learn about music,
learn to play the guitar
The three Mixed Classical volumes contain a collection of 48 short pieces in a variety of styles, and dating from a number of historical periods. In selecting these pieces, every effort was made to provide for as wide an exposure to Classical music as possible. Many of these pieces are actually excerpts from longer musical compositions. Most of these pieces are reasonably simple, or contain at least one part that is reasonably simple, thus making these three volumes of music quite suitable for beginners. Many of the tempos have been deliberately slowed to increase the accessibility of this music. A handful of pieces are nevertheless fairly challenging, however, and an even greater number contain at least one part that is fairly challenging. This will assure that these three volumes also contain an appreciable amount of material for more experienced players.
Thirty two of these selections, fully two thirds of the collection, were composed for the piano. Fourteen are choral works, and the other two are of orchestral origin. Twelve are duets, all but two of which were written by Bach. Many of the Bach duets were included in a collection of short learning pieces he composed for his wife ("The Anna Magdalena Note Book"). Nine of the selections contained in the Mixed Classical collection are given in three part arrangements. Four of these trios were written by Schumann, and were included in a collection of short learning pieces he composed for his children ("Album For The Young"). The remaining twenty seven selections contained in the Mixed Classical collection are all given in four part arrangements.
The selections are not presented in order of difficulty, either within each of the three volumes, or from one volume to the next. Neither should it be inferred that the duets are easier to play, since there are fewer parts in the arrangement. On the contrary, some of the duets are quite challenging, while some of the four part arrangements are quite simple. The organizational plan for the three volumes is based on the number of parts in the arrangements, and is the same for each volume. In each of the three volumes, the order of presentation of the selections, expressed in terms of the number of parts in the arrangements, is as follows : 2 - 3 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 4 - 4 - 4.
Apart from transcribing from staff to visualinear tablature, very little needed to be done by way of arranging these pieces for guitar ensemble, especially the choral pieces. In some instances, the original score called for the simultaneous sounding of a greater number of notes than the number of parts in the arrangement, which obviously forced the omission of judiciously selected notes. In a very few instances, which will be duly noted, new material was added. Most of these pieces are in one of the eight best keys for guitar music. These are preferred keys because of the pitches of the guitar's open notes, and because music in these keys can be accompanied by the simplest and commonest chords of which the instrument is capable. The eight best keys are G Major, A Major,
C Major, D Major, E Major, a minor, d minor, and e minor. In many cases, pieces contained in the Mixed Classical collection were transposed from the original key into one of these keys. In some cases, pieces were transposed from one of these keys to another, typically in order to make the piece easier to play. Five of the seven pieces that are not in one of the eight best keys for guitar music are contained in the third volume.
Volume I begins with "Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring", a familiar theme which Bach developed in a number of his compositions. It is given here in a simple duet arrangement in which the two parts differ considerably in degree of difficulty. This piece, which gives the impression of perpetual motion, demonstrates that rhythmic variety and rhythmic complexity are not essential to the creation of a beautiful and musically successful melody. Schumann's "A Little Piece" is a companion work to "Humming Song", one of the repertoire selections in Melody Guitar. The upper and lower parts again sound a duet throughout, while the interior part consists almost entirely of syncopated notes. In "Prelude #4 in e minor",
Chopin sets a beautiful and slow-paced melody to a descending chromatic chordal accompaniment. This piece should be played in fingerstyle, and vibrato should be used for the sustained notes in the melody. The choral arrangement given here for "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God", a hymn by Martin Luther, was accompanied by an orchestra in the original Bach score. Note the dramatic effect of the final cadence, in which all four parts sound a unison in octaves.
"Allegro" by Mozart is a bouncy duet, full of damped notes, in which the upper part is again far more challenging than the lower. The relatively few passages in this piece that do not contain damped notes should be played in as legato a manner as possible. Because the music for "A Short Study" by Schumann has been notated in an unusual fashion, this is an excellent study piece for developing skill at counting out rhythms for music in 6. With the sole exception of the final measure, the lowest-pitched part sounds notes on the first and second beats of every measure, the highest-pitched part sounds notes on the fourth and fifth beats of every measure, and the interior part sounds notes on the third and sixth beats of every measure. "Sarabande" is a stately-sounding piece in which Handel expresses a very solemn mood with very simple music. Notice the brief duet, between the melody and bass parts, preceding the final cadence. "I Know A Young Maiden" by DiLasso, one of the loveliest and most challenging pieces in the entire Mixed Classical collection, is a Renaissance choral piece that lends itself very well to the guitar ensemble format.
"Hymn" is a Bach duet between two equally weighted parts. Since the range of this piece is confined to the guitar's lower and middle registers, this music has a very solid feel to it when it is played by guitars. "Soldier's March" by Schumann, on the other hand, makes extensive use of the guitar's upper register. To achieve the full effect of this music, the high-pitched stacatto notes need to be played very crisply. The guitar's lower register is again used to good advantage in Beethoven's "Menuetto". This piece features twin bass lines, which rumble about beneath a duet in the two upper parts, and which give the music a very thick texture. "Ecossaise" by Schubert is an interesting and energetic piece which is especially well suited to the sound of guitars. There was a slight problem with this piece, however, in that Schubert's eight-measure score was too short even for this collection of short study pieces. With apologies to Herr Schubert, I remedied the problem by composing a second section of equal length and in a related Major key.
Bach's "Minuet in G" is a reasonably well known piece which was even fashioned into a hit popular song in the 1970s. It is given here in a duet arrangement for which a few of the notes in the original score had to be omitted, and in which the melody part is again far more challenging than the bass line. "Ecossaise in G Major" by Beethoven has a very Classical-period feel about it, and it is again confined to the guitar's lower and middle registers, thus giving this music a very assertive quality in the guitar ensemble format. Notice that, despite its brevity, this piece is divided into several distinct sections distinguished by different patterns of rhythmic interaction among the parts. "Prelude #20 in c# minor" is a dirge-like piece (a dirge is a funeral song) in which Chopin demonstrates the tremendous emotive potential of music in a minor key. "Sing Me A Song" by Vecchi is a delightful Madrigal style choral piece for which the repeating phrase structure suggests a responsorial style of performance. In a responsorial performance, each phrase would be stated by the main body of the ensemble, and then echoed by a smaller group of players, or even by a quartet of players. The third and final phrase could be divided into sub-phrases in order to further develop this alternating pattern, and the order of alternation could be reversed the second time through the score. For an even more dramatic effect, the smaller group of players could be placed elsewhere in the room.
- Click here to return to the top of this page