note, move on to the given Concerto Theme and the subsequent Cadenza based on it.

See the new addition in the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.

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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Fri Sep 21, 2018 1:04 pm

Preface to Pinning the Bass “C”

There is rather a lot to be absorbed in this upload, but it will provide an opportunity to play some music by Mahler on the guitar … who would have thought?

In our slow escalation of the fingerboard, the bass “C” is going to be, for quite some time, the last note which occurs only twice on the fingerboard: at III on Ⓐ, and at VIII on Ⓔ.

As we get higher up the bass E string to find that bass “C”, you may first want to revisit the SCALES ON THE SIXTH STRING (⑥):
SCALES on E (bass) String.jpg
For those who enjoy parallel thinking, here is an alternative way to perceive notes on guitar strings:

so far, we have adhered to the generally accepted principle that if a string is shortened, the note produced will be higher, but another way of thinking is …
… to think of the string starting at the nut, so if you play a bass “F” on ⑥ at fret I with the first finger, the string between the nut and the finger will be very short – slide the first finger to position III to play a bass “G” and the string has become a little longer (by an extra two frets (two semitones), i.e. by a whole tone. As you continue sliding the finger up the fingerboard, the string – from the nut – gets longer and longer and the note gets higher and higher, so you could say that notes are like kites: the longer the string, the higher the kite … so, as this early stage of absorbing the notes and their significance along each string, you are always relating them to the open string until, eventually, you will “forget” the whole background process and react instinctively and MUSICALLY to the written note; your fingers then, and your hands, will move unconsciously in the way that a singer’s voice-box reacts to a given tune, or in the way that “The Magic Carpet” (in one of the tales in The Thousand and One Nights) will fly only once those who sit on it can do so while knowing but without thinking that it will fly!

As you continue to study the anatomy of the fingerboard and develop your skills, you will find that, as in most acquired skills, they are practiced at their best after the learning methods have been forgotten; as Mr Cameron remarks in Of Human Bondage: “… in anatomy it is better to have learned and lost than never to have learned at all.”

A good exercise, if you have time, is to finger any note, say the “B” on the E string ⑥, and then with your eyes, while keeping your finger on the “B”, work back towards the nut … and think: “A”, “G”, “F”, open “E” … then go up again: “E”, “F”, “G”, “A”, and then: “Bflat”, “A”, “Aflat”, “G”, “Gflat”, “F”, open “E”, etc., … and then: “Asharp”, “A”, “Gsharp”, “G”, “Fsharp”, “F” … “open E” etc.

A minor flavour:

The study of the “C” natural lends itself, paradoxically (or perhaps not so paradoxically), to a first analysis of the minor scale; there is considerable debate as to exactly why the minor mode in Western music produces such a powerful effect on the human psyche and emotions; music written in a minor key is generally regarded as being “sad”; there are many theories; one possibility is that our first experience of music tends to be through nursery songs, a lot of them being in major keys with their predictable intervals and reliable leading notes. When subsequently exposed to the more complex meanderings of minor keys as well as the extra leap of an augmented second before the leading note, we feel destabilised with their irregularities (for instance, in melodic minor scales, the ascending scale is not the same as the descending one), and it is possible that these discrepancies induce a kind of yearning for a more stable platform. Be that as it may, there is no question that such pieces as Mozart’s D minor piano concerto, the Funeral March of Beethoven’s Eroica, or the opening of Mahler’s first symphony could not possibly produce the same effect, had they been written in a major key.

See “Pinning the Bass “C” to the Board on the CGT Forum.
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fast eddie
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by fast eddie » Sat Sep 29, 2018 3:31 am

I am in the process of learning the higher fret notes. Using just brute force memorizing doesn't work for me. But if I am learning a new piece I seem to be able to retain the notes in that piece easier. At the moment I am working on Lagrima, which is giving my brain a workout re the higher notes. But I will have an easier time retaining the notes since there is an 'application' or reason to learn them.
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Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Sep 29, 2018 11:31 am

PINNING THE BASS “D” TO THE BOARD :

The Bass “D” brings us to the first note which can be found three times on the fingerboard: the open string ④, at the fifth fret of ⑤, and at the tenth fret of ⑥;

the little extra work needed to “pin” those three alternatives requires a slightly more persuasive mallet and gives an opportunity to approach the thorny subject of Time Signatures which students often find troublesome;
generally, in music, time is beaten in TWOs, THREEs, and FOURs, although you could argue that it is simpler than that and say that 4/4 is also beaten in “twos” : : > - > - > - > and, as we shall see eventually, 6/8 is in “twos”, 9/8 is in “Threes”, 12/8 is in “Fours” … it feels confusing at first but, for the moment, we’ll keep it simple and use the study of rhythm to help memorise the positions of the title notes (in this case: the three Bass “Ds”).

To sight-read and keep a steady beat simultaneously is something of a contradiction in terms since, at a high level, NO ONE can do this (even the most technically accomplished players, when sight-reading, will occasionally slow down or stop to “decipher” one passage or another, even with scores they have erstwhile performed in public!).

However, it is an area which should be studied in order to help anticipation as much as possible, the aim in learning to sight-read being to acquire the ability to derive a reasonable feel of the structure and musical intentions of a piece.

See “Pin the Bass “Ds” to the Board” on the CGT Forum.

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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Oct 06, 2018 10:50 am

PINNING THE MIDDLE “E” to the board :

The MIDDLE “E” starts the study of the fingerboard’s second octave; it is a good time to reiterate some general learning principles:

1) memorise no more than is necessary but allow repetition, logic, and musicality to let the knowledge be absorbed naturally and in its own time;
2) sing and name the notes as they are being played as often as possible;
3) “mentalize” the notes, the strings they can be played on, as well as their positions, away from the guitar; this mentalisation process is particularly valuable last thing at night just before going to sleep;
4) continue towards mastering the knowledge of the notes along the strings’ length (longitudinal);
5) increase rhythmic awareness.

See “Pinning the Middle “E” to the board on the “Classical Guitar Technique Forum”

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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Simon Green » Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:14 pm

Just want to say thanks so much for creating this series.

I could really do with upping my sight reading chops and have subscribed accordingly.

Thanks,

Simon

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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Oct 13, 2018 11:32 am

PINNING THE MIDDLE “F” to the board :

After an initial “placing” of the Middle “F” (relating each to its respective open string) at fret 3 on ④, 8 on ⑤, and 13 on ⑥ - this session explores the thorny conjunction for all sight-readers of anticipation and the resultant choice of fingerings ahead of time. Amazing Grace - transposed to F Major – is ideally suited to both Positions I and V, but the passage from one to the other (bars 5 and 6 in the piece) is greatly facilitated if the Bass “C” (on ⑤) is played with 4 rather than 3 thus, after the slide, allowing 3 to be free to attack the triplet on ④ (See CGT Forum).
In this instance, the choice of moving across to V is related to sonority and therefore optional, but there are countless scores where the sudden requirement of a top note would be made easier if an opportunity were taken to “move up” somewhat in advance of the top note(s).
Once the tune has been familiarized, players may enjoy reversing the given positions, or using only Position I, or only Position V.

The study of TRIPLETS in 3/4 time is an ideal introduction to the 3/8, 6/8, and 9/8 Time Signatures which is being dealt with in forthcoming episodes.

See “Pinning the Middle “F” to the Board” on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.

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