Danza Caracteristca by Leo Brouwer is what this guitar lesson is going to cover, in 4 short micro studies. This piece is the perfect vehicle to learn the basics of Cuban music, Modern Drop D tuning, and Brouwer’s language . So keeping time, and playing with a Latin soul is the order of the day.
Danza Caracteristica by Leo Brouwer
Danza Caracteristica by Leo Brouwer, a challenging work in drop-D tuning, was composed in 1956, and is dedicated to his guitar teacher Isaac Nicola. Within it, Brouwer explores the rhythmic “characteristics” of a particular Cuban dance: the conga. He also exploits a melody from a popular tune, Quítate de la Acera (Get Off the Sidewalk).
Two core elements of Brouwer’s writing style characteristics are Afro-Cuban music— especially Yoruba rhythmic patterns—and the European classical idiom fused to popular expression. Throughout this piece you will find rhythmic cells derived from the habanera, one of which is the tresillo (triplet) cell in the bass part. This cell requires a confident level of fine control for its syncopation to stand out. It is also a key rhythmic cell for all of Brouwer’s music – it pops up a lot in his pieces.
Dances in Danza – habanera
The last micro study in the video above walks you through the three main rhythms that can be found in Brouwer’s Danza Caracteristica, they are all derived from the habanera rhythm. As you play through the piece you will encounter these variations. Below the rhythms are stripped bare for ease of spotting.
Danza in Drop D
This piece is in Drop D tuning, E string lowered a tone. So if you need a little extra help with getting there. Check out the post below
If you still need help getting your guitar in tune, check out the post at the bottom of thos lesson for an in depth guide to nailing those strings, by any means necessary.
RH Control in Danza Caracteristica
The first thing you will need to get under control will be you RH damping action. This will really help spell out the main riffs, of which there are only 3 ostinatos in this piece. All the rhythms are based around the tresillo cell. RH fine control will also be required to nail those accents.
The Conga is the characteristic dance that Brouwer is alluding to in the Danza Caracteristica title of this piece. This micro study above will help you get the rhythm down, along with nailing the RH planting required in this idea. Note the specific RH fingers, and the damping that you need to control the rhythm.
Danza Caracteristica Harmonics
Danza Caracteristica does have a lovely harmonics section in it. Here micro study 3 shows you where to place the RH & LH fingers (these are artificial harmonics) in a basic first part. The second part puts the bass line back in as per the piece. Go from bar 1 to bar 2 in the example above to really get these under your fingers. By the way, this is the where that Conga melody from above kicks in.
Barres, Brouwer & Bass slurs
The last micro study is made of two parts, part 1 will help you deal with the barre chord & moving LH fingers that this piece requires; part 2 is about nailing those double fingered slurs in the bass that Brouwer has put in here. There is a real need in Danza Caracteristica for a strong barre technique, where you are able to move the LH freely. That first scale segment above will help you build that stamina up. The second bar is the bass slurs, make sure the LH fingers hammer-on cleanly and together. It is easy with double hammor-ons to mis-fire fingers.
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