Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
Kevin Cowen

Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Kevin Cowen » Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:20 pm

There are 96 " notes"
Wow.
I thought there was only seven.
This place really is an education.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:17 am

PINNING THE MIDDLE “G” to the board:

The middle “G”, found on the open third string ③, on the fifth fret on ④, on the tenth fret on ⑤, and the fifteenth fret on ⑥, the latter being rarely used.

The deceptively simple tune in G Major (“Pinning Middle “G” – Further”) would be very easy to play in the first and second positions, but is more challenging in the given positions which must be respected so as not to defeat the purpose of the exercise which is to negotiate the fact that the same notes, when repeated, will be played with different fingers because of the change of positions. On the guitar, the importance of absorbing “note-knowledge” in relation to the positions they are played from can never be stressed enough.

If too much difficulty is experienced, return briefly to the “Know your strings” section at the beginning of the course. However, do not be discouraged by any necessary fumbling for notes, as this kind of hesitancy is quite normal at this stage; such uncertainties will gradually be ironed out when different perspectives begin to apply, such as the study of intervals and, eventually, chords.

See “Pinning the Middle “G” to the Board” on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.

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fast eddie
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by fast eddie » Sat Oct 27, 2018 2:21 am

I am one of those who are challenged by the higher frets. Since I'm too old and lazy to try to memorize all those notes, So I am attempting to learn them piece by piece. So for example I am currently working on Lagrima, which will test your fretboard abilities. In this way I learn some new notes by necessity or by application instead of rote memory. This method will take longer but will be easier for me.
Fast Eddie
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Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:09 am

PINNING MIDDLE “A” to the board:

The Middle “A” at the 2nd fret on③, the 10th fret on ④, and the 12th fret on ⑤ which is the Octave fret of the open strings (in this case the “A” string);
this is a good moment to reiterate that each string contains – between fret 0 and fret 12 – a whole octave (i.e. the12 tones of the notorious “Twelve Tone Series”) within which all scales in the respective string’s key can be found:

Three Scales in “A” on the A String (⑤): MAJOR - Harmonic minor - Melodic minor:
PINNNG MIDDLE A - SCALES - MAJOR - minor.jpg
This Set also contains exercises for the 6/8 Time Signature; continue using these exercises to reinforce the memory of where the “Title Note” is, in its three respective positions; as before, only memorise those three notes.

See “Pinning the Middle “A” to the Board” on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.
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VasquezBob
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by VasquezBob » Sat Oct 27, 2018 5:27 pm

Two practice techniques while playing scales: recite the notes as you play them and visualize them on the staff as you see your fingers being placed on the frets. Oh, and a fourth practice technique, start your scales at the top.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:45 pm

Lawler wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:29 am
A pleasure to sightread this set. I'm going to use these this week with a couple students for whom these will be perfect for strengthening reading skills. I was thinking of recording the set for them for their listening afterwards, since these sound good and deserve repeated plays by the student beyond an initial play-through and discussion... but I probably will never get to it, heh.
It is thrilling to hear that you will use these with some of your students, especially in view of your devotion to pedagogic work.
Having heard a lot of your playing on your website, I do hope that you will record some of them ... let us all know!
Lawler wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:29 am
[Fretful, I noticed a couple minor misprints in the notation... I'll PM you, if you'd like, after I do another read-through]
Thank you, Lawler, for your dedicated attention to detail: I would be very grateful if you would communicate these misprints and I will make the relevant corrections.
Lawler wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:29 am
To the person who posted that he prefers playing Lagrima to exercises like this (it might be in the other thread - hard to keep the two threads straight, sorry), I'd say "who in the world could compete with Tarrega in anything?!!"
The idea of having two threads didn't quite work according to plan: I did mention the intention but I fear it wasn't quite noticed; what I am trying to do is to devote the thread on "Public Space" for my prefaces and comments (relevant to each set) as well as for members responses, thus keeping the thread on CGT free of any of that, leaving only work material, like in a traditional method. A book as such was much discussed and on the cards but it would not have been able to exceed sixty pages (much to some people's liking I am sure!); I felt strongly that I wanted to do something much more comprehensive and very gradual, to be spread over a long period.

Also, the concept of reaching people across the longitudes (and parallels) thanks to this wonderful Forum (it has to be said) intent on scholarship shared by members who honour themselves through civility rather than the iconoclastic ignorance and self-destructive debasement of ad hominem attacks prevalent on other Forums, is appealing.
fast eddie wrote:
Sat Oct 27, 2018 2:21 am
I am currently working on Lagrima, which will test your fretboard abilities. In this way I learn some new notes by necessity or by application instead of rote memory. This method will take longer but will be easier for me.
Tárrega is a giant, a daily bread ... but those are "pieces"; you mention that little jewel "Lagrima": there is no question that you will derive much from its study, but it will involve you in a great deal deal more than what I am aiming for at the moment, and you will have to involve yourself in the profound effects the master achieves through harmonies and tone colours which require a fairly high degree of musically and technique. My aims are lower and more concerned with Fingerboard "understanding" and, at this early stage of the course, I have to keep things simple and therefore resort to melodies which often rely on the "nearest available note". Of course, I would feel sad if I thought I was waisting your time, but a later stage, the course will use established music of higher spheres BUT avoiding the lower positions in which they are invariably published. So you might want occasionally to visit these threads until the course reaches a stage with better fits your purposes. Meanwhile, enjoy Lagrima ... and also, eventually, revel in Adelita's tears.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:24 pm

PREFACE TO “REVISION” and “TEST” :

You will have done a considerable amount of preparatory work on the foundations supporting one Octave and a half – between the Bass “E” and the Middle “A”;

you will also have played and be familiar with many notes right up to the twelfth fret of the top “E” string which you were not aiming to memorise, but it is hoped that, by now, you will have learnt the notes between the bass “E” and the Middle “A”, in their various positions in their natural state; you will also sometimes have come across some sharpened or flattened notes;
therefore, on seeing any of the eleven notes between the Bass “E” and Middle “A”, you would be able to locate them in their respective places on the fingerboard; so, for instance, on seeing a Middle “A” on the stave, three strings would immediately spring to mind, together with three relevant frets, being strings ③, ④, ⑤, and frets 2, 7, and 12! You have also understood – and to a certain degree, absorbed – that a given fret, say Fret 7, does not necessarily mean Position VII … so, a Middle “A” on ④, even though it will always be at fret 7, can be played from Positions IV, V, VI, or VII; this being one aspect of mastering the fingerboard which takes longest to absorb until it has become second nature; there is no point getting frustrated: things will fall into place but, as with everything else, the time needed will vary depending on individual ability and circumstances, available time or will to practice being one of them – never forget that the recitalists you see sight-reading on concert platforms have been working anything up to eight hours a day for the best part of, possibly, fifteen years, and a great deal of that time will have been spent playing while reading the music.

Naturally, reaction speed when sight-reading will also rest on individual absorption capacity which can vary hugely, is not under one’s control, and must be allowed to run its course freely. Some allowance must also be made for the fact that, so far, most of the work has been done “longitudinally”, and that your knowledge will be greatly reinforced when more “lateral” work starts (i.e. across the width of the fingerboard as opposed to along its length) with the study of intervals and, later, harmony.

This set’s revision material on CGT covers all the notes that have been studied so far and starts with a “Test” which will help you decide if there are any notes in need of more work.

I am reminded of a fine guitarist who calls himself a “fingerboard nerd” and can, for a party trick, in the way that some like to regurgitate the elements of the periodic table, rattle off statistics regarding all the notes to be found on the guitar (I am suggesting you should emulate this); one names a note at random and, by instant return, he gives you its vital statistics as if it were a phone number (he does this at the most staggering speed); so, if given “Middle G#”, the instantaneous reply bounces back at you: 3/1-4/6-5/11 … which stands for “string 3 Fret 1 – String 4 Fret 6 – String 5 Fret 11. In view of the unbelievable immediacy of response, it takes the participants an inordinate amount of time to verify its accuracy and the discrepancy is quite amusing. Whether or not this somewhat dubious skill is responsible cannot be ascertained but this guitarist is an uncannily good sight-reader!

See “Test” and “Revision” on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Nov 10, 2018 2:15 pm

PREFACE TO “PINNING MIDDLE “B” TO THE BOARD:

This set, resuming, after the Test and Revision, returns to the study of individual notes in three respective positions. The Middle “B”:
Before reading further, please play the following:
PINNING MIDDLE B - Introduct. phrase.jpg
My guess would be that, out of a hundred players, ninety five will have played this phrase in the first or second position (except for the “A” where they will have stretched or shifted) … therefore:
this set deliberately repeats sections while contradicting guitarists’ basic instinct to use lower positions when first encountering a piece of music. That they should do this is understandable since most methods, certainly in their first volume(s) will seldom venture beyond the low positions when, in fact, there is absolutely no valid reason for this. The phrase given above is actually easier to play at V where a lesser stretch is required. It also sounds full and rich at IX, but there it needs a “stretch” (or a shift of position) to reach the D#; no such need at V, due to the lesser interval between ③ and ② (Major Third, rather than Perfect Fourth) where the phrase feels comfortable and where the sound is mellow.

Of course, a guitarist may choose to play this phrase à la harpsichord in the first position and ponticello, but one is here concerned with instinct, and first reaction to notation, as it is very much this course’s intention to develop an eclectic and open-minded approach to the fingerboard.

Fifty years ago, John Williams was already suggesting that guitarists should immediately be introduced to higher positions AND should be taught to read notes rather than fingerings (we’ve all been there and some of us still are!), but his advice has largely (and sadly) been ignored and most guitarists – amateurs and professionals alike – pay the price.

This set also, while reinforcing the 6/8 Time Signature, introduces 9/8 and 12/8.

See “PINNING MIDDLE “B” on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.
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Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:16 pm

PREFACE TO “PINNING MIDDLE “C” TO THE BOARD:

It will have become apparent that, in terms of fingerings, it doesn’t make that much difference whether you play a phrase at one position rather than another; for instance, the following will be played with the same configuration of fingers [as @ (A)], in the same order, with any combination of strings EXCEPT, of course, with ③&② [as @ (B)] which are tuned a Major Third apart, rather than the Perfect Fourth between all the other adjacent strings:
SAME PHRASE - diff. pos. - same fing. exc. 2&3.jpg
Therefore, when sight-reading, once a phrase has been assessed, the key factor is to determine where finger 1 should be placed, as this will determine the position from where the phrase can best be played, combining maximum ease and effect with desired tone. Some courage is required for this, but be brave, take risks, play often is non-obvious positions; this will eventually pay off in a big way.

Only three factors play a role in choosing a position:

1. the sound you wish to make
2. the fact that a subsequent note can only be reached (usually at speed) at a certain position and that, without already being at - or near - that position, there would not be sufficient time
3. the fact that certain chord configurations can only be played at certain positions
When alternatives exist, let quality and clarity determine your choice.

A note regarding “Positional Reaching” (in CGT): for those with a quick eye, there are fascinating observations to be made when watching Julian Bream and John Williams perform their duos “Together” and “Together Again”; when phrases from Guitar 1 are being repeated by Guitar 2, and vice versa, the tactical differences between the two guitarists are amazing as they demonstrate, through their choices of fingerings, the idiosyncrasies inherent in their artistic and technical approaches, one being pragmatic and almost always seeking the simplest solutions while losing none of the intended variety , the other more often than not throwing caution to the wind and being guided by an irrepressible penchant for luxurious diversity; that they should be able to do this while reading from the scores, hardly ever looking at their left hand, AND keeping "pretty well" together, is beyond belief but a joy to see, and should be an incentive for guitarists to put in the work and practice, even if their example is beyond the aspiration and reach of most mortals.

See “PINNING MIDDLE “C” on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.
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Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Nov 24, 2018 2:42 pm

PREFACE TO PINNING MIDDLE “D”:
This set is going to be particularly challenging as the final exercise will take guitarists out of their comfort zone with a version of the first part of Bach’s Allegro (from the Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro BWV998). Although it has been simplified by taking out the bass (thus more in keeping with the original violin score albeit in a different key), the given positions resolutely avoid the first position most of the time; by no means is it suggested that the piece should necessarily be fingered as it has been here since this version deliberately targets two particularly common problems associated with sight-reading, the first being the ability to detect in advance a note which will necessitate one position rather than another, and the second giving several solutions to help avoid the same finger having to leap across strings on the same fret (we haven’t studied intervals yet but, for those in the know, I am referring to Perfect Fourths which often pose this problem on adjacent strings – the technique can of course be applied to other intervals on non-adjacent strings but we are jumping the gun here by some five sets.

Most of the Allegro runs in linear scales and offers a natural progression to those tackled in the last set.

A note on stretching: an alternative fingering has been given for the final A Major chord. Some will find it manageable, others won’t; it is quite a good test of where you are in “stretching” terms and may persuade you to work on this aspect of your technique (see “Stretching Exercises Given by John Williams” in the CGT Forum). I remember (vaguely) a time when just one look at this chord fingered with 3, ½ CI, 4, filled me with disbelief, but it is amazing to see what a few brief years of stretching exercises will do to even an average sized hand (see the elongation of the fourth finger a young guitarist’s left hand [below]:
Hands - X-ray.jpg
John Williams was fond of saying “The aim is that everything should become easy". Whether or not one ever achieves this happy state of affairs is another matter; my experience is that guitarists fall (roughly!) into two categories: the fortunate ones develop what you might call a permanent stretch which can, once and for all, be forgotten about, whilst those with a more procrastinating physiology find themselves in the less enviable position of ballet dancers who, in order to achieve what they do (incredibly), have to be at the bar (of a different sort) on a daily basis so as to avoid the fate of the proverbial Sisyphean snail who, by day, crawls up the wall to an increased height which, sliding down overnight, they deplorably lose by the same amount. You can easily verify which category you fall into by checking the configuration of your genetic code in combination with your determination to adopt practice routines (your Determined Necessary Activities) without too much stress; regrettably, praying for longer fingers will be in vain. The inescapable discomfort experienced (for however long) in order to acquire this “loosening” of the hand is more than compensated (eventually) by the indescribable comfort of never again, when contemplating a piece, having to think: How on earth will I ever be able to get my fingers around that?! Having said that, and, as I once wrote elsewhere on this Forum, whilst remaining grateful for the stretching exercises of a purely technical nature which incontrovertibly paid off, I now advocate, instead, using carefully selected sections of certain pieces which will equally stretch the hand but will achieve it while soothing any potential pain with the pleasure inherent in music written without thought or care for the difficulties involved. I refrain from quoting any, as this is neither the time nor the place.

Returning to the Bach Allegro, needless to say that you are exempt from having to respect the tempo suggested by the title! The order of the day is “Take it easy!”, think of the problems, work out the solutions … and memorise your “Ds”!

See “PINNING MIDDLE “D” on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.
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Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:01 pm

PREFACE TO PINNING THE SOPRANO “E” ①, dite “Chanterelle”:

Perhaps it is pulling this string a stretch too far to turn its name into a twisted anagram: “Chanter”: to sing; “elle”: she; Chanterelle: "elle chante"

There is irony in the fact that the top string is regarded as our instrument’s singer when, on most guitars, it is the string which often struggles to rival the others in quality and sustain. It is also, allegedly, the one which, like the diva it is, can most easily be upset as, famously, was that of Segovia’s 1937 Hauser.

This “E” of the open chanterelle becomes particularly effective on ④ (fourteenth fret) and is often made use of by Villa-Lobos.

A phrase of Paganini’s Romanze is included in this set, without its harmonisation so that it can be played in many positions for study purposes, including Position XIII where it will be tricky to stay in tune. There is also further focus on when, why, and where decisions are made regarding the choice of positions. Regarding making choices in advance [see (*) in CGT], you may like to read the anecdote concerning Daniel Barenboim related in this thread on Monday 27 August 2018, 14:45 pm.

A challenging exercise has been included whose title will interest those with a penchant for riddles.

Be reminded occasionally to sing and/or name the notes as you play them, and to mentalize new material just before sleep.

See “PINNING “E” (Chanterelle) on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:53 am

PREFACE TO PINNING THE “F” on ①, ②, ③:
It is frustrating when familiarity with a cluster of notes, well absorbed in one position, can be annihilated by the mere shift of just one fret! I have witnessed countless good guitarists completely flummoxed when sight-reading bars 49 to 57 of the magnificent Estudio Sin Luz; not that they were having a particularly good time with the preceding bars marked Un poco più lento where trouble starts. (This piece is one of the great tests for those who boast of their sight-reading “facility”; let them read Sin Luz … unless it’s in their repertoire, they’ll never boast again, at least not to you). The sudden shift to Position VI (not often encountered in traditional methods), together with the introduction of unusual flats and key changes worthy of Wagner at his shiftiest, reduces guitarists to blancmanges. Is there an answer to this? There is … but you will wonder whether the game is worth the candle. Most of the guitar repertoire tends to shy away from “problematic” keys, i.e. keys which offer no open strings for either tonic or dominant, or which subject players to the type of strain and fatigue which is liable to send them to the hand specialist’s waiting room; try Sor’s Etude 19, “Agony in Bb”, playing it as a real Lento and using Segovia’s fingerings, but don’t try it for too long.

Ease in key changes as experienced on piano will never be available to guitarists. There are fingerboard routines akin to the multiplication tables which would, eventually, produce the ability to read anything anywhere; one of the Appendixes from the end of the course has been included at the end of this set; it requires a lot of concentration and time, especially the latter part where it becomes very difficult constantly to keep track of finger and position shifts over an unchanging note. Each will decide whereas indeed the game is worth the candle, which is why these tables have been relegated to the appendixes. There is no question that these exercises can be thought of as tedious and difficult, although useful.

The word “tedious” reminds me of a cruel but edifying class with a daunting guitar teacher who shall remain nameless: I was asked why I had not brought the work I was supposed to have done on Villa-Lobos’ Etude No 2. I had the temerity to say that I had found it tedious. “Tedious, did you say?” I said, Yes, tedious. “Don’t you like the sound of the guitar?” I smiled sheepishly. “You either love the sound of the guitar, or you don’t … but if you do, you can play the same two notes for an hour and love doing it. Do you understand?” I said, Yes, I understand. “Good. We’ll put it to the test. Play E, F - second string, fifth position, fourth position, third position, fourth position, fifth position, and so on, non-stop, for a quarter of an hour, starting … now. And I want to hear the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard”. And the teacher actually sat there, listening, and looking at the clock for what proved to be one of the toughest, longest, and shortest quarter of an hour of my life. It also was a revelation and I never again whinged about practice, or used the word tedious in connection to study. The teacher concluded the session with: “You either want to learn, or you don’t.” I certainly learnt something on that occasion!

See “PINNING THE SOPRANO “F” on ①, ②, ③ on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Dec 15, 2018 11:47 am

PREFACE TO PINNING THE “G” on ①, ②, ③:

This particular “G” is probably the last note which one would choose to play in three respective places (frets III, VIII, and XII). “A” at XIV is perfectly possible but, on a lot of guitars, the area beyond the twelfth fret is where the sound tends to become more laboured and less clear.

For the mid-range (on the stave) positions V to X are ideal, as they can produce many of the same notes of the lower positions but with a lot more tone marrow. As has been mentioned elsewhere, it is deplorable that so many “early” methods and studies shy away from the higher positions with the result that the gap (left by those early years’ lacunas), for a lot of players, seems to be so difficult to bridge.

See “PINNING THE SOPRANO “G” on ①, ②, ③ on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.

Argent
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Argent » Sun Dec 16, 2018 4:29 pm

Kevin Cowen wrote:
Fri Aug 24, 2018 7:10 pm
I learned to sight read from a Frederick Noad book I bought from a charity shop
for one pound.
Stop over complicating things.
The Noad books were a great help to me also. To be honest though I used to buy a new book every week to read from and that helped a lot. Barrios is great for improving reading as he uses a wide range on the fingerboard.

In terms of musicianship joining an ensemble is probably best. Most solo guitar pieces have similar rhythms as the bass & accompaniment fill in the gaps. Whereas single line reading in an ensemble is much more challenging.


To get better at sight reading you simply have to do it a lot.
David Argent Cedar 2005

Fretful
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Re: Improve your Fingerboard Knowledge and Sight-Reading Technique

Post by Fretful » Sat Dec 22, 2018 12:13 pm

PREFACE TO PINNING THE SOPRANO “A” on ① ② ③ :

With “A” at XIV on ③, we enter the area beyond the twelfth fret which challenges many guitarists regarding reading and technique; technically, it will always remain tricky because by definition one will, comparatively, spend far less playing/practice-time there. Where reading is concerned, the following suggestion often works well: cut out a strip of white paper some 50mm x 2mm and blu tack it just beyond the twelfth fret and suggest that it is a replication of the nut; from that moment, everything that ensues beyond it will be the same as in Position I but one octave higher.

The Soprano “A” marks the penultimate set in PART I of this course. It is a good time for those interested in going further to brush up on their elementary harmony and solfeggio.

Nota Bene: Apologies for the non-observance of the Anacrusis rule in some of the exercises in CGT (software faiblesse oblige!)

See “PINNING THE SOPRANO “A” on ① ② ③ on the Classical Guitar Technique Forum.

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