Week 4: Celebrating Global Connections

Welcome to the "Around the World in 80 Strings Challenge"! This month, we'll embark on a global musical journey, exploring classical guitar compositions from various countries. The only rule: Don’t play a composer from your home country. Let’s make this a truly international experience!

🗓️ CHALLENGE TIMELINE

  • Challenge Start: Kick-Off on May 15th
  • Duration: May 15th - June 24th
  • Watch Party: June 24th

🎼 ACTIVITIES

  1. Choose Your Piece: Select a new piece of music to work on. Share your choice in the thread below and inspire your fellow musicians!
  2. Video Submission: Submit a video of your practice this week. Highlight your favorite passage from the piece that showcases the origin of this piece!

🎸 GET INVOLVED

Let’s kick things off with enthusiasm! Share your progress, encourage others, and explore new musical horizons together. Can’t wait to see what everyone chooses!

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  • NO NAILS!

    Well, I took the plunge (again) and cut off my right hand nails. I tried this about a year-and-a-half ago (I think), but I gave up when results weren’t coming to me quickly. After watching Brandon Acker’s livestream on playing without nails and hearing what a great sound he gets, I decided to try it again. After reading up and watching several videos about the process, I now understand that results are slow, and that I need to stick to playing easy music for a while. So, to that end, I have mentally committed to keeping the nails off for the summer, and I am starting with a couple Sor studies from Op 60. Since I am not from Spain, I figure this music can count for this challenge. 😊

    A couple things to note:

    • I am tuned down a whole step. Several no nails players have suggested this at the beginning to keep string tension low. After playing like this for a couple days, I understand why. This is hard on my fingers right now, but they say it gets easier.
    • Without a doubt, the hardest finger for me to get a good tone from is my ring finger. These two pieces actually do not require the use of ring finger. From what I understand, Sor’s method says to use the ring finger only when absolutely necessary.
    • For the most part, I have my pinky touching the fingerboard. Again, this was recommended by several people in order to change the angle of attack and give the hand some stability. Also, it was definitely the norm in Renaissance lute technique, something I also want to develop this summer.

    Speaking of the lute, I thought I’d throw in a video of a lute piece I love. I’m not sure where the composer (the very famous Anonymous) was from, but I doubt he/she was from the Unites States, so it still qualifies for the challenge, right? Joking aside, since this piece can be found in a couple Italian lute books, it’s a pretty safe guess that the composer was Italian.

    Like 4
      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 1 mth ago
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      Eric Phillips Those are really nice, Eric. Your tone is quite good, especially on the lute.

      I also had a really hard time when I first cut off my nails. I ended up getting very painful blisters on my ring and middle fingers. They have sense converted to callouses which present their own problems. (They can sound very harsh). I have been using very short nails for the last several months - they don't clear the tip of my fingers and require really precise picking. I am not very good at that kind of precision. I am close to just going back to no nails because my life would be much simpler. I am very interested in watching your progress.

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips Very courageous of you.  I was also impressed with Brandon Acker's workshop but do not feel it is right for me based on my interest in contemporary repertoire.  However, I totally get your desire to try this out with your great interest in the music of Sor and in wanting to explore more deeply the lute.  Nevertheless, you have such a great tone with nails it is hard to see how you can improve on that.  In any case, good luck with this and I look forward to following your progress.

      Like 1
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Eric Phillips Your flesh-only tone production is already very good, Eric! Something else you might want to consider when playing without nails is the type of string you are using. I find Aquila nylgut (which has a rather 'rough' or 'unpolished' feel, compared to nylon) allows for better contact between string and flesh, something I find essential to producing a good tone. (Not everyone loves nylgut, though!) Anyhow, it might be worth experimenting with different string types. You mention that you are resting your little finger on the soundboard when playing. I do the same as well, but I find this a little awkward on a modern guitar, with its raised fingerboard. (The technique seems to work better on instruments like the lute or early guitar, where the fingerboard is level with the soundboard.) I generally wind up allowing my hand to leap about a little, likely a less than ideal compromise, but one that seems to work well enough.

      I particularly enjoyed hearing you play the lute with a flesh-only technique. To my ear, the essential beauty of the lute is obscured by the use of nails.  (I have the impression that you have adjusted the angle at which your fingers attack the strings from what you were doing earlier, and this may also be contributing to the sound you are achieving.) Whatever the cause, the result is very good!

      I will be interested to see where this 'experiment' leads you. As Dale Needles says, your tone with nails is very good, so it seems a pity to give this up. But perhaps you will find in going 'nail-less' that you lose nothing but the irksome trouble of nail care!

      Like 1
    • David Krupka Thank you very much, David, for the encouraging words and tips. Clearly, my lute playing sounds much better already with no nails, and that is probably my main reason for wanting to go this route. I am not nearly as confident about the no-nails guitar playing, though. It is very frustrating trying to work out this new technique, and a big part of me just wants to go back to playing with nails and being able to create a good sound with relative ease. I told myself I'd keep it up for at least the summer, but with less than one week in, I'm not so sure.

      Regarding strings, I have heard several no-nails players say they like a string with a little more grip or texture. My only issue is that I'm cheap, and I already have about 10 sets of my usual strings. Steven Watson (maybe you know him from YT?) suggested scuffing up the trebles a bit with some very fine sandpaper, so maybe I'll try that first.

      Like
    • Jack Stewart Dale Needles Thank you both! It's amazing how something as simple as our fingernails can cause us so much time and energy. This is definitely not anything we can ever talk about with non-musicians. They would just look at us with pity, assuming we had completely lost it.

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips We're all so lucky to have you with us in these challenges--for the advice you give and the risks you take (and invite us along to learn with you). Thank you!

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    • Eric Phillips You seem to relish a hard challenge.  I totally understand wanting to experiment with no nails for the lute, but I must admit you are getting a lovely tone on the guitar as well.  I finally have a full set of nails, after tearing my m finger halfway down the nail bed last December.  I’ll enjoy learning about your observations of being nailless.

      Like 1
    • Eric Phillips Nice work Eric and great experiments. We will all follow your progress with the no nail experiments. 

      Like 1
  • For this Challenge, I have been working on two pieces from Uruguay.  The first, which I am posting today, is Carlevaro's Estudio No. 2.  I posted this Estudio at the end of the last challenge as work in progress.  I have continued to work on it over the past couple of weeks am posting a more polished version.  While it still needs some work, mainly an increase in speed, I feel it is coming along.  As I have previously mentioned, Carlevaro wrote five Estudios in homage to Villa-Lobos.  Compositionally, this Estudio incorporates the traditional Uruguayan milonga/candombe rhythm combined with a modern tonal language, clearly a tribute to Villa-Lobos who mastered this compositional style.  

    Like 4
    • Dale Needles Very well played, Dale! I like the changes in rhythmic feel in the different sections, and you bring those out nicely.

      Like 1
    • Dale Needles What a cool piece! Thank you for playing it for this challenge!

      Like
      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 1 mth ago
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      Dale Needles This is sounding really good, Dale. And difficult! You are doing an excellent job of bringing this piece to life. 

      I've managed to heal the slice on the tip of my 'm' finger so I am beginning to practice again, though very gently. Hopefully I can post more by next week.

      Like
    • Jack Stewart Spare Machine Eric Phillips Thanks for the comments.  This is definitely a challenging Estudio, in a way the most difficult of the three Estudios of Carlevaro's that I have worked on. Keeping the left hand/arm movement clean and string noise free while playing the right hand arpeggios cleanly all simultaneously keeping that milonga rthym intact is quite challenging.  But hopefully over time it will all come together. Jack, glad to hear your finger is healing.  

      Like
    • Dale Needles You play this with real understanding and conviction.  Very enjoyable rhythms.  

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    • Dale Needles  Such strange, interesting and attractive music Dale. Well done 👍

      Like
    • Andre Bernier Marilyn Blodget Thanks for listening. Still needs some work but coming along. It is also a piece that takes some time to warm up to it but once you do, it's interesting musical elements become more apparent.

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      • Barney
      • Barney
      • 3 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Dale Needles Very interesting study with some tricky rhythms. Seems quite challenging, which you are handling well.  Very convincing performance with very low string noise ( very difficult in this one).  I'll watch out for future updates.  Thanks for sharing your progress.

      Like
  • Well Paraguay does not sound very exotic for guitarists, but I guess it qualifies for the challenge. This is the Tango #2 by Barrios (it's not clear if there is a Tango #1 - if anyone knows of it please let me know).

    Anyway, the opening phrase which repeats throughout the piece is very tricky, and will require a bit more work - although I'm not sure how to practice for improvement here - it simply is an awkward figure - a cutaway guitar would help (I think) but that sort of thing is not my scene - color me conservative.

    I decided to play this because I finally acquired the 4th Stover Barrios collection, and chose this piece for its jaunty and playful nature - but as usual Barrios was never motivated to make things easy.

    Only problem is that the piece kinda gets stuck in your head - I really need to displace it with something a bit more languid.

    Like 4
    • Sam Greenblatt Very nicely played. I had not heard this Tango played before but really enjoyed it. I am not aware of a Tango #1 but since there is a #2, there must a #1. I will ask a friend in Uruguay who has some of Barrios' original manuscripts to see if he knows of it.

      Like
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Sam Greenblatt It's sounding very good already, Sam! (But I see why you call that opening phrase 'tricky'! I'm with you when it comes to the idea of a cutaway, but a few extra accessible frets would sure make Barrios a lot easier!) I do know of one other tango by Barrios, although it has no number associated with it; rather it bears the title 'Don Perez Freire'. (It can be found in the second volume of the original Stover publication.) It is quite similar in character to the one you play here. Edson Lopes performs it beautifully on YouTube.

      Like
    • Sam Greenblatt David Krupka I also heard back from my colleague in Uruguay and he agrees with David that the "Don Perez Freire" is Tango No. 1 and was dedicated to the Chilean composer Osman Perez Freire.

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    • Sam Greenblatt What fun! Thank you for playing this!

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      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 1 mth ago
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      Sam Greenblatt That was great, Sam. It really sounds fun but looks really challenging! You did a great job on this piece. Thanks for sharing this.

      Like
    • Sam Greenblatt Surely not an easy piece to play but you did a great job. Well done, bravo👍 

      Like
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