Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt
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27 REASONS TO PRACTICE THE CLASSICAL GUITAR
WITH THE RIGHT HAND ALONE
Part 4

Douglas Niedt, guitarist

"Douglas who?"

Douglas Niedt is a successful concert and recording artist and highly respected master classical guitar teacher with 50 years of teaching experience. He is Associate Professor of Music (retired), at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Fellow of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management—Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Doug studied with such diverse masters as Andrés Segovia, Pepe Romero, Christopher Parkening, Narciso Yepes, Oscar Ghiglia, and Jorge Morel. Therefore, Doug provides solutions for you from a variety of perspectives and schools of thought.

He gives accurate, reliable advice that has been tested in performance on the concert stage that will work for you at home.

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27 REASONS TO PRACTICE THE CLASSICAL GUITAR
WITH THE RIGHT HAND ALONE
Part 4


By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved.
This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.


15. If your left hand is temporarily injured, you can still practice the right hand

It is inevitable that, at some point, you will sustain injuries to the left-hand fingers, arm, or shoulder. It will seldom be from playing the guitar. You will probably get cuts, skin cracks, strained muscles, and irritated tendons from countless physical activities.

Your first thought will be to stop practicing the guitar. Let the injury subside or heal. But why not practice with the right-hand alone? It is a perfect opportunity. I know that many guitarists will not take the time to practice with the right-hand alone because they don't realize its value. Or, it may never occur to them to do so. But when your left hand is temporarily disabled, use that time as an opportunity to improve your right-hand technique.

16. Master passages that contain complicated right-hand configurations

Most of the examples I gave in Parts 1-3 and those I give in Part 4 and Part 5, fall into the "complicated" category. Although you can probably untangle the problems by practicing both hands together, it is usually more efficient to practice the right-hand alone. Attempting to master the complexities of both hands at the same time is often frustrating. It is just too much to think about in a complicated passage.

By extracting the right-hand's part and practicing it separately, the hand will gain confidence and stability because it will know its part independently of the left hand.

17. Master passages that require the use of the thumb playing rest stroke

In Heitor Villa-Lobos' Prelude No. 1, there is a fast section in the middle of the piece. Example #1.

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, 52-55

By the way, this passage definitely falls into the "complicated right-hand configurations" category in Reason #16!

As you see, there is a lot of information for the hands to absorb in this passage. It is best to extract the open strings and practice the right-hand alone to master the passage. Notice that the grace notes are taken into account when I extract the open strings. In other words, I delete the ornaments. Example #2:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measure 52-53, the original and rewritten versions on open strings
Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measure 54-55, the original and rewritten versions on open strings

If you play the passage WITH slurs, we eliminate those and the ornaments when we extract the open strings. Example #3:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measure 52-53, with slurs, the original and rewritten versions on open strings
Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measure 54-55, with slurs, the original and rewritten versions on open strings

Without the distraction of the difficulties of the left hand, we can focus on the right-hand alone to master the thumb rest stroke and planting techniques we must use to play the passage with stability at a fast tempo and in rhythm. For measures 52 and 53, here is what we need to practice. Example #4:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measure 52-53, open strings extracted, all notations

Due to the complexity of measure #52, you will probably want to break down each element. For instance, practice only the plant and the first three thumb rest strokes. Then, go on from there to the next difficulty you have. Once the right-hand feels confident, add the left hand. Example #1a:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measure 52-53, both hands, all notations

Continue to play the passage slowly so that you don't practice mistakes. Go back and forth between the right-hand alone and both hands together. Learn to switch your mental focus from hand to hand as desired. Gradually work up the speed to your desired tempo.

I know this is very complicated. But it will be much easier to understand if you watch Video #1, in which I demonstrate how to learn this passage step-by-step by practicing the right-hand alone, and then both hands together.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon at the bottom on the far right:

Master passages that require the use of the thumb playing rest stroke
Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measures 52-53

It gets even more complicated in measures 54 and 55 because, on the first beat, we must play the 1st-string open E free stroke with the "a" finger at the same time we play the 6th string open E rest stroke with the thumb. Example #5:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measure 54-55, open strings, all notations

That is difficult to do. To master that spot, we need to practice three additional exercises. First, learn to play the octave E's using the "a" finger free stroke on the high E and the thumb rest stroke on the low E. Example #6:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, open string octaves rest and free stroke

Plus, we must plant "im" on the 3rd and 2nd strings at the same time we pluck the octave E's. First, learn the technique by pre-planting "im." Example #7:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, open string octaves rest and free stroke preplant im

Finally, play the octave E's without pre-planting. Instead, plant "im" at the same time you pluck the octave E's. Remember, play the high E with free stroke and the low E with rest stroke. Example #8:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, open string octaves rest and free stroke no plant im

Now, apply these techniques to the extracted open-string arpeggio of Prelude No. 1. Example #9:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, apply techniques to arpeggio

Then, go back and incorporate this chunk into the extracted open strings in measures #54-55. Example #5:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, open strings with notations

Once the right-hand feels confident, add the left hand. Example #10:

Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, both hands with notations

Continue to play measures 54-55 slowly so that you don't practice mistakes. Go back and forth between right hand alone and both hands together. Learn to switch your mental focus from hand to hand as desired. Gradually work up the speed to your desired tempo.

Finally, add measures 52-53 and put the entire passage together. Again, practice with the right-hand alone and both hands together.

Again, I know that this probably looks impossibly complicated to the beginning or intermediate player. But it will be much easier to understand if you watch Video #2, in which I demonstrate how to learn measures 54-55.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon at the bottom on the far right:

Master passages that require the use of the thumb playing rest stroke
Villa-Lobos Prelude No. 1, measures 54-55

Master passages that combine the use of rest stroke and free stroke in arpeggios.

The perfect example of this is in Fernando Sor's famous Study No. 5 in B minor. It is actually Exercise No. 22 in Sor's Twenty-Four Very Easy Exercises, Op. 35. But Andrés Segovia renamed and renumbered it in his 20 Studies for the Guitar by Fernando Sor as Study No. 5.

Rather than repeat the information here, see my technique tip, How to Use Rest Stroke with the Fingers to Bring Out a Melody within an Arpeggio, Part 1, and also Part 2. It takes you step-by-step through the technique with some great videos. It is a comprehensive and fantastic tip, if I do say so myself!

Master passages that use rest and free stroke together in non-arpeggio textures.

Some passages benefit by playing the melody with the fingers rest stroke and the accompaniment with the thumb and fingers free stroke. Rest stroke makes the melody stand out by making it louder, fuller, and giving it its own distinctive tone quality. It is especially useful in pieces from the Romantic era where the melody is king.

For instance, we have this opening melodic passage in Spanish Dance No. 5 (Danza Española No. 5) by Enrique Granados as transcribed from the piano by Miguel Llobet. The melody notes are in red. Example #11:

Spanish Dance No. 5 Enrique Granados, original

By the way, if you are among the many players who have difficulty playing two notes simultaneously, the upper note plucked with a finger rest stroke, and the lower note plucked with the thumb free stroke, watch the next video. (The video is from my technique tip, How to Use Rest Stroke with the Fingers to Bring Out a Melody within an Arpeggio, Part 2, and is numbered in the tip as Video #10.) Please watch Video #3:

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon at the bottom on the far right:

How to Play Two Notes Simultaneously—Rest stroke with a finger and free stroke with the thumb

Many guitarists choose to play the passage with all free strokes, being careful to play the melody loud and keeping the accompaniment notes in the background. But I think it sounds better to apply rest stroke to the melody notes even though that makes it more challenging to learn. Plus, because we can play the melody louder with rest stroke, we can expand our dynamic range for this and similar phrases that follow.

As in previous examples, we could learn the passage by practicing both hands together. But because of the complexity (we are playing three parts at once—melody, accompaniment, and bass), I would begin learning the passage by extracting the open strings and practicing with the right-hand alone. Example #12:

Spanish Dance No. 5 Enrique Granados, m3-4 extract open strings
Spanish Dance No. 5 Enrique Granados, m5-6 extract open strings

In our new version on the open strings, it is much easier for the right hand to understand what it is supposed to do. I will show you two schemas of right-hand fingering. Play the melody notes that are in red with rest stroke. Here is Right-Hand Fingering Schema #1. Example #13:

Spanish Dance No. 5 Enrique Granados, m3-6 open strings with right-had fingering schema 1

And here is Right-Hand Fingering Schema #2. Example #14:

Spanish Dance No. 5 Enrique Granados, m3-6 open strings with right-had fingering schema 2

At first, you may want to focus on one or two measures, or even part of a measure. Gradually expand your focus, combining small chunks into larger chunks. Practice with the right hand alone until the rest strokes feel secure, and you are keeping the accompaniment notes quiet in the background.

Then, add the left hand. Alternate back and forth between the right-hand alone and both hands together. As always, practice slowly enough that you do not practice mistakes. When you add the left hand, try to focus on the right hand to be certain you are not deviating from your fingering schema and that you are plucking every melody note with rest stroke.

Watch me demonstrate how to practice the passage from Spanish Dance No. 5. Video #4.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon at the bottom on the far right:

Master passages that use rest and free stroke together in non-arpeggio textures

Increase the speed of arpeggiated passages.

Many guitarists who try to master Leyenda by Isaac Albéniz, have difficulty increasing the speed of Part 1 (measures 1-62) to the tempo they desire. The first 16 measures are relatively easy to play at a fast tempo. But then, many players hit a wall when the arpeggio section begins at measure #17, which is much more difficult to play fast. The best way to get past speed barriers such as this, is to practice with the right-hand alone. It is essential to learn the technique and build the raw speed of the arpeggio first, before adding the difficulties and distractions of the left hand. In this passage, we also have to deal with the complexity of the double thumb stroke. I will cover how to practice the double-thumb stroke with the right-hand alone in Part 5 of this technique tip.

Here is the arpeggio pattern in measures 17 and 18. Example #15:

Leyenda by Isaac Albeniz, m17-18, original arpeggio, both hands

Unlike previous examples where we extracted the open strings from the passage, for many players, it would be a good idea to practice the basic arpeggio pattern on open strings first. Example #16:

Leyenda by Isaac Albeniz, m17-18, the basic right-hand pattern on open strings
Watch this video explaining how to master the basic arpeggio. (The video is from my instructional package, Play It Like a Pro™: Leyenda, and is numbered in the tutorial as Video #12). Please watch Video #5.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon at the bottom on the far right:

Increase the speed of arpeggiated passages

In the actual arpeggio in measure 17-18, the thumb must jump from the 5th to the 3rd string and then from the 3rd string to the 6th string. Example #17:

Leyenda by Isaac Albeniz, m17-18, thumb jumps

The thumb jumps can be an obstacle to mastering the section at a fast tempo. Therefore, isolate the thumb jumps and practice them on open strings with the right hand alone. Example #18:

Leyenda by Isaac Albeniz, m17-18, thumb jumps on open strings

Then, extract the open strings from measure 17-18 and practice with the right hand alone. Example #19:

Leyenda by Isaac Albeniz, m17-18, practice the passage on open strings and both hands together

Practice slow and fast, with and without the metronome. Work the pattern up to the tempo you desire on the open strings.

Then, add the left hand, practice slow and fast. Go back and forth between the right hand alone and both hands together. Learn to switch your mental focus from hand to hand. Gradually work up the speed with a metronome to your desired tempo.

Again, the point of all this is that you will increase the speed, evenness, and stability of the arpeggio section best and much more quickly if you focus first on the right hand alone. Master the right-hand technique and speed. Then worry about the left hand.

You have learned 20 reasons to practice the right hand alone. We only have 7 to go. See you next month with Part 5 (the conclusion).

Download

This is a download from Dropbox. NOTE: You do NOT need a Dropbox account and don't have to sign up for Dropbox to access the file.

1. Download a PDF of the article with links to the videos.

Download a PDF of 27 REASONS TO PRACTICE THE CLASSICAL GUITAR WITH THE RIGHT HAND ALONE, Part 4 (with links to the videos).


3. Download the videos. Click on the video you wish to download. After the Vimeo video review page opens, click on the down arrow in the upper right corner. You will be given a choice of five different resolutions/qualities/file sizes to download.

Video 1 Tech Tip Right Hand Alone Part 4, Villa-Lobos Prelude No 1, m52-53.

Video 2 Tech Tip Right Hand Alone Part 4, Villa-Lobos Prelude No 1, m54-55.

Video 3 How to Play Two Notes Simultaneously—Rest stroke with a finger and free stroke with the thumb. (The video is from my technique tip, How to Use Rest Stroke with the Fingers to Bring Out a Melody within an Arpeggio, Part 2, and is numbered in the tip as Video #10).

Video 4 Tech Tip Right Hand Alone Part 4 Spanish Dance No. 5.

Video 5 The right-hand arpeggio pattern and technique for Leyenda, m17-24. (The video is from my tutorial package, Play It Like a Pro™ Leyenda—Right-Hand Technique, and is numbered in the tutorial as Video #12).