Eine Deutsche Reise - notes from the Rhineland
by Alexander Dunn
At a time of self-isolation and limited travel opportunity, I have embarked on an extended visit to the heartland of Romantic piano music – Germany and Austria. For lovers of Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms, we guitarists have been unfairly deprived of that repertoire. We have savoury Matiegka, Molitor, Diabelli and Giuliani to satisfy our classical period cravings. But if you desire a hearty German meal of Romanticism, we are sadly bereft of that music. Arrangements from piano are always somehow unsatisfactory, and the Olympian efforts required to present a medium-difficulty piano piece induces indigestion. But with the discovery and dissemination of music written not in Brahms’ time, but a full generation later, we now have Romanticism lovingly crafted for our instrument that ranges from
the immediately learnable to highly challenging. Austrian Ferdinand Rebay (1880-1953) wrote a vast amount of guitar music from solo pieces and guitar ensemble music, songs with voice, to chamber music of every imaginable combination of instruments. His output exceeds Castelnuovo-Tedesco; to this day being discovered and published. Brahms is recognizably his strongest stylistic influence. And Bohemian Rudolf Leberl (1884-1952) whose music belongs to the aesthetic family of Dvořák and Janáček, worked in the Czech Republic and Bavaria, producing over 1500 works for guitar, which are only now receiving their due respect. Any guitarist who loves German Romantic music will be enchanted by this delicious new repertoire.
Solo Practice and Guitar Tips
by James Austin
If you find it hard to work on your own or are a procrastinator, have a look at these tips to find something to focus on. Emphasizing the quality and efficiency of your practice time will help to get to a higher level of performance. Expanding your musical knowledge will make you a more versatile and interesting musician.
You must learn to pluck before you do runs
~ ancient Greek proverb
Revisit old exercises and repertoire
Reviewing previous work can affirm the progress you've made as your old exercises and pieces may now seem easier than a previous run-through. Perhaps you can now up your performance level by adding what you have learned since? Always practice like you are performing: tuning checked, use your footstool or support, have good posture and nails properly buffed.
Restring your guitar
Are your strings sounding a bit dull? Can you vary your dynamics easily? Do your harmonics ring out easily? If not, maybe you need to try out some fresh strings...and while you're at it check out your tuners and frets for wear and tear.That fretboard will probably need cleaning too!
Find new repertoire and exercises
Perhaps you heard some exciting repertoire during our previous concerts or open mics that you want to try. Has your teacher suggested a classic exercise book or a brand new method? Now's the time to check it out.
Research music, listen to music and watch videos
Whether you are working on a specific piece, or have an interest in a specific musical genre, composer or style, there is a myriad of written and recorded work to enlighten you on the internet and hardcopy and e-books on topics ranging from stage fright to tuning systems to biographies. Books and music can be good companions to take to the beach or a picnic. Try a song in a different guitar tuning.
Compose and arrange pieces
If you haven't composed before, start by creating a simple melody and add some chords. If you have experience in writing music on staff lines, take one of your favourite pieces that you haven't heard played on the guitar and arrange it for the guitar on the treble clef (a good fingering exercise!).
Record your music
With a quality recording of your piece, you can be your own adjudicator or share it with someone else for feedback. Play a duet with yourself by recording one part and playing along with it.
Try something new (or old)
Have you seen someone using the latest electronic gadget, software or app and wondered what it was or how it worked? Now is the time to download that new app or software and give it an evaluation. Or try old technology - perhaps you wanted to try playing without nails or try out a Torres tornavoz - go for it!
Connect via video
Consider lessons via video conferencing. Skype, Facetime, Zoom, Jamkazam, and other platforms can get you connected to one or more people for learning and sharing music. A quality external microphone definitely helps improve sound, but even a built-in mic with a pair of headphones can give you a satisfying experience.