HARMONY AS TECHNIQUE
Classical guitar amateur players (beginners and intermediate) are almost invariably deprived of harmonic nutrition. Staple methods, and those who teach them, hardly mention the subject, even though it is essential to the diet of an instrument which is endemically polyphonic and harmonic. There is an excuse for this : conventional harmony does not “sit” easily on the guitar, especially for beginners who are initially subjected to various forms of inversions and will therefore seldom hear, recognise, or play harmonic progressions in root form where their flavour is more easily recognisable and absorbed ; these impediments can be seen, for instance in the following F Major triad which cannot be played in the bass, and has to be jumbled up in various forms of inversions :
In the above, the only possible F Major triad in root position is in the middle octave.
On piano, someone who has never played can, on day one, be shown and even play the triads of an A minor harmonic progression, whilst on guitar, the following simple triadic scales would at first pose insurmountable left-hand stretches and confusion related to insufficient fingerboard notes-recognition :
(the roman numerals below the staves refer to the degrees of the scale ; those above are suggested (easy) fingerboard positions) :
however, as soon as practicable, the rudiments of harmony should be inculcated in a way that will enrich musical comprehension, develop fingerboard knowledge, facilitate sight-reading, and improve memorization ; the psychological approach to such work should be dedicated to working, NOT on pieces, or studies, but on HARMONY and its technical repercussions.
Before anything else, a short tutorial should expose the general principles of harmony through the study of the main cadences as well as the explanation that notes are like magnets and that the closer they are to each other, the more they will attract each other ; observe in the following example how VERY CLOSE the notes of chords Vb and I are, respectively, despite the chords being five degrees apart :
The magnetic aspect of cadences can permeate the mind but also the hand, so that both will become better at anticipation and recognition.
For the application, familiarisation, and memorisation of these principles, consider the following : when first coming across this reasonably simple phrase by Logy :
most amateur guitarists will have little idea of what they are looking at, they will not be aware of the harmonies involved, they will probably not know where a lot of the notes would be in the higher positions of the fingerboard. Even though they may have a teacher, even though they may have gone through a lot of “method books” and studies, they will possibly never have been made aware of the fact that music has a grammar and syntax, that it can be read, understood, and memorised - in the same way that prose can be - through its meaning, context, and subtext. Every method or study book should, running in parallel with the pieces or studies, feature some harmonic analyses which must be considered prior to any attempt at playing any of the pieces. In the past, publishers had the excuse of paper and printing costs but, in the computer age, these are no longer relevant.
Here is the same phrase, annotated with the cadences :
followed by suggested familiarizing technical exercises in the form of harmonic doodles which should be given to students before they are exposed to the actual music :
the main featured harmonies are chords I, Ib, IVb, V ;
The main cadences are VI-V (imperfect) ; V-Ib (perfect) ; IVb-V (imperfect) ;
to familiarise with chord I (tonic) on ⑥⑤④, play the following :
When these have been thoroughly absorbed, move on to the following for Ib (it is assumed that the nature and “flavour” of a first inversion will have been explained by teachers or method books) :
A minor Triad (Ib) First Inversion :
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Last edited by Fretful on Sun Dec 24, 2017 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.