This is an interactive video lesson on approaching etude no. 6 by Leo Brouwer. This study will be segmented to gain the most from practicing. The lesson breaks the study into various sections to aid learning and to focus attention into details such as technique and musicianship. Crib notes will be available to down load below for free.
Etude No. 6 was designed by Brouwer as a right hand arpeggio study with left hand chord positioning. It has a big sister in Villa-Lobo’s etude No. 1; thus there are chords juxtaposed against open strings to create harmonic tension and release. A staple for the exam syllabus’ of The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (grade 5) and Trinity (grade 4). It is a great modern sounding piece in Binary form.
The video below is interactive, the full benefits of which currently can only be gained from a browser not on mobile devices. It has 3 angles to peruse, a solo left and solo right hand section, as well as the chords played on their own. Each one of these sections can be accessed from the front of the video. There are various comments and insights as each angle progresses. These tie in with the lesson notes (and crib sheet) below. Enjoy!
Chords First – Left Hand
First and fore most, separate the chords from the right hand patterns and practice separately. Be able to play chord 1 into 2 into 3 etc. without getting lost.This allows for the correct finger choices to be solidified before adding in more complexity such as arpeggios. It also aids memorizing pieces as you are able to walk through, and know, the harmonic structure. If you can, try and work out the chord suspensions Brouwer has chosen; this will add another layer to help solidify the piece in to memory.
The use of guide fingers is essential to this study, especially when switching from the Am9 chord into the Em6/G chord (see below) at bar 13 and when shifting up into fret 11 and the 2/4 time signature. This is also a point where the Dominant low E note needs stopped after the shift; yes folks we have a standard V – I. So right hand finger independence is required. (See 3’33” in Angle 3)
Patterns 1 & 2 – Right Hand
There are only two right hand patterns to this piece; one in 3/4 time the other 2/4. These should be practiced on open strings with sequential planting. This means preparing and touching the strings before a stroke. You know you are doing it correctly when you get a staccato sound at slower tempos. The video demonstrates this well. (Note: this is the same method for practicing tremolo to achieve clarity and there fore implied velocity)
This piece is built up with two bar segments which lends itself to echoes. So whether through tone changes or volume alterations, aim for the second bar being an echo of the first. This brings us neatly to…
Studies should be utilized for more than just practicing technique. Musicianship skills can be honed even on the simplest etudes; and in fact should be. This then becomes second nature and will support secure interpretations when tackling more complex music. This piece allows for a variety of interpretations. If we step through some of the phrasing choices that can be made (demonstrated in the video): etude No. 6 supports echoes, it will sustain an overarching dynamic structuring (pp – f – pp), it has inner voiced lines and implied poly rhythms (achieved through right hand accents). All of these various aspects of phrasing require adroit technical control and of course some fore thought. It is worth experimenting with combinations until you arrive at your interpretation. This is why classical music is exciting, your interpretation will always differ from the next guitarist because of these decisions.
Crib (& Personal) Notes
The crib notes (see below) detail most of what has been discussed above, along with “how to sections” for guide fingers and shifting. The notes also separate out the chords and give fingering suggestions. The structure of the notes highlight how to get the most out of this etude et. al. Studies should not be just played through mindlessly. They should be wrung for every little drop of inspiration and technical assistance they can offer, this means segmented practice.
On a personal note, this is a lesson I give every year, at least twice a year sometimes more, in the Junior Conservatoire. So as a consequence I feel this etude is a step into playing Villa-Lobos‘s great first study and is a very important etude to master. It creates awareness of how to control the right hand fingers, coordination with the left hand as well as training the ear for post 1940 musical language.
I have already done a lesson on Villa-Lobos No. 1 for Classical Guitar Magazine, here is a quick overview of that edition – click here.
Or if you want get hold of that lesson free, with free downloads from CG magazine – click here.
Free DownloadEtude VI Cheat Sheet