Where's the Melody????

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Rognvald
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Where's the Melody????

Post by Rognvald » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:31 pm

Among serious musicians today, there are only a few instruments which have the ability to play both the melody and the harmonic accompaniment: piano, harp, and classical guitar and its family(please don't mention the accordion). And, in our contemporary pedagogy of Classical guitar instruction, there is a decided failure, in my opinion, to teach beginning students how to read a piece of music. I have witnessed this at all levels of performance but remarkably, there are "advanced players" as well who, sadly, cannot see the forest from the trees. I believe this is a result of a mechanistic instruction of the CG where teachers seek to create workmen rather than musicians. Since much of my earlier music instruction and performance was as a saxophonist/flutist in R and B, Soul and Jazz based groups, I learned from an early age the importance of melody as the primary communication of the song. The melody is why we remember certain pieces and quickly forget others. And if we cannot communicate the melody, we have failed to communicate the music. How many beginning CG students when they are taught Tarrega's "Adelita," "Lagrima," or "Marieta" or some of the basic chordal pieces of Bach or even the anonymous "Romanza" are completely clueless about the melody and fail, even on a basic level, to stress the melodic line? I really don't see this among Classical pianists or harpists and never see it among Jazz players. However, to me, it is ubiquitous among Classical guitar players. When we look at a new piece of music, shouldn't the first thing we do before working out the gymnastics is to ask: Where's the melody? What do you think? Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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lagartija
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by lagartija » Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:41 pm

Few are the people I have met who play classical guitar who don’t know melody from accompaniment after their first six months of instruction. However, that does not mean they have the control of their right hand well enough to bring the melody out properly.
That skill takes time and careful listening to what you are producing. I have known many players who lack that control...or have not recorded themselves and truly know what is coming out of their instrument rather than what they hear in their head.
A good teacher figures out which problem the student has and gives the appropriate instructions to fix it. Not everyone has a good teacher, unfortunately.
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Kenbobpdx
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Kenbobpdx » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:26 pm

I don't think it is ubiquitous but it is difficult on the guitar. As lagartija states this skill requires a lot of attention to right hand technique for it be done well. It also requires more study of a piece to understand where the music is going before reading through it on the instrument.

Learning to isolate and bring out the melody was a huge part of my early training. I regularly had to play only the melody line and shape it when I was learning a new piece before working on the accompanying notes. Added to that was an emphasis on balancing voices within a piece or when playing chords. Fortunately I had a teacher that was phenomenal at doing that, expecting that from me, and teaching me to do it.

One discussion that has been had here is the rest stroke vs. free stroke debate. I frequently had to use rest strokes to bring out the melody whenever technically possible. The maxim was to overemphasize the melody when learning apiece and then back off to balance everything out musically. Now it seems the rest stroke is not always emphasized but I am a long time removed from the pedagogy of teaching guitar. I would be interested to hear the teachers on the forum weigh in on what they see.
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Rognvald
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Rognvald » Thu Dec 21, 2017 12:20 am

One discussion that has been had here is the rest stroke vs. free stroke debate. I frequently had to use rest strokes to bring out the melody whenever technically possible. The maxim was to overemphasize the melody when learning apiece and then back off to balance everything out musically. Now it seems the rest stroke is not always emphasized but I am a long time removed from the pedagogy of teaching guitar. I would be interested to hear the teachers on the forum weigh in on what they see. Kenbopdx


Ken,
This has been one of my pet peeves for quite some time: the relative(yes, of course, everything is relative)disappearance of the rest stroke. How could one possibly ignore its important usage when it approximates the emphasis of a melody sung by the human voice. How can a melody truly be developed from the chicken scratch on the page? We must make it human and the easiest way to do that is to sing the melody until you truly understand the composer's vision. From your description above, by the way, you had a very good teacher when you began your journey. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Ramon Amira » Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:31 am

Rognvald wrote:
Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:31 pm
Among serious musicians today, there are only a few instruments which have the ability to play both the melody and the harmonic accompaniment: piano, harp, and classical guitar and its family(please don't mention the accordion). Playing again . . . Rognvald
Just out of curiosity, why not mention the accordion? Just within the past few months I have posted videos of classical accordion players playing Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart . . . and playing it damn well. These were played on the Bayan - an accordion with buttons instead of keys. I have since seen videos of Bayan players playing the music of just about every major composer you can name. Obviously they are playing both melody and harmony.

Ramon
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Rognvald
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Rognvald » Thu Dec 21, 2017 6:33 pm

Ramon Amira wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:31 am
Rognvald wrote:
Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:31 pm
Among serious musicians today, there are only a few instruments which have the ability to play both the melody and the harmonic accompaniment: piano, harp, and classical guitar and its family(please don't mention the accordion). Playing again . . . Rognvald
Just out of curiosity, why not mention the accordion? Just within the past few months I have posted videos of classical accordion players playing Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart . . . and playing it damn well. These were played on the Bayan - an accordion with buttons instead of keys. I have since seen videos of Bayan players playing the music of just about every major composer you can name. Obviously they are playing both melody and harmony.

Ramon
Ramon,
Estamos en la misma pagina! However, a little humor should not be out of order especially since I grew up in Chicago with hordes of horrible German and Polish accordion players on the scene. However, here's El Gran Dominguinhus y Yamandu Costa. I would rather hear this than classical accordion. Hope you enjoy . . . Playing again . . . Rognvald
https://youtu.be/oABR-Esc8zI
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Kenbobpdx
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Kenbobpdx » Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:51 pm

This has been one of my pet peeves for quite some time: the relative(yes, of course, everything is relative)disappearance of the rest stroke. How could one possibly ignore its important usage when it approximates the emphasis of a melody sung by the human voice. How can a melody truly be developed from the chicken scratch on the page? We must make it human and the easiest way to do that is to sing the melody until you truly understand the composer's vision. From your description above, by the way, you had a very good teacher when you began your journey. Playing again . . . Rognvald
My teacher of old asked me to sing the melody once. Only once. It did not work out so well as I have a horrible singing voice. I happen to agree with you that singing the melody is a good idea, in general. But some of us just shouldn't:-)

I tell friends that I play classical guitar because I can't sing. I have to try to make the guitar sing for me instead.
"If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."
Abraham Lincoln

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ameriken
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by ameriken » Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:56 pm

Kenbobpdx wrote:
Thu Dec 21, 2017 11:51 pm

I tell friends that I play classical guitar because I can't sing. I have to try to make the guitar sing for me instead.
Perfect, that's my excuse too. :)
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Rognvald
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Rognvald » Fri Dec 22, 2017 3:30 am

I think Ameriken's and Ken's honesty probably represents many of us on this forum. And, I sense a little tongue in cheek in their responses. However, the advantage of singing a melody, even poorly, is that it will tell you where to breathe naturally, where to pause, where to sing softly or loudly, etc, which are things you can't do by simply playing the melody. I was thinking about this earlier today when finishing the excellent book "Wagner on Conducting"--written by Wagner and the problems he had with the Kappelmeisters in Germany playing his music faithfully and remembering my early first attempts of "Lagrima" and trying to clearly pronounce the melody for maximum effect. However, in bars 6 and 7, section A, the melody gets temporarily lost in the broken chords before finally resolving to E major in bar 8 which resumes the clear melodic line. However, I've yet to hear a performance by any guitarist that accomplishes a clear rendering of the melody(without getting lost-so to speak) in these bars. And, the effect is even more pronounced when you sing the melody without the harmonic complement. I've often wondered if this was poor writing by Tarrega or a temporary respite from the clear melodic line for artistic effect. I have used this method in dissecting every piece of music I've played and it gives the interpreter a vision that , when done faithfully, approximates the intent of the composer. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

rajesh_3615
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by rajesh_3615 » Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:49 pm

Hi everyone !!
I am a self taught beginner learner. I want to know how to practice balancing, so I can differentiate between melody and harmony.

Please help

JohnB
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by JohnB » Sat Dec 23, 2017 5:12 pm

rajesh_3615 wrote:
Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:49 pm
I am a self taught beginner learner. I want to know how to practice balancing, so I can differentiate between melody and harmony.
Sorry if this seems not to address your perfectly valid question, but one of the most important things is to learn to listen to your playing. This is by no means something that comes naturally to most of us - whilst busy practising and playing, our attention is often on the mechanics and what we "hear" is an amalgam of the music in our heads (what we are trying to achieve) and the actual sounds we are producing (sometimes with the emphasis on the "music in our heads").

Listening, and actually hearing the reality of what we are playing takes practice, and even perhaps, a certain objectivity (i.e. not getting totally emotionally lost in the music). "A certain objectivity" might seem an odd approach but I once read that the great cellist Rostropovich said to his students "Play with heart of fire and a head of ice" - that just about sums up what I mean.
Hermanos Conde 1968, Stephen Frith 2007 "Guijoso", Christopher Dean 2018, Ana Maria Espinosa 2014

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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by hpaulj » Sat Dec 23, 2017 6:02 pm

How do accordionists bring out the melody. Or for that matter organ players? They can't control the volume of individual notes, can they?

As a self taught beginner the melody is quite important. I have most success on classic studies, such as by Sor, where the melody stands out in my mind. Most of the instructional material I have used emphasize playing and recognizing the melody, and with that the voice leading.

That said, the mechanics of a coordinating my fingers and mind to handle all the notes of a measure often swamps my efforts to play a melody. Sometimes I'll approach the task half way, playing the melody and bass line, leaving out the middle voice. Even if the middle voice is just an open G, it's hard to play it soft enough.

Rognvald
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Rognvald » Sat Dec 23, 2017 6:41 pm

How do accordionists bring out the melody. Or for that matter organ players? They can't control the volume of individual notes, can they?
hpaulj
Hi, Paul,
Accordionists increase volume with pressure from the bellows and organists have an expression pedal. However, dynamics cannot be controlled by the keyboard which is neutral. I hope this helps. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Karen
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Karen » Sat Dec 23, 2017 6:55 pm

I am being taught to use rest stroke to bring out the melody, free strokes for harmony. This approach helps bring about the melody line even though I am not yet ready to worry about volume control. There are only so many things one can think of at one time and as a beginner it can be a little overwhelming. Another reason for a teacher, I suppose, to help the student not to bite off more than can be chewed :)

Kenbobpdx
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Re: Where's the Melody????

Post by Kenbobpdx » Sat Dec 23, 2017 7:34 pm

rajesh_3615 wrote:
Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:49 pm
Hi everyone !!
I am a self taught beginner learner. I want to know how to practice balancing, so I can differentiate between melody and harmony.

Please help
One way to practice balancing notes within a chord is to choose a 4 note chord. An A chord at the second fret is a good choice for this exercise. Then practice bringing each note of the chord out more than the other notes. First the C#, then the A, then the E, then the lower A. You do this by consciously emphasizing the finger on that note. Practice this with various 4 note chords up and down the fretboard.

The challenge is to not split the notes but to play the chord as one. You can practice doing a light arpeggio to start the emphasis on the note but the idea is to balance all of the notes in the chord simultaneously but still bring out the note you wish to bring out.

Just remember that the the line that needs to sing may not always be on the top. The guitar can be a polyphonic instrument with multiple voices but the player has to be able to bring them out. It really does land on the right hand to do that.
"If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."
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