Advice on practice…..

By admin • Technique • 12 Jun 2010

As a classical guitarist you often play multiple layers of music simultaneously. Depending on the time period and genre, you can usually divide the music in several layers. It could be the melody and accompaniment in a piece by Tarrega from the romantic repertoire, it could be polyphonic movements from the Renaissance or Baroque, etc.
Piano players are usually good at practicing hands separately, or to separate each musical layer during practicing. Unfortunately, some guitarists do not do this at the same degree. Two reasons could be firstly that the individual layers in a guitarscore can be difficult to seperate and secondly because it always requires two hands to play just one note.

But it can be done …….
Here exemplified by Tarrega’s “Lagrima”

First get an overview of the whole and find a good fingering ….

(click image to enlarge)

The beginner will probably play it all, practicing again and again, the old-fashioned way. It is pretty standard, but unfortunately not always sufficient to achieve a satisfactory result.

The intermediate guitarist knows that it can be an advantage to play the melody alone, but with what fingering …?

and of course with alternating im fingers, and good left-hand work ….
Unfortunately, there is an important thing lost here ….. the melody gets played on a completely different way when the bass and accompaniment are added …. that would look like this …

and this is completely different. If this is the first time you play a melody like this you may realize that you find it difficult to phrase “nicely” with ‘a’ finger alone and with fourth finger alone, but this is the whole point, separating the layers – playing them just like in the whole.
Think of one-note-instruments, they put all their energy in playing beautiful notes one at a time, think long phrases, etc. … something guitarists are not familiar with before a lot of practice.

The same procedure can be implemented with the bass (yes, and of course accompaniment )….


Another good method of differential practicing is to practice the right hand completely separate ….

Here again exemplified by Tarrega “Lagrima”:

(click on image for large version)

In a pure right-handed version it becomes:

It is important to play the melody phrasing, also when playing without a left hand

This is a link to Hilary Hahn (violin virtuoso known) post on her own website, which is about how to practice slowly. I use it myself, and I can highly recommend her advice.

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