Guitar Technique Tip of the Month
Your Personal Guitar Lesson
In Part 1 the focus was on plucking the two notes of a 3rd, 6th, octave, or 10th simultaneously and connecting passages of consecutive intervals seamlessly in legato style. In Part 2, we are going to step it up a notch to learn to play broken intervals seamlessly in legato style. The mastery of this technique will make passages of "BROKEN" intervals in your pieces sound fantastic. It will also improve your left-hand finger independence significantly.
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Classical Guitar Technique
PRACTICING INTERVALS, PART 2
HOW TO MASTER PLAYING BROKEN INTERVALS
IN CONNECTED LEGATO STYLE
By Douglas Niedt
Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved.
This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.
In Part 1 the focus was on plucking the two notes of a 3rd, 6th, octave, or 10th simultaneously and connecting passages of consecutive intervals seamlessly in legato style. In Part 2, we are going to step it up a notch to learn to play broken intervals seamlessly in legato style. The mastery of this technique will make passages of "BROKEN" intervals in your pieces sound fantastic. It will also improve your left-hand finger independence significantly. Giuliani thought they were pretty important. He wrote 16 exercises of broken 3rds, 6ths, octaves, and 10ths in various keys.
Good news! Like the exercises in Part 1, it is not necessary to practice broken intervals on an ongoing basis. Once you learn how to do them, you're done. Simply apply the technique to passages of broken intervals that occur in the pieces you play.
What are Broken Intervals?
Broken intervals are simply intervals in which one of the notes is plucked before the other. In the guitar repertoire, usually the lower note of the interval is played first. (Example #1):
The desired musical effect is to seamlessly connect lower note to lower note and upper note to upper note. The precise and correct notation of the above example would look like this. (Example #2):
Each note in the lower voice seamlessly connects to its following note. Each note in the upper voice connects to its following note. (Example #3):
The notation in Example #3 above is seldom seen. The shorthand notation in Example #1 is usually used because it is easier to read at first glance.
Unfortunately, the notation in example #1 often leads to players not paying attention to detail and playing the passage so that notes get cut off or "ghost" notes are produced. The resulting sound is something like this (Example #4):
Watch Video #1. Let me show you what I'm talking about.
How to Connect Broken Intervals
Broken intervals sound far more musical when the time is taken to use fingerings and techniques to consciously connect the broken intervals as seamlessly as possible. As you heard in Video #1, if you do not pay attention to detail, and just place and lift fingers at random, connecting some notes, chopping off others, and producing "ghost" notes, the passages will sound very sloppy.
Let take a detailed look at a few of the ascending changes from our example of 10ths in the key of G.
Here is the first interval change from 10ths in the key of G (Example #5):
Here is the WRONG way to play the change (Example 5a):
And here is the correct way Example 5b):
Watch Video #2. Watch me demonstrate this and the following four interval changes.
Let's look at the next change (Example #6):
Here is the WRONG way to play the change (Example 6a):
And here is the correct way Example 6b):
The next change is probably the most difficult because the fingers in both voices must move independently (Example #7):
Here is the WRONG way to play the change (Example 7a):
And here is the correct way Example 7b):
Now, let's take a detailed look at two of the descending interval changes first (Example #8):
Here is the WRONG way to play the change (Example 8a):
And here is the correct way Example 8b):
And finally (Example #9):
Here is the WRONG way to play the change (Example 9a):
And here is the correct way Example 9b):
Get the idea? The principles are the same for any broken interval change.
Broken Intervals and String Damping
Broken intervals that traverse large areas of the neck from 1st position to the upper positions often cannot be seamlessly connected. Indeed, in order to cleanly play passages with rapid successive shifts, string damping must be employed.
For instance, in the final measures of Mauro Giuliani's Rossiniana Op. 119, No. 1 is this passage of broken 10ths (as originally notated by Giuliani). Example #10:
The intervals in first position can and should be seamlessly connected in the first two measures. But in measure three as the upper voice of the intervals ascends from the 1st-string G to the tenth fret D it is necessary to damp the notes in the upper voice to maintain clarity.
Here it is notated as it should sound (Example #11):
If the notes in the upper voice are not damped, the result is a mishmash of unmusical sliding around.
Watch Video #3. Watch and listen as I demonstrate the difference.
Three Practice Methods
I have three practice methods you can use to master the technique of seamlessly connecting broken intervals.
1. Practice the exercises from Part 1 in broken style.
2. Practice broken interval passages from real repertoire.
3. Practice the Giuliani exercises.
For most players, I would recommend #1 and/or #2. To me, the Giuliani exercises are good, but overkill. Unfortunately, the fingering in printed editions is bad. You will have to take a significant amount of time to refinger each exercise correctly. However, I provide you with his complete Exercise #4 with proper fingering. That one exercise will certainly result in your mastering broken 10ths.
Practice the Exercises from Part 1 in Broken Style.
I show the original exercise from Part 1 of this technique tip, followed by its broken style. Of course, practice slowly and pay close attention that everything is being connected. Any change involving the 3rd and especially the 4th finger will need to be watched closely.
First, practice with no alternation so you can focus on the left hand: pi all the way through, pm all the way through, pa all the way through. Then, alternate: pi-pm, pm-pi, pm-pa, pa-pm, pi-pa, pa-pi.
Watch Video #4. Watch me explain how these should be practiced and show you how they should sound.
Broken 6ths in the key of G (Example #12):
Broken 6ths in the key of G, extended scale (Example #13):
Broken 6ths in the key of C (Example #14):
Broken octaves in the key of C (Example #15):
Broken octaves in the key of G (Example #16):
Broken chromatic octaves (Example #17):
Broken 10ths in the key of C (Example #18):
Broken 10ths in the key of G (Example #19):
Broken 3rds in the key of C (Example #20):
Practice Broken Interval Passages from Real Repertoire.
Instead of exercises, some players enjoy extracting passages from actual pieces to practice. Following are passages from several pieces that use broken 3rds, 6ths, octaves, 10ths, and a few with a nice mix of several different intervals. Note that I have altered the original notation to emphasize that the notes in the upper voice are to be sustained and connected to one another.
Real Repertoire: Broken 6ths
Broken 6ths are found frequently in music by Carulli, Sor, and Giuliani.
Many of Carulli's beginning and intermediate studies contain passages of broken 6ths (Example #21):
Watch Video #5. Watch me demonstrate this passage and the passages from ALL the following pieces.
This exercise consisting completely of broken 6ths is from Fernando Sor's Guitar Method (Example 22):
Here is an example of broken 6ths from one of Sor's easier studies (Example #23):
Here is an example from a Mauro Giuliani Lesson in the key of A (Example #24):
Real Repertoire: Broken Octaves
Mauro Giuliani used passages of broken octaves in many of his pieces, from beginning studies to his most virtuosic concert pieces.
Here is a relatively long passage of broken octaves from one of Giuliani's intermediate pieces (Example #25):
Here is an example of broken octaves in one of Giuliani's virtuosic pieces, his Grand Overture (Example #26):
From the same piece, a short passage of broken chromatic octaves (Example #27):
Real Repertoire: Broken 10ths
Broken 10ths are found extensively in music by Carulli, Sor, Giuliani, Carcassi, and many others.
Here is an example from a beginning etude by Carulli (Example #28):
Here is an example of broken 10ths from a study by Fernando Sor (Example #29):
Real Repertoire: Mixes of broken 3rds, 6ths, octaves, and 10ths
In intermediate and advanced pieces, guitar composers often mix different broken intervals within a passage.
This passage from Canarios by Gaspar Sanz is a bit different from all the other examples. Most of the time when guitar composers write broken intervals, the note in the lower voice is played first, then the upper voice. In this example, the upper voice takes the lead.
This passage from Canarios by Gaspar Sanz contains broken 10ths and 3rds (Example #30):
This next example of mixed broken intervals is from the well-known 25 Etudes by Matteo Carcassi (Example #31):
Next is an example of mixed broken intervals from Mauro Giuliani (Example #32):
And finally, this example includes all the mixed broken intervals (Example #33):
Practice the Giuliani Studies.
Mauro Giuliani provides 16 left-hand studies in his Studies for Guitar, Op. 1a (these also include the famous "120 Arpeggios"). The fingering in most editions is not very good and does not allow the broken intervals to be flawlessly sustained and connected to one another. While the studies are very good, each will require careful refingering to produce the desired legato sound. Below is my refingering of No.4. I have employed several rather "tricky" fingerings to maintain a perfect legato connection between every change (Example #34):
You do not need to practice any of these exercises on an ongoing basis. Once you have learned the technique, you are done! When you encounter broken intervals in your actual pieces, just be sure to employ the skills you have learned and properly connect the intervals seamlessly, as legato as possible. Where it is not possible to connect the intervals as in passages that rapidly shift up and down the neck, employ the judicious use of string damping to keep the interval changes clean and clear.
1. Download a PDF of the article with links to the videos.
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.
2. Download PDFs with the videos embedded in the PDF (no worries about links or videos disappearing or changing).
These are large files and may not work on all devices. These are downloads from Dropbox. NOTE: You do NOT need a Dropbox account and don't have to sign up for Dropbox to access the files.
Download Practicing Intervals Part 2 How to Master Playing Broken Intervals in Connected Legato Style. Pages 1-5 (743 MB)
Download Practicing Intervals Part 2 How to Master Playing Broken Intervals in Connected Legato Style. Pages 6-15 (749 MB)
Download Practicing Intervals Part 2 How to Master Playing Broken Intervals in Connected Legato Style. Pages 16 to end (854 MB)
3. Download individual 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.
Download Video #1. Broken Intervals Intro 03:25
Download Video #2. Broken Intervals How to Play Each Change 04:57
Download Video #3. Broken Intervals String Damping 03:42
Download Video #4. Broken Intervals Play Exercises from Part 1 as Broken Intervals 04:52
Download Video #5. Broken Intervals Practicing Passages from Real Repertoire 09:52