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.
My next article will continue with the second half of Lagrima.
Classical and Flamenco guitar lessons via Skype worldwide - Classical and Flamenco guitars from Spain