Leo Brouwer’s Estudios Sencillos - The Perfect Beginner Etude Cycle?

Hello everybody! Today, I want to spark a discussion about the most influential etude cycle I’ve played and taught, the Estudios Sencillos by Leo Brouwer! 💪

Have you ever played some of them? Click here for all our lessons on the Estudios!

While Leo encourages students (and teachers) to learn the first set of etudes as early as possible - Leo proposes the age of 5-6 - I came across these studies much later in life. I have started to learn excerpts of the cycle when I was 15 and they jumpstarted my technical development, making me aware of the complexity of the movements of my hand!

While I was happily changing fingerings around to adjust the pieces towards my hand, my studies with Prof. Joaquin Clerch and discussions with several tonebase guests made me aware about the methodical approach approach of these studies and the fact that the fingerings are chosen very, VERY carefully! 🏫


What does “simple” mean? Musically, the pieces are actually quite advanced. They have complicated harmonies, rhythm, and broken lines. However, they are “simple in the way to play,” meaning the act of physically playing them is very manageable, to the point where a student “of 5 years old can play them.”

For example, Etude No. 1 is for developing the thumb. If the thumb is working, the rest of the piece will as well. This allows the student to simply focus on developing one isolated technique at a time. 👍

Listen to what Leo himself tells us about the Estudios Sencillos!

 

  • Do have questions about the Estudios Sencillos?
  • Which Estudios did you play?
  • Do you prefer another etude cycle for beginners?
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  • If I remember correctly, I worked on numbers 1-6 with my teacher back in college (a few centuries ago). I still enjoy them, and can play a few from memory (number 1, 2, 5, and 6 probably). I should work with them more, now that I have a clearer sense of my technique, both strengths and weaknesses.

    And, while I love Brouwer's estudios a lot, I will probably always prefer Sor's studies. They are more to my liking musically, and there are so many more of them. I also really like Garcia de Leon's 20 studies.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 7 mths ago
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      Eric Phillips That sounds fantastic! I regularly implement 1-5 into my teaching, while #6 is reserved for me, haha! I enjoy the harmonies so much and the pattern really massages my right hand!

      The studies by Garcia de Leon are amazing, I've only discovered them through tonebase as well but no they are permament methodic vehicles to work with my students, especially for the left hand!

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 7 mths ago
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      Eric Phillips And yeah, Sor's op. 35 has just so much to offer musically!

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  • Thank you for this discussion Martin! I am a huge Brouwer fan and I love the Estudios Sencillos. I also came upon them later in life. In my college days it was all Sor and Carcassi but I much prefer Brouwer’s music. Rene has great lessons and insights with his Tonebase lessons. I’m still waiting for him to do 11-20. When will that happen? 😄

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 7 mths ago
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      Debbie Awesome! I have never played the later ones, I definitely should start exploring them! 

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    • Martin well then, we are in the same boat! Sounds like a challenge coming 😉

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 7 mths ago
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      Debbie Hehe, sounds like a FANTASTIC idea if you ask me 💪

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    • Martin 💪🏻💪🏻😃

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    • Ronnull
    • Ron.3
    • 7 mths ago
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    Martin, thanks for the discussion topic. Like others I played most of the first set quite a few decades ago, but I should probably revisit! I still sometimes play no. 6 as a warm-up. I also continue to play both Sor and Carcassi etudes which I very much like.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 7 mths ago
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      Ron I highly recommend, when you look at them with fresh eyes you surely will find some value in them! Especially the 4th one was an eye opener for me as teacher as it implements planting and preparation very logically!

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    • Low
    • Low
    • 7 mths ago
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    I was only recently introduced to Brouwer’s etudes by my new music teacher. After having studied guitar for many years as an adult student, these pieces have certainly helped to improve my technique. So far I have learnt 1-4. The lessons on Tonebase have been very useful especially since COVID has stopped in person lessons for the past two years.

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      • martinTeam
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      • martin.3
      • 7 mths ago
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      Low That is so great to hear! You'll certainly hit a landmark when you are passing by the 6th, the etude that stayed with me consistently throughout my professional career!

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  • I have played 1-10 for many years (since 1990's). In fact it's the first music I turned to after not playing for six years. I recycle them back into concerts about every 3-4 years or so.  They are SOO appealing to so many different kinds of listeners. #6 is a very regular practice target along with VL Etude 1.; nearly every day or alternating the two. #7 is often quoted on National Public Radio when trying to fill a 60-second slot on the air.  Great didactic and concert etudes. 

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  • Thanks for bringing up the topic of Brouwer's Estudios Sencillos Martin . Those studies, at least some of them since I've never played the whole set, have definitely influenced the way I developed my skills and how I play today. They are musically rich but somehow more approchable than pre-modern studies by Sor or Carcassi IMHO. Even if someone has less experience with the modern language they can perform them in multiple interesting ways as opposed to Sor's studies, as an example, where you musically need more experience with the tonal language to perform them. They also develop specific skills on the instrument not necessarily related to the musical language, as opposed to Sor's studies, just think about the Estudio #6, and don't get me wrong... I like Sor's studies a lot! ... but I think a beginner will find easier to learn and perform the first set of 10 than any 10 out the Op. 35.

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    • Karen Chuplis
    • One bar at a time
    • Karen_Chuplis
    • 7 mths ago
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    I came on them way later than you (lol) after a 20 year hiatus. Yes they are amazing jump starters and warm ups plus pleasing in their own right to listen to and fun to play. I recently played some at a friend gathering and people just loved them. I love that each is kind of a focus on one aspect of technique. They wake your hands up.

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    • Wainull
    • Wai_Ng
    • 7 mths ago
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    My teacher (many years ago) introduced these etudes to me, to help me explore the soundscape of classical guitar, and this series of etudes really opened a whole new world to me. I particularly like No.2 & 6 most, but I think it's more suitable for advanced beginners because they are not simple at all. 😅

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    • Wai Agreed.  I don't think they are simple either.   I tell the joke in concerts before I play them that Brouwer wrote them saying were no simple etudes for beginners. After he finished, there are still no simple etudes for beginners!  They are crowd pleasers and good music at the same time.         

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