Learn Sakura Variations (Yuquijiro Yocoh)

Learn Sakura Variations (Yuquijiro Yocoh)

Sakura (cherry blossom)is a fantastic set of variations by Yuquijiro Yocoh for classical guitar. This lesson will step through each section of this piece, highlighting the hacks, tips, and cultural, and musical,  context to this beautiful piece of music. It is a piece that is worth your time to learn. Dive into this new classical guitar lesson, that will help you gain some #6stringinspiration today.

Learn Sakura Variations (Yuquijiro Yocoh)

Sakura variations by Yuquijiro Yocoh has a very clear structure, based on this traditional Japanese Folk tune.

  • Introduction – good for learning the harmony
  • Theme           – theme with counterpoint
  • Variation 1     – slurs & accampanella
  • Variation 2    – harmonics
  • Variation 3    – chords & new rhythms
  • Variation 4    – tremolo
  • Coda              – intro reprise

We are going to step through each one bar by bar. Note that all variations generally  refer back to the intro chord shapes. Apart from variation 3, which departs significantly from this. So learn that introduction fully, and you will find this relatively easy to negotiate and play.

Sakura Variations and its cultural context 

The cherry blossom, or Sakura, has great cultural and religious connotations in Japanese culture. The tradition of drinking tea, beneath a flower Sakura tree was established in elite society around the 8th century, it then becomes part of the samurai society. These fantastic white flower represent clouds, but their bloom – blossom – fall, cycle are a representation of the brevity of life. This set of variations mirror this cycle, from the blooming Intro and theme, to the flowers blowing away on the wind in variation 4. There is so much more to be found out about the cultural context to this piece, try this LINK, which will fill this out even more with Japanese legends.

The theme was first became popular in the Meiji period in Japan, 1868 – 1912; though it may have older origins in the Edo period before.It is thought to be a popular urban tune. It uses the pentatonic scale, know as the In scale in Japanese music (We are in E In scale for this arrangement). It is also know as the Sakura scale because of its use in this song. This scale has musical associations with the koto, and shamisen. Both very tradition instruments, that used plectrum-like devices to produce the sound on the strings. This information should inspirit your interpretation of this piece. Especially that introduction, where I can hear the shamisen being played. And will use my nails to replicate its sound in the scales. See the first video below for more details.

Check out the wikipedia article on Sakura Sakura, for more.

Introduction & Coda

Sakura guitar lesson introduction YUQUIJIRO YOCOH

Welcome to the intro to Sakura variations by Yuquijiro Yocoh. We have the In scale, starting on E, as the musical centre for this entire piece, see bar 7, 11 & 12, for it. However, this is a mode of that scale and the melody is actually on position 3 – the A note, which gives it that Phrygian sound.

We have the first 3 notes of the Sakura melody, which have been harmonised here as an opening intro idea. This needs to be calm and centred, like you are sitting ready for that tea ceremony, beneath the bows of the Cherry tree. So do not rush this.


Sakura guitar lesson theme YUQUIJIRO YOCOH

The theme tune is carried in the top line of this section to the arrangement, with a lovely counterpoint below it. In order to facilitate the legato performance of these moving parts, you are going to have to use open strings, and higher positions. There are a variety of ways to finger this, but I have generally tried to keep the counterpoint on my bass strings, and the melody on strings 1 & 2. But I suggest you experiment for your selves. Below are the lyrics to this tune, hopefully they inspire you to keep this centred and steady as you play through the notes.

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
In fields, mountains and villages
As far as the eye can see.
Is it mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the rising sun.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Flowers in full bloom.

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the spring sky,
As far as the eye can see.
Is it mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come now,
Let’s go and see them.

Variation 1

This variation uses the theme notes to play off with slurs and accamponellas technique.

Variation 2

Is all octave harmonics, this will require lots of coordination between hands.

Variation 3

Is a wonderfull chordal variation, with a very Giuliani inspired arpeggio.

Variation 4

The tremolo variation. This is a beautiful beginners level tremolo idea that works wonderfully on the guitar.

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