Damping Diligence Dilemma

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Tim22
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Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by Tim22 » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:08 pm

Just when I think I am making progress, I realise a new deficiency in my technique.
I have realised I am often letting notes ring too long. This is easily solved with fretted notes of course, but can sometimes be quite tricky with open strings. My question really, and it sounds a silly one, with a fairly obvious answer, but I thought I'd ask it before I start relearning everything, is this: How fussy should I be about damping strings? I mean, I know that it is often vital with bass notes that could just ring and ring, but I'm thinking more of things like in a piece like Bach's Minuett in G maj, which seems quite popular on the guitar. In bar 26, there is an open 1st string for one beat followed by quavers (open 3rd G followed by F# on 4th fret of string 4) All while playing a c in the bass on string 5, and going at a reasonable pace. What I'm wondering is if I am commiting a crime by not damping the top E, when I get to that G etc. It seems to die away fairly quickly, though of course, strictly speaking, it shouldn't be ringing even half a beat longer than written. I know it's not the hardest of pieces, but it is about my level right now. As I type this I almost feel I have answered my own question - the note needs damping. But I would still be interested to hear other people's thoughts. I recognise that in a slow, sparse piece any such lack of damping would be unforgivable, but I'm wondering if I can kind of 'get away with it' in situations like the aforementioned Bach, where, to my cloth ears, it doesn't seem to make a huge difference. I know I can refinger the bar I mentioned to avoid the open strings, but that does alter the sound and may not be possible in every similar situation. And, presuming you all tell me to get on with it and learn to damp properly, I would be interested on any thoughts regarding which may be easier to master in this type of situation, left or right hand damping. Thank you.
Tim, in the UK, playing an Almansa 434.

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Christopher Langley
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by Christopher Langley » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:14 pm

Dampening is of the upmost importance..

Except for when it's not :)

I say if you can get away with the cheat and it doesn't sound like some obvious crime is being committed, go for it.

Most listeners will have no idea, and even the guitar players in the crowd will be likely to miss it.

If you do want to reprogram the piece and dampen properly the trick is just to go slow. Reprogramming sucks, but it's doable!



Here I am giving advice again.. When I should be practicing myself.

Anyways, it wouldn't bother me, personally.. Others will probably chime in with differing opinions!
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David Norton
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by David Norton » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:47 pm

Dampening and "precise adherence to written note values" on the guitar are highly problematic. For one thing, operating at that level of precision increases the complexity of playing practically ANYTHING many times over. Secondly, it is inconsistent at best: just try following precise note values on an arpeggio exercise such as Carcassi Etude #3, Sor b-minor etude Op 35/22 (Segovia #5), Tarrega Estudio Brillante, HVL Etude #1.

Point number 3 would be that "a guitar needs to sound like a guitar", and not like a piano or MIDI which has very precise note durations. On the other hand, it shouldn't sound like a harp, either, with notes ringing on and on and on and on. But really, the harp is maybe a closer analogy to follow than a piano, because on harp you have to manually dampen all the notes. At least on guitar, the fretted notes automatically cancel out ones played lower on the same string.

Lastly, while the over-ringing can be somewhat annoying to the player, and to an advanced teacher, the reality is that the over-ring really doesn't carry forward to an audience very strongly, even if mic'd. Listen to recordings of CG players from the 1930s-90s, before this whole "duration integrity" topic gained much notice. Listen to top-caliber jazz players, folk, flamenco, fingerstyle solo guitar players. Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, Paco Pena, Leo Kottke, John Renbourn, Stefan Grossman, etc. THEY certainly are not spending .01% of their time worrying about dampening out string overrings, it just isn't part of that world.

I got horrifically bogged down in "following the written durations" about a year ago, to the point that I absolutely didn't even play my guitar for a couple of months, out of self-inflicted irritation at my imprecise articulations. Fortunately I got over it, and nowadays? While I pay attention to the durations, I don't let myself become OCD about it. If there's a strong harmonic clash which occurs, OK it needs attention. If the harmonies don't clash, eh, it's probably no big deal unless you are playing for a juried event at a world-class competition -- a type of event very few of us will ever even attend, yet alone compete in!!
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Lovemyguitar
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by Lovemyguitar » Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:07 pm

David Norton wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:47 pm
... If there's a strong harmonic clash which occurs, OK it needs attention. If the harmonies don't clash, eh, it's probably no big deal unless you are playing for a juried event at a world-class competition -- a type of event very few of us will ever even attend, yet alone compete in!!
That would be my view on it, too.

Sometimes music sounds better if you let them ring, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it makes no difference. To me, it is an area of interpretation (like rubato) for which one can usually use one's discretion.

BenjaminZ
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by BenjaminZ » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:19 am

It certainly depends on what the ringing note is bleeding into. Consider the the chord structure of the music you are playing: does the ringing note belong (or actually appear) in the next chord? If yes, let it ring. If no, be diligent with your damping!

robert e
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by robert e » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:25 am

When in doubt, consult the original--the piano score has the left hand play a middle E under the G and F#, so I'd say the harmonic transgression is minimal if you let the open E ring. I also see at least one guitar transcription that notates that open E as a dotted half note (i.e. full measure). I'd say you're off the hook.

On the other hand (pun unintended), the open E string is relatively easy to dampen. The RH pinky can come in handy, but frankly I have a hard time *not* damping the open E string with part of my LH if I'm finger other strings. In a case like this, I might choose to let that happen on purpose.

But to answer the general questions: yes, eventually you should learn how to selectively dampen strings--with either right or left hand, and with fingers, palms, knuckles, elbows, whatever's handy and most appropriate for the situation. *Should* you dampen notes? As others have said, it depends. Sometimes you must. Sometimes it's just better to. Sometimes it's better not to.

Check out maestro Delcamp's lesson book pdfs on this site. Damping is explicitly notated with a big asterisk, and which finger to use is also given. Just reading those scores can teach you a lot about when damping might be necessary and how to do it. And, bonus: lots of great music! (Of course, those books, and the online lessons, have a lot more to teach you besides damping.)

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:13 am

You pretty much have it, and the above thoughts are good. In end, learning the guitar is partly about getting used to what matters and what doesn't, and this applies here. Over time develop the technique and the understanding to be able to make a choice in this matter. Only thing is its a bit like chasing your tail, because as your repertoire develops in complexity, so does the business of making those choices.
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lagartija
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by lagartija » Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:35 pm

Lovemyguitar wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 10:07 pm
David Norton wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:47 pm
... If there's a strong harmonic clash which occurs, OK it needs attention. If the harmonies don't clash, eh, it's probably no big deal unless you are playing for a juried event at a world-class competition -- a type of event very few of us will ever even attend, yet alone compete in!!
That would be my view on it, too.

Sometimes music sounds better if you let them ring, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it makes no difference. To me, it is an area of interpretation (like rubato) for which one can usually use one's discretion.
I would agree with the above statements.

My teacher has taught me to listen carefully and look at the different musical harmonies and lines. Clashing harmony? Maybe damping is essential there. What articulation sounds good to you? If you play the bass line separately, does damping the note in question maintain the same character? In my lesson last week, we talked not only of whether the note should be damped, but when it should be damped. It depends sometimes on the room you are in. As a professional concert guitarist, he may change the timing of the damping if he is in a really live hall or a really dead one. That is a bit beyond my capabilities, but it does give you some ideas.

For some of my current repertoire, I am making those decisions as I work on the piece. When playing Cardoso’s Milonga, damping is essential to articulate the bass line. Luckily, I knew that from the beginning, so no rework was necessary! The Bach Allemande of 996...well...I paid attention in some places, but there were notes I *should* have been sustaining and left them too soon, as well as bass notes I let ring too long. Also in one case, the low E string was ringing sympathetically and even though I hadn’t played it, I needed to damp it to bring out the melodic line clearly. Much rework needed. 😐
Tarrega’s Maria, I am currently deciding when to damp the bass to get the peppy character of the piece that I want. So I play each phrase with damping at different times to hear what effect it has. Too choppy sounding? Damp after the next note is plucked. Too much over ringing? Damp as I prepare the fingers of the following chord. Do I like that sound? Have I been consistent with the character of the sound? Once I make that decision, I work the damping into the “program” of my hand motions so it becomes part of how I play the piece.

I don’t have the skill to change the damping program to suit the room as my teacher does,
but exploring it has taught me how to listen and experiment with the effect on the music, which I find very interesting .
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celestemcc
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by celestemcc » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:35 pm

All of the above... I'm working on the Prelude BWV 998 (Prelude, Fugue and Allegro). In older editions (I played it many years ago) you let the basses ring. Contemporary performance practice is to pay close attention to the rests, and there are lots of them, in the original. Lots of arguable points pro-and-con damping those basses, all valid and really interesting (especially if you listen to it played on harpsichord). I ultimately chose to observe the rests as quarter notes rather than eighths, since the fretted bass notes die out quickly anyway, and damping the open strings is relatively easy. And at the very end, the recapitulation of the theme, I let those low Ds ring (I damp them at the beginning). It's a choice.

I agree 100% with what Lagartija said above, re the harmonies and sympathetic ringing. Bottom line that's the place to start.
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Tim22
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by Tim22 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 7:44 pm

Thank you all very much for taking the time to share your thoughts and advice. It has been heartening and encouraging to see there seems to be quite a bit of concensus in this area. The advice given suggests to me that considering when, what and how to damp is an area of my technique that I need to work on, to improve as a guitarist, however it's not as hard and fast as I had feared, which makes it feel doable. Also I think, developing this area if my technique will require me to listen to and analyse the music a little more, which should help me to grow as a musician. A couple if days ago I was starting to feel a little down-hearted, feeling like I'd been working for ages to climb ladders and progress, only to discover and slide down a huge snake back to square not-quite-but-close-to one. Now I feel reinvigorated and excited about continuing my classical guitar journey. So thank you all once again.
Tim, in the UK, playing an Almansa 434.

celestemcc
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by celestemcc » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:08 pm

Now I feel reinvigorated and excited about continuing my classical guitar journey.
That's fantastic! Some things you have to be ready to learn, and so, you reached this point where you have the skills in place now to start working on damping. So wonderful that you're encouraged by this, it's one-thing-at-a-time occasionally. Think about how much you already have learned and mastered to get to this point, so you know you *can* do it! Cheering you on!
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lagartija
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by lagartija » Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:00 pm

Now I feel reinvigorated and excited about continuing my classical guitar journey.
:mrgreen:
We have all been there! And we are here at Delcamp to cheer each other on when the journey begins to feel a bit like a slog. ;-)
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kmurdick
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Re: Damping Diligence Dilemma

Post by kmurdick » Sun Jun 09, 2019 7:26 pm

Really, a good teacher can help you here. Damping can be over done; usually a little is a lot. Sometimes damping is done to eliminate an offending note or for phrasing purposes. Kanengieser (sp?) damps a lot, and I personally don't think this is very effective. The guitar is such a small voice and it should be allowed to ring out. I have a video concerning how to damp. It might help.

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