Start learning classical guitar - Improving your thumb & basslines

Start learning classical guitar – Improving your thumb & basslines

A lot of guitarist are mainly focused on their left hand. It’s the hand that’s the most impressive to watch after all. But when playing pickings, your right hand is the real hero. And getting your thumb to play different melody lines than your other fingers is a challenge we all have to go through.

1. Remi Bouchard - Prelude

Remi Bouchard

About the piece

Keeping a bassline going in time while your other fingers play a melody over it, is the cornerstone of so many great guitar pickings, blues pickings, classical pieces and fingerstyle arrangements.

This is a great piece to start with since the bassline is simple and the melody doesn’t have complex timing.

Background info on composer

Rémi Bouchard, born on March 15, 1936 in Laurier, Manitoba, began his musical education with the “Presentation of Mary” nuns. After studying with Gerald Death in Neepawa, he undertook more advanced studies with Phyllis Holtby (piano) and A. A. Zimmerman (theory), in Winnipeg. In 1956 he began teaching piano in Neepawa where he still resides. In 1960 he received a piano teacher’s diploma from the University of Manitoba.

Remi Bouchard is a composer entirely self-taught, Bouchard is strongly influenced by French and English composers. The core of his work has always been a concern for, and commitment to, his environment. Variously described by critics as “melodically appealing,” “modestly scaled,” and “very tonal and spiritual,” his compositions reflect a continuous effort to express his impressions of his prairie homeland, deep in the centre of North America.

Bouchard’s compositions have been performed by learners and professionals all over the continent in festivals and recitals. His compositions are also included in the piano Syllabi of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Conservatory Canada and the Canadian National Conservatory. In November 1988 the prestigious U.S. magazine Clavier, commissioned two piano pieces for their journal.

Since 1990, Bouchard has continued to be published by several different publishers, the most recent one being Russell Publishing, a local firm (the owner probably being the youngest in Manitoba if not Canada). His body of 550 works is written mostly for piano students at all levels. He was an adjudicator during the 1990’s for the Associated Manitoba Arts Festivals and gave workshops of his music across Canada during the 1990’s and up to the present time.

In 1998, the Manitoba Heritage Federation, Inc., recognized his work with a Heritage Publication Award. Conservatory Canada and the Canadian National Conservatory of Music honored him with a Licentiate in Pedagogy in 1999 and 2003 respectively. Recently in 2007, the local Rotary Club of Neepawa awarded him the Paul Harris Fellowship in recognition of his accomplishments.

He is a member of the Manitoba Registered Music Teachers’ Association, the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’, SOCAN and has been an Associate Composer of The Canadian Music Centre since 1989.

2. Claude Gagnon - Pour Endormir Nadine (Cradle Song for Nadine)

Claude Gagnon

About the piece

Just like the last piece, it’s all about keeping the bassline going at a steady pace, while the melody rings out clearly. Just like the last piece, it’s all about keeping the bassline going at a steady pace, while the melody rings out clearly.

Background info on composer

Claude Gagnon, presently classic guitar teacher at the Sainte-Foy College (Quebec), performs regularly as a member of various ensembles and as an accompanist for voice and violin. He is interested in Renaissance and Baroque music and occasionally collaborates in projects where he plays cittern with singers and instrumentalists playing lute, viola da gamba and recorder. He is also founder of the Ensemble Arabesque which brings together violin, guitar and cello and offers programmes of original compositions and arrangements of classical traditional and popular works. As a composer, his works include Alice aux pays des merveilles for three guitars, Hello Cello for cello and guitar, Douze préludes en forme d’études for solo guitar as well as Kamendja for two guitars. Claude Gagnon has published twenty volumes of music for guitar with Productions d’OZ and Éditions Doberman-Yppan. He has also taken part in several recordings as instrumentalist or as producer for the Atma and Analekta labels.

3. Nikita Koshkin - Elephant

Nikita Koshkin

About the piece

Usually your thumb plays the bassline and your fingers are responsible for the melody of the piece.

In the piece this is turned upside down. The bassline is the melody, while your other fingers provide the rythm section. This makes this piece very counter intuitive and great practise to get your thumb to the next level!

Background info on composer

Nikita Arnoldovich Koshkin (Никита Кошкин) is a classical guitarist-composer born in Moscow USSR.

His early influences included Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, as well as rock music. Koshkin first came to prominence with his suite The Prince’s Toys, completed in 1980 and first performed by the Czech-born guitarist Vladimir Mikulka.

Koshkin’s best-known guitar work is Usher-Waltz a piece inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher, written for the guitarist Vladislav Blaha. It was made famous by John Williams’ performance in the Seville Concert CD in 1993. Other famous performers of Koshkin’s work include the Assad Duo and the Zagreb and Amsterdam Trios. His other important works include the set of variations The Porcelain Tower and the Andante quasi Passacaglia e Toccata: The Fall of Birds (1978).

Besides writing works for solo guitar, Koshkin has composed guitar-ensemble music as well; in addition to numerous pieces for guitar duo, he has written two works for guitar quartet, Changing the Guard (1994) and Suite for Four Guitars (composed for the Georgia Guitar Quartet, 2007).

4. Simone Ianneralli - Dans la Brughiere

simone iannarelli

About the piece

This is another piece where the bassline is also the melody. Usually the bassline is repetitive while the melody varies. Not in this one.

Background info on composer

Simone Iannarelli was born in Rome in 1970. He studied classical guitar with Massimo Delle Cese. He graduated from the Conservatory A.Casella in L’Aquila, receiving his final diploma with highest honors. Afterwards, he moved to Paris in order to study with the composer, arranger, and guitarist Roland Dyens for two years, later enrolling at the Conservatoire de La Courneuve (Paris) where he studied orchestration with Guillaume Cornesson. Simone Iannarelli is one of the best guitarist-composer of his generation, highly recognized by critics and musicians alike. Carlo Domeniconi (Classical Guitar Magazine) describes his Trois Préludes as “.beautiful music which brings new colors and new aspects to the guitar.” His works are published by Les Productions d’Oz, Sinfonica, Berben and Carish and are performed worldwide by internationally recognized players, and broadcasted on BBC, Radio Vaticana, Radio-Canada and Bayerische Radio . He has given recitals through France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Mexico. Recently he released a CD Rue De La Folie Regnault, featuring pieces composed and played by him (Guitart Label). In September 2005 he was awarded the Chitarra d’oro for the composition by the Presidency of the International Guitar Competition Città di Alessandria. Simone Iannarelli is currently professor of classical guitar at the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Colima (Mexico).

5. Miroslav Loncar - Moderate in Em

Miroslav Loncar

About the piece

Again, the bassline carries the song. This one is in 3/4 however. It’s a tempo most beginners need to get used to at first.

But once you do, a whole new world opens up for you.

Background info on composer

Dr. Miroslav Lončar (pronounced Lonchar) – teacher, performing artist, and composer for guitar – is a native of Croatia living in Sterling, Virginia where he teaches guitar classes at Park View High School. Dr. Lončar directs the Loudoun Youth Guitars and is the president of the Aguado Guitar Concerts – a group of guitar enthusiasts that promotes classical guitar and provides a variety of performance opportunities for guitarists in Loudoun County. Dr. Lončar has served on the Guitar Foundation of America Education Committee and is a member of the Association of Croatian American Professionals.

Dr. Lončar started his music education in his native Croatia and went on to study in Austria, where he received his master’s degree, and later in the United States, where he earned his doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Lončar has taught classical guitar, music history, music theory, music appreciation, and German, and during the twenty years of teaching has worked with students at all levels, from primary to university. Prior to joining the music department at Park View High School, he taught at the University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey University, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, and Sacred Heart Elementary School. Twenty years ago, Dr. Lončar began conducting the Karlovac International Summer Guitar School and the Imotski Summer Guitar School in Croatia, where young guitarists and world-class teachers meet every summer for classes, concerts, and other fun activities. A number of students who attended the Karlovac International Summer Guitar School have gone on to study guitar at prestigious universities. Most of them are now successful performers and teachers.

In addition to teaching, Miroslav Lončar has been performing on classical guitar throughout Europe and the United States, mosty in the Klasinc&Lončar Guitar Duo with his wife, and recently with the Lončar Trio that includes their daughter Maya, and with the NOVA Guitar Quartet. Lončar has appeared as solo artist with the Dubrovnik Festival Orchestra, the Graz Philharmonics, the Mississippi Symphony, the Meridian Symphony, the Gulf Coast Symphony, the Symphony of West Florida, the Loudoun Symphony and other orchestras. He has recorded several albums; solo, with the Klasinc&Lončar Duo, Trio Bolero, the calypso group Kaiso, and others.

Since his earliest teaching days, Miroslav Lončar has been writing educational and performance compositions for all levels, from easy to artist. More than twenty books of his original compositions have been published by Les Productions d’Oz and Clear Note Publications. Dr. Lončar is also an active promoter of classical guitar, having organized numerous guitar concerts, concert series, master classes, competitions, and festivals.

6. Dionisio Aguado - Study in A minor

Dionisio Aguado

About the piece

In this piece the bassline also carries the melody. There is a little more going on with the other fingers as in previous pieces however.

The challenge is letting every bassnote ring through clearly even while changing chords.

Background info on composer

Born in Madrid, this Spanish Maestro surname is derived from the spanish word for “soaked” : this was a nickname an ancient relative, a knight, acquired after returning from a battle caked in mud! Dionisio Aguado was taught by Miguel Garcia. At this time tablature was still the notation of choice for guitarists in Spain. Frederico Moretti began employing 5-line staff notation, distinguishing different parts through the use of note stems and rests. Along with others, such as Fernando Sor also a Spaniard, Aguado switched to this new guitar notation. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic french invasions of Spain (1808), Aguado continued to perfect and develop his technique while working as a guitar teacher in the village of Fuenlabrada. A “Coleccion de estudios para guitarra” was published in 1820, and five years later his guitar tutor “Escuela de Guitarra” appeared, both in Madrid. In this tutor Aguado describes the use of fingernails on the hand used for striking the strings, as well as an invention of his own creation – the tripodion – a device which held the base of the guitar and thus limited the dampening effect of the player’s body touching the instrument. In 1824 his mother died, and a year later Aguado left for Paris. In the French capital Aguado built a reputation as as an excellent performer and teacher, his guitar tutor, now revised, was translated by Francois de Fossa into French (Methode complete pour la guitare) and printed in 1826. Dionisio Aguado was friendly with Fernando Sor, and the latter commememorated the friendship in his work for guitar duet Les Deux Amis (“The Two Friends”), with one part marked Sor and the other Aguado. Their technique differed with Sor preferring not to use his fingernails.

6. Henrik Rung - Tyroliene in C

Henrik Rung

About the piece

Another simple piece in 3/4 that relies heavily on the bassline

Background info on composer

Henrik Rung (March 30, 1807 – December 12, 1871) was a Danish composer. He was born in Copenhagen. Rung received training with the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen. He received a travel grant to study in Germany, Italy and Paris (1837-1840). In 1842, Rung became a singing master and held a lifelong position as a director of the opera at the Royal Danish Theatre.

In 1841 he married Pauline Charlotte Frederikke Lichtenstein. His son Frederik Rung (1854-1914) was also a composer and his daughter Sophie Keller (1850–1929) was an opera singer at the Royal Danish Theatre.

Frederik Rung (June 14, 1854 – January 22, 1914) was a Danish conductor and composer. He was the son of composer Henrik Rung (1807-1871). His son P. S. Rung-Keller (1879-1966) was also an organist and composer.

He studied 1867-70 at the Royal Danish Academy of Music under Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann and Niels Gade. from 1881 to 1893, he was a piano teacher at the Conservatory of Music. In 1877, he became conductor of the special Madrigal choir at the Cecilia Association (Caeciliaforening) of Copenhagen. From 1884 until his death in 1914, he was a conductor of the Royal Danish Orchestra.

6. Ferdinando Carulli - Opus 241 No 5

Ferdinando Carulli

About the piece

This key to this piece is the cooperation between your thumb and index finger. The alternating pattern between the two creates the bassline.

A great piece to get used to the fact that a bassline isn’t stricly played with only your thumb.

Background info on composer

Ferdinando Maria Meinrado Francesco Pascale Rosario Carulli (9 February 1770 – 17 February 1841) was an Italian composer for classical guitar and the author of the influential Méthode complète pour guitare ou lyre, op. 27 (1810), which contains music still used by student guitarists today. He wrote a variety of works for classical guitar, including numerous solo and chamber works and several concertos. He was an extremely prolific writer, composing over 400 works for the instrument.

Carulli was among the most prolific composers of his time. He wrote more than four hundred works for the guitar, and countless others for various instrumental combinations, always including the guitar. His most influential work, the “Method, op. 27”, published in 1810, contains pieces still widely used today in training students of the classical guitar. Along with numerous works for two guitars, works for guitar with violin or flute, and three concertos for guitar with chamber orchestra, Carulli also composed several works for guitar and piano (in collaboration with his son, Gustavo).

Many of the pieces now regarded as Carulli’s finest were initially turned down by publishers who considered them too difficult for the average recreational guitarist. It is likely that many of his best works remained unpublished and are now lost. Nevertheless, several of Carulli’s published works point at the likely quality and sophistication of his concert music, the Six Andantes Op. 320 (dedicated to the guitarist Matteo Carcassi) being a good example. The great majority of Carulli’s surviving works, however, were those considered marketable enough by mainstream Parisian publishers aiming at an amateur recreational market.

In addition to his highly successful Methode Op. 27 (which went through four editions during his lifetime and a major revision, as Op. 241), Carulli also published several supplements to the method, along with a method without explanatory text (L’Anti Methode Op. 272), a method for the decacorde, a harmony treatise, a treatise dealing with guitar accompaniment of the voice, and several collections of vocalises and solfèges. The latter studies were intended to exploit the guitar’s accompanying capabilities, and to be used by both singer-guitarists amateurs, and voice teachers who were not proficient figured bass readers.[3]

Classical guitarists have recorded many of his works. Arguably his most famous work is a duet for guitar and flute, which was recorded by Alexander Lagoya and Jean-Pierre Rampal, although his Duo in G Op.34 achieved a measure of indirect fame in Britain as the theme tune of cult 1980s science fiction/television game show The Adventure Game. The Duo in G has been recorded several times, most famously by Julian Bream and John Williams.

6. Fernando Sor - Opus 35 no 13

Fernando Sor

About the piece

Just like the last piece the cooperation between thumb and index finger is key.

There are also some nice transitions that only sound good if you get the bassnotes to ring out perfectly clear.

Background info on composer

Fernando Sor, also called (Spanish) José Fernando Macarurio Sors, (Catalan) Josep Ferran Sorts i Muntades, or (English) Joseph Fernando Macari Sors, (baptized February 14, 1778, Barcelona, Spain—died July 10, 1839, Paris, France), Catalan Romantic performer, composer, and teacher of guitar known for being among the first to play the guitar as a classical concert instrument and for writing one of the earliest books of guitar-playing methodology. He was a noted guitar virtuoso.

When he was a young boy, Sor was introduced both to Italian opera and to the guitar, the latter then considered distinctly plebeian and inferior to orchestral instruments. He attended the Escolania de Montserrat, the choir school at Montserrat monastery, and, when he was 18 years old, attended military school in Barcelona for four years. In 1797 he staged his first opera, Il Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (“Telemachus on the Island of Calypso”). As a result of that work, he moved in 1798 to Madrid, where he was supported by the duchess of Alba until her death in 1802. When Napoleon and the French army invaded Spain in 1808, Sor first supported the Spanish side. He then switched allegiances when Spain was defeated and took a post with the new French government. When Napoleon was subsequently defeated in 1813, Sor left Spain for France and remained in exile for the rest of his life.

Sor taught and performed on the guitar while living in Paris. In 1815 he moved to London, where he stayed until 1823. While there he wrote music prolifically. He published 33 Italian ariettas for voice and piano (11 publications with three pieces of music each) and had four ballets produced there, notably his Cendrillon (Cinderella), which was staged in Paris in 1822 and, after a successful run, went to the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Sor traveled to Moscow to oversee the production and returned to Paris about 1826. In 1830 Sor published Méthode pour la guitar (Method for the Spanish Guitar, translated into English 1832), a book of 30 studies for guitar that is still considered, in the early 21st century, to be a major contribution to classical guitar studies. For the remainder of his life, Sor was highly sought after as a teacher and a performer throughout Paris.

After his death Sor’s compositions fell into obscurity, as did the classical guitar, until the instrument and Sor’s repertory were revived in the 20th century by Spanish guitarist and composer Andrés Segovia. Very little was known about Sor’s life (his grave was unmarked until 1934) until the release of the Brian Jeffery’s biography, Fernando Sor: Composer and Guitarist, in 1977. Although Sor composed hundreds of works—including operas and ballets and pieces for voice, guitar, piano, and other instruments—he is chiefly remembered as a composer and performer of music for the guitar and as the person responsible for granting that instrument respectability. Grand Sonata in C Major, Op. 22 (written by 1808) and Introduction, Theme and Variations on a Theme from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Op. 9, for guitar (c. 1820–23), are among his best-known works.

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