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5 Essential Classical Guitar Exercises to Tone Your Left Hand

 

5 Classical Guitar Exercises for the Left HandEarlier, we took a look at how to develop your right hand for classical guitar. In this article, guitar teacher Raymond L. will add to the balance by teaching you exercises for the left hand…

The classical guitar repertoire covers more scales and arpeggios than any other technical skill. Therefore, I consider it important for you, as a classical guitar player or student, to focus on these following exercises.

They’re based on scales and arpeggios for the purpose of developing an agile and solid technique for the left-hand. It’s best to tackle these after you’ve established the basics for both hands.

Here are the five exercises for classical guitar that I consider most important for your left-hand technique.


1) Chromatic scales on all strings (descending & ascending)

Chromatic scales are very common on the guitar. Take a look at this example of one:

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 1

You should play the chromatic scale starting on the open sixth string, then finger 1 on the first fret, finger 2 on the second fret, and so on. Repeat this pattern horizontally, descending and ascending, on all of the strings.

Take care not to repeat the “B” on the third string (fourth fret) when you make the move from the third to the second string, or skip the “B” on the third string (finger 4, fourth fret) and play the “B” as an open second string.


2) Variation on the chromatic scales (descending & ascending)

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 2

This variation has the following repetitive pattern using fingers:

1, 2, 3, 4 – 1, 4, 3, 4 – 2, 4, 3, 4 (on all the strings)


3) Diminished arpeggios using fingers 1 and 4 (chromatic/descending & ascending)

In this exercise you just use finger 1 and 4 on each string, starting from string 6 moving down to the next string, and every time taking the following fret of the next string but make sure to jump a fret when moving from string 3 to 2.

Play this exercise also descending and ascending:

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 3


4) Variation on the diminished arpeggios using fingers 1, 2, and 4 (chromatic/descending & ascending)

In this exercise, you start on string 4 with finger 1 on the first fret, and then move finger 4 to the fourth fret on the fourth string, then move down to the next string (string 3) on the second fret with the second finger.

Repeat this same continuous pattern starting from string 2 (first fret & fourth fret) to string 1 (second fret). Then make a descending chromatic move with finger 2 to the third fret.

Fret string 1 and resume with the same pattern but in reverse, until you reach string 4 again (now finger 1 should be on the second fret of string 4).

You always repeat this same finger pattern 1, 4, 2 – 1, 4, 2 – 2, 4, 1 – 2, 4, 1 in a chromatic/descending & ascending order.

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 4


5) Exercise using string 2 and 5 (chromatic/descending & ascending)

This exercise does not imply any specific harmonic characteristics but nevertheless is interesting to the ear and valuable to finger-motor coordination.

Start the exercise using finger 3 on string 5, third fret, and finger 1 on string 2, first fret.

Play them simultaneously, then place finger 2 on string 5, second fret, and finger 4 on string 2, fourth fret – play them simultaneously.

Now play simultaneously finger 1 on string 5, first fret, and finger 3 on third fret, then play simultaneously finger 4 on string 5, fourth fret, and finger 2 on string 2, 2nd fret.

Finally, go to when you started the exercise using finger 3 on string 5, third fret, and finger 1 on string 2, first fret, playing them simultaneously again.

Repeat this pattern chromatically descending and ascending.

5 left hand classical guitar exercises 5


RELATED VIDEO: Classical Guitar Fundamentals

Although I kept the examples short, you could repeat the sequence of each exercise until you reach the 12th fret or any uncomfortable position on the fret-board.

Obviously, there are other valuable left-hand exercises, as the “horizontal” chromatic scale from fret 1 to 12 descending and ascending on each string, the diatonic scale, the pentatonic scale, just to mention a few. These exercises are not discussed in this article, but you can still rely on the five we have shared, which will definitely do the difference.

Enjoy practicing!

Remi LPost Author: Raymond L.
Raymond L. teaches guitar, classical guitar, musical theory, ukulele, and Spanish in Jacksonville, FL. Raymond has been teaching for over 30 years and he specializes in pop, blues, modern, Latin, classical and popular music. Learn more about Raymond.

Photo by Jason Bachman

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5 Pieces Every Classical Guitarist Should Know

5 Pieces Every Classical Guitarist Should KnowWith so much amazing classical guitar music to choose from, how do you decide which pieces are absolutely essential to learn to play? Here, we’ll share our top picks for classical guitar students to study and play.

To study the classical guitar is a great and noble pursuit. Bringing back music that is centuries old is not a easy task, especially when the documentation and the preservation of sound was increasingly difficult the farther you get from the 1900’s. This makes the job of a classical guitarist not only a musician capable of reproducing the music, but also an interpreter, researcher, and philosopher!

In light of this, we have literally thousands of pieces to play, not to mention that we can transcribe and also play the thousands of works which were written for the guitar’s older brother, the lute. So where do you start in deciding which pieces you want to learn?

5 Classical Guitar Pieces Everyone Should Know

This list is comprised of easier pieces that every classical guitarist should know how to play. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced virtuoso, these are pieces which at some point, a classical guitarist needs to have played.

1. Gran Vals by Francisco Tárrega

A beautiful piece written by a Spanish composer, Francisco Tárrega. His works are an absolute for the aspiring classical guitarist. I included this piece because besides being beautiful, it is also known as “the most popular tune” because it was used in a popular Nokia cell phone ringtone.

2. Fantasia No. 10 by Alonso Mudarra

This piece is originally written for the Lute. Composed in the Renaissance, before the invention of the guitar, this piece is very popular among the guitar standard repertoire. It is full of energy and it was a true breakthrough and innovation of its time for its contemporary (for the time) sounding middle section.

3. Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 9 by Fernando Sor


A wonderful piece written by one of the most important composers of the guitar. This piece uses a theme from a section in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, Die Zauberflöte, and develops 5 wonderful variations on it. A great work that every classical guitarist should know.

4. Grand Overture, Op. 61 by Mauro Giuliani

The lesser known, but equally important composer Giuliani has truly spectacular works. From the classical era, his pieces can not be overlooked for the absolute beauty that they bring to the instrument.

5. Asturias (Leyenda) by Isaac Albéniz

This piece was originally written for the piano. However, being that the composer was intentionally trying to emulate the sounds of the guitar, in the end, this piece has become more popularly performed on this instrument. It’s Andalusian sounds paint a wonderful bridge of the true connection that Spain has with the guitar.

5 Pieces Every Classical Guitarist Should Hear

This is a list of pieces which every classical guitarist should listen to. These works are more difficult and require a very advanced skill level on the instrument. However, they are important works for the guitar and you should at least be aware of their existence.

1. Fantasie Hongroise, Op. 65 No. 1 by Johann Kaspar Mertz

An all around great piece which is fun and exciting for any audience to listen to.

2. Chaconne from the Partita for Violin, No. 2 by J.S. Bach

Originally written for the violin, the great virtuoso Andrés Segovia made this piece a well known work in the guitar repertoire and has even fooled audiences into believing this piece was actually written for the guitar.

3. Una Limosna por el Amore de Dios by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

This piece has a wonderful story behind how it was named. Also known as the El Ultimo Trémolo, or the Last Song, it was the last piece composed by one of the most important composers for the guitar, Agustin Barrios who composed over 300 works for the instrument.

4. Invocación y Danza – Homenaje a Manuel de Falla by Joaquin Rodrigo

This work is an amazing piece composed in the 20th century. It shows how far music for the classical guitar has come. Although, it is nearly impossible to play, you should at least listen to it. It is by the same composer who wrote the world famous classical guitar concerto, Concierto de Aranjuez.

5. Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70 (1963) by Benjamin Britten

This piece is from another great 20th century composer. Britten made many works for the guitar and paved a road of sounds for the guitar composers of the present day. The piece was written for the legendary guitarist Julian Bream and is based on the piece Come, Heavy Sleep by the Lute composer from the Renaissance, John Dowland.

Ready to learn to play this beautiful classical guitar music? A qualified and dedicated guitar teacher can help you refine your technique and develop your talent. Find your perfect guitar teacher today!

 

ChristopherS.

Christopher S. teaches guitar and composition in Jamaica Plain, MA. He received his Bachelors degree from Humboldt State University and is currently atttending New England Conservatory for his Master of Music degree. Christopher has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Christopher S. here!

 

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Learning Classical Guitar: Can I Use Tabs or Should I Read Music?

Learning Classical GuitarWhether you’re brand new to guitar, or just new to classical guitar, you might be wondering, “what’s the deal with tabs and sheet music?” Let guitar teacher Raymond L. clear up the fog and put you on the right path to classical guitar success…

To get started, let’s be sure to clearly distinguish standard musical notation from what we call nowadays “tab” notation.

What is Tab?

The name tab, or guitar tab, is derived from tablature, a form of musical notation indicating fingering and frets of fretted stringed instruments such as the guitar.

Tabs have 6 lines which represent the 6 strings of the guitar. It is commonly used in notating rock, pop, folk, ragtime, bluegrass, and blues music and is mostly related to the acoustic and electric guitar.

Tab is not that popular for classical guitar, even though there are some “serious” music pieces transcribed for classical guitar using tabs.

What is Standard Musical Notation?

The standard musical notation for guitar uses staffs of five horizontal parallel lines where symbols are notated to represent musical expressions. In the example below, the top line is standard musical notation, and the bottom is written in tab.

tabs vs sheet music

Should I Learn to Read Standard Notation or Can I Use Classical Guitar Tabs?

To answer the above question you should ask yourself first: Do I want to study classical guitar and start a career, or do I want to play guitar just as an amateur?

Not to learn standard musical notation being a dedicated classical guitar student, who wants to pursue a career in classical guitar performance, is potentially limiting because there is so much more information in standard notation than there is in tab notation.

Even though there is no such a rule that says that it is imperative that an amateur or even a professional must learn standard notation, you, as a serious classical guitar student, will want to access the existing information in order to achieve the utmost technical & musical development contained in standard notation.

There have been various attempts trying to incorporate all this information in a Tab notation but they are generally quite cluttered and difficult to read.

Also the best existing method books used to teach classical guitar are, as of this day, written in standard notation, such as Arenas, Solo Playing Guitar, and Melodic Guitar,  just to mention a few.

Other limitations of “contemporary” tab notation vs standard musical notation are:

  • It doesn’t tell you how long to play the notes, making it hard to recognize or understand the musical piece
  • It doesn’t allow you to choose where to play in order to reach various color-tone nuances
  • It doesn’t support understanding of music theory per example: chords, keys, etc.
  • The options are, as far as classical guitar repertoire is concerned, most limited
  • It doesn’t achieve accuracy compared to standard musical notation

Why would you want to study the classical guitar without learning the literary skills of standard musical notation, which are inherent to it? It is important to study the classical guitar by traditional standard music notation! It might take some effort to learn to read music, but in the long run it’s worth it.

Remi L Raymond L. teaches guitar, classical guitar, musical theory, ukulele, and Spanish in Jacksonville, FL. Raymond has been teaching for over 30 years and he specializes in pop, blues, modern, Latin, classical and popular music. Learn more about Raymond.

 

 

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Learning Classical Guitar: Developing Your Right Hand Technique

classical guitar right hand techniqueLearning classical guitar requires a high level of coordination in both hands. Polish your right hand technique with these tips from guitar teacher Thomas C.

Many classical guitarists run into issues when developing with right hand technique. Common issues such as insufficient accuracy, poor tone, counterproductive tension, or lack of speed may all be countered with patience and knowledge – working towards a more efficient and relaxed movement.

In order to fix any of the above issues, it is important to determine what technical barrier is between you and your goal. Most of these problems will be easy to fix with close attention to detail of the right hand joint movements (knuckle and middle joints), and relaxation.

Positioning the Thumb

For developing thumb (P) technique, it is essential that the guitarist moves from the wrist joint, or joint closest to your wrist. In doing this, you are able to get much more power and volume. The thumb should then follow through to around the middle joint of your index (I) finger.

Many guitarists will make the thumb movement with only the tip joint of the thumb. By using the wrist joint, you are now able to create a much louder, fuller sound and increase speed with continuous motion. The string should come in contact with the spot directly between the flesh of your thumb and the nail to create the best sound.

Positioning the Fingers

The right hand fingers (IMA) should be practiced so that the tip of each respective finger follows through to the palm of your hand. Make sure that your wrist is aligned parallel with your forearm (with a slight, comfortable arch).

Start by preparing I (index), M (middle), and A (ring) on the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st string of the guitar. Start with the I finger, making sure to leave the M and A fingers prepared on the 2nd and 1st strings. The I finger should meet the string, just as the thumb does, simultaneously touching the nail and flesh. Make sure that the I finger is following through to the palm and the sound is not being created by the outwards pulling of the string away from the guitar. Your wrist should not move, as the joints of the fingers are creating the motion.

Repeat the same process for the M and A fingers (with M, I and A should be prepared/when playing A, I and M are prepared. Just as with P and I, the M and A fingers should meet the string right between the nail and flesh. It is good to practice with proper follow through to develop the correct movement, but when playing a piece, especially at higher speeds, the finger will not make contact with the palm. The aim is an efficient, accurate, and relaxed motion.

Remember to practice slowly – developing the correct motion is more important than speed when you’re learning classical guitar, at least at first! Hold out one chord with your left hand and practice playing a P-I-M-A pattern with your right hand. When this becomes easy, try playing P-I-M-A-M-I as a pattern.

For an example of what it looks and sounds like when you’ve mastered this right hand technique, check out Thomas’ video below:

tom clipThomas C. teaches guitar, classical guitar, music theory, and audition prep in Baltimore, MD.  He is studying classical guitar performance at the Peabody Institute of the John Hopkins University, and he also plays guitar in the band Wait For It. Thomas has been teaching for 4 years. Learn more about Thomas here!

 

 

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