WEEK 1: Exploring Carcassi's Etudes

Welcome to the Main Thread for the first week of the composition challenge! This is the place to post updates for the first week.

If you want to describe your process (optional), feel free to use the following template.

  • Things you found easy:
  • Things you found difficult:
  • (Optional): a video of you performing it!
  • (Optional:) questions

↓ Reply below with your updates and questions! ↓

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  • Study 14.

    When I found out about this challenge, I simply did not want to wait to get started, so I've been working on Study 14 for three days now. I chose this study because I really want to improve my right hand damping, especially of open-string bass notes. By my count, there are 21 times that open bass strings need to be muted in this piece (see the score below). I find this basic technique to be quite challenging. When I focus on damping the basses, I tend to mess up all the other notes. It always feels like I am trying to pat my head, rub my belly, and recite poetry all at the same time.

    I have posted two videos here:

    Video 1: This is an initial run-through of the piece, after I had made some choices about fingering. It's very slow, and with only a few exceptions I am not damping the bass notes.

    Video 2: (Sorry the lighting is so poor) This is after three days of practice. I practiced it in three sections, one section per day. In the video, I am trying to dampen all the appropriate bass notes, but I did miss a few. The tempo is a bit higher. I also changed a few fingerings for this one. Regrettably, I decided to play the bass runs (like in measure 10, for example) with all thumb. I know this is not the most efficient, but it's easier on my hand and brain right now. I decided that I wanted to focus more on damping than on these bass runs. If I continue to progress, I will probably want to go back to playing those runs with alternating fingers.

    Like 6
    • Eric Phillips great start Eric, what an improvement over 3 days of practice... you're on fire! I think you're already up for an award about «most submissions before the challenge starts» 😂... thanks for being you, you made my day!

      Like 2
    • Blaise Laflamme 

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    • Eric Phillips Awesome!  Love seeing the progress from day 1 to 3.  It sounds perfect to me, but you're going to continue to refine before moving to another?   I started practicing last week as well, and am starting with no. 1 which is a big challenge for me but there are no less than 2 lessons and 1 amazing livestream from Martin (which I just found yesterday) devoted to study no. 1 on tonebase. 

      Like 2
    • Brett Gilbert Thanks, Brett! I will continue to work on number 14, but I'll probably work on some others at the same time. I'd like to get number 14 faster and with more musicality added. My big goal is the get to a point where I am damping basses without thinking too much about it so it does not completely distract me from everything else going on at the moment.

      No more logical place to start than number 1! In my opinion, it is not the easiest in the collection by a long shot, especially if played at the marked tempo. I look forward to hearing from you, although like most people, you will probably wait until the challenge actually begins before posting! 😄

      Like 2
    • Eric Phillips wow Eric, after only three days, you got it close to perfect, ready for performance. That's really impressive! Keep on the good work :)

      Like 2
    • Khiem Nguyen Thank you, Khiem!

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips Bravo!!!👋

      Like 2
    • Giuseppe Gasparini Grazie, Giuseppe!

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips Well done Eric! I like it a lot. And the damping is very smooth.

      Like 2
    • Emma Thank you, Emma!

      Like 1
  • Nice work, Eric. Big improvement from day one to three, as one would expect. I don't see (or hear!) anything 'regrettable' in your choosing to use the r.h. thumb for the bass string passages. Actually, I'm pretty sure this is what Carcassi intended, even if modern approaches are a little different. It's certainly what I would do. (Not much of an endorsement, I admit ...) I'm curious to know what your bracketed annotations (P4/5/6) indicate. Is this for 'preparation' of the thumb? Can I ask also about the last three measures, which you seem to play in 'double time'. Musically, this sounds quite convincing, but it is not how I understand the score.

    Like 2
    • David Krupka Hi David. Thanks for listening. Regarding the use of thumb alone for the bass runs, I don't have enough knowledge of Carcassi's intention to respond intelligently. It simply seems to me that to be able to play this at higher speeds, alternation would be helpful. My bracketed annotations are telling me to damp the indicated strings with the thumb at those places in the music. I've seen this annotation used by others, and it made sense to me, so I borrowed it. Regarding the last three measures - you are absolutely correct! I am (unintentionally) playing it too fast. Just now, I tried playing it correctly, and it honestly did not sound as good to me, but maybe that's just because I've been practicing it the wrong way. I'm curious to listen to the recordings of the piece from others now.

      Like 1
  • Hi Eric. I've just had a look at Carcassi's 'Methode Complete, Op.59' and he does state explicitly that the three bass strings are to be plucked with the thumb. (Page 10 of the Schott edition, under the heading 'Main droite'.) This is also apparent in the musical examples, where the thumb is indicated with a '+' sign. Thanks for explaining your annotation - it makes good sense, although I must say that I don't pay much attention to this sort of detail myself. I tend to mute strings only when my ear is 'offended' by a harmonic clash. I guess my approach isn't very systematic, but I'm lazy ... Also, I generally play with pretty dead strings (I change them perhaps twice a year) so they mute themselves soon enough! About the ending, what seems curious is that the way you played it sounds about right for a cadence. But that would suggest that the eighth notes needed to be moving a lot faster, even though your choice of tempo doesn't seem unreasonable. I wonder what Carcassi had in mind. Is it possible he (or perhaps the editor) mis-notated his intention?



    Like 3
    • David Krupka Well, I guess I was channeling my inner Carcassi! (or at least my thumb was 🙂)

      I am normally quite lazy myself regarding damping, to the point of ignoring it. I have recently been working on the technique, however, so I thought I'd use this study as an opportunity.

      Like 2
  • Study 2

    I watched the new video lesson on this etude by Tengyue Zhang, and I loved it so much that I just had to give it a go. I've played it before many moons ago, but the lesson made me want to really work on it and make it fresh and new.

    In the lesson, Tengyue suggested playing it very slowly for an entire week, so that is just what I will be doing. The tempo in the video is VERY slow (if you don't listen to the whole thing, that's fine 🙂). I also decided to use the right hand pattern p-i-m-a-m-a-m-a in order to work on my m-a independence.

    What was easy: It's so beautiful and expressive that it is a joy to practice.

    What was difficult: Getting consistency of tone between the m and a fingers. It was also challenging to keep the tempo so slow (I did not want to use a metronome).

    Like 5
    • Eric Phillips nice soulful interpretation Eric! You have your right hand fingering choice really well planned! I think TY's advice to stick to slow tempo for a week is a good strategy. Speeding up next week will be easier while maintaining the good control.

      Like 2
    • Khiem Nguyen Thanks, Khiem, that’s the plan. At the slow speed, I’m trying to pay close attention to the details.

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips great job Eric, it is very hard to keep the slow tempo without a metronome. And it also need patience. 

      Like 2
      • martinTeam
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      Gokce Turkmendag Yes, keeping a slow tempo needs discipline, it feels a lot like meditation! Glad to have you back in the Forums!!

      Eric Phillips wonderful, very clear and as Khiem Nguyen mentioned very soulful! Have you tried to place the thumb one of the lower strings for added stability while playing a-m-a-m-a?

      Like 1
    • Gokce Turkmendag Thank you, Gokce. Good to hear from you again!

    • Martin I will give it a try and let you know! I worry that it will give me one more thing to think about while playing, but maybe with practice muscle memory will take over.

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips I am preparing this one too! I was hesitating to record it because it was too slow but now that I see you,  I may do ;). I am like you using this to exercise my a m but it sounds less warm than when I do with i m, I am trying changing the attack but nevertheless. The lesson of tonebase of T Z is great. You play this study very beautifully and you are adding a lot of musicality and interpretation (that I could not feel in the study 14). It is beautiful, congratulations!!!

      Like 1
    • Emma Thank you again, Emma. I look forward to hearing you play it!

    • Martin Hi Martin. When I try placing the thumb on a lower string, I find that it makes the piece almost unplayable for me. It seems to change the angle of attack for my fingers and makes it very difficult to execute the arpeggio. It feels very much like when Mircea was trying to help me to do arpeggios with preparation during the virtuosity challenge. It's so unlike the way my hand normally plays. I think to do this, I would need to retrain my right hand to work in an entirely different way.

      Like 1
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