29 August 2007

Reading classical guitar

I’m working on some easy classical guitar pieces for church. I’m still a bit rusty at reading standard notation (& I don’t think I was ever very strong at it). So it goes like this: Middle line is...B. In this key...B natural. That could be...second string, open...third string, fourth fret...fourth string, ninth fret. Now which of those works best in this context? One note down; repeat. I’m surprised by how much standard notation with a few & occasional additions can communicate what the arranger† had in mind. In classic guitar music, a number will sometimes be put next to a note to indicate the finger it should be fretted with. Except when it’s zero, this doesn’t indicate string or fret, but in context it tends to be clear. Even more occasional circled numbers indicating which string to play can make things entirely clear when necessary. (The other thing that isn’t indicated in the pieces I’m working on is which finger the note should be plucked with. Again, I’m surprised by how much I feel I know what the arranger had in mind here despite the lack of notation. It seems convention is enough.) I’m finding it extremely satisfying once I’ve decoded the arranger’s intent from the notation. Still, it seems to me that tablature is a much more straightforward method of communicating a guitar arrangement. Reading & writing standard notation is important for communicating with other musicians, but—guitarist to guitarist—I’m not sure that I see the point. Although, the big advantage of standard notation in this case was that the music director—who is not a guitarist—was able to help me pick out pieces to work on. †See arrangement or transcription

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