Dear Delcamp members,
I run a free email list and wanted to share one of the recent messages I sent out. I hope it gives you some food for thought. There are over 400 guitarists subscribed to the list and they're all keen on deepening their understanding of music, discovering rare resources and opening up new possibilities.
You can subscribe at: http://www.danielnistico.net/
Something no one tells you about harmony
I love learning how musicians from past centuries - like Sor, Aguado, Mertz, Tarrega, etc. - thought about music.
Something I've come to realize is that how the old masters thought and learned is not taught today.
Why wouldn't we learn like the old masters did?!?!
The old masters did things like:
- Practiced the building blocks of music such as triads, cadences, etc.
- Composed and improvised using these building blocks
- Copied out scores by hand of their favorite pieces in order to learn about music
- Associated keys and harmonies with specific emotions
Do you find any of this in classical guitar books today?
Something changed during the 21st century... books now lean much more towards the mechanics of playing guitar, but often neglect all those topics listed above.
Classical guitarists today:
- Don't practice the building blocks of music on a daily basis
- Rarely compose or improvise
- Don't copy out scores by hand
- Don't associate keys and harmonies with specific emotions
Each topic is a can of worms in itself, so today I just want to focus on the first and last. These are addressed in my eBook, Fundamental Harmony.
Major and Minor Triads
Triads are one of music's most important building blocks and are found everywhere in pieces.
If you practice them on a daily basis, then you will greatly improve your musical fluency - you'll read, learn and understand music faster.
Identifying and playing triads will become second nature for you.
In a nutshell, triads are 3 notes stacked in 3rds. To learn more, download this free guide to major and minor triads: http://www.danielnistico.net/uploads/3/ ... triads.pdf
The Rule of the Octave (or 'ROTO')
This is a much more obscure building block, but is extremely valuable. I discovered the ROTO in all 24 major and minor keys in a 19th century method book. (That's 384 chords in total to practice, giving you an idea of how seriously guitarists took their harmony back in the day!)
The ROTO is essentially a harmonized scale. Each note of the scale is harmonized to teach you the laws of common practice harmony, so the result is that they sound pleasing in general.
Practicing such a progression helps you internalize the laws of harmony, such as how certain chords resolve to others. Fundamental Harmony is the first ever book since the 1800s to have the ROTO contained in it.
On a technical level, you can get both of your hands fired up by adding right hand arpeggios to the chords.
Now for the thing that we don't hear about harmony: The links between keys and emotions
In the past, musicians associated keys with specific emotions.
If a piece is in C Major for example, then it was generally thought of as being:
Think of some pieces you're playing that are in C Major. Do you feel the moods and characters listed above portrayed in those pieces?
Take a listen to the first three etudes by Leonard Schulz, which are all in C Major. Do they portray the emotions above?
And what if a piece changes from one key to another?
It's not just for the sake of changing the sharps and flats you play - it's so much deeper than that!
Composers change keys to provide contrasting moods and emotions to the music.
So if a piece goes from C Major to A Minor, then it will go from those emotions listed above, to:
So that gives us some powerful information to use in our playing, even if a simple piece like the one below.
Grab your guitar and have a play through the example below.
Overall, the A section (in C major) can be played:
- With decisiveness
- With simplicity
- With innocence of youth
(Performer translation: lively tempo, bright tone, energized articulation, generally mezzo forte dynamic)
And the B section (in A minor):
- With tenderness
- With quiet melancholy
(Performer translation: languid tempo, dark tone, lengthened articulation, softer dynamic)
Now you know the true power of understanding harmony and how it portrays different emotions.
This can help you make drastic changes to your playing. You can shift your mindset from "what do my fingers need to do" to "what emotion is the music portraying".
This gives a totally different effect to the listener and makes the music more enjoyable for you to play. You'll shift from left brain mode to right brain mode, giving your playing a totally different flow and engagement.
Even if there are some technical errors, you'll play with such convincing expression that no one will care about the mistakes.
If you want to delve deeper into these secrets of old, then check out my eBook, Fundamental Harmony. It contains exercises and pieces in all common guitar keys.
Playing the pieces with the quotes in front of you will help to paint the emotional picture of the piece. This can then be applied to other pieces you're playing too.
Click below to learn more about my eBook, which is only available until December 31st.