As most of my students over the years will easily attest, I rarely, if ever, assign material of an "abstract" nature (i.e. finger exercises, theory drills, ear-training exercises, etc). To summarize my present day philosphy in a nutshell: "Don't practice what you won't play for someone!" This doesn't mean, however, that there aren't some exceptions to the rule. I should know, having subjected myself to many kinds of pursuits throughout the course of my career. These excerpts from Francisco Tarrega's "Complete Technical Studies" that I'll share with you represent a very "special" exception. Let me explain.
Many, many years ago, during the height of my classical guitar training and technical exploration, I became keenly aware of the differences in approach between the "traditional" established schools of instruction. These methods, primarily of Italian and Spanish origin, date back several centuries, yet are still quite viable for the present day guitarist. One very important conclusion I came to was that the Spanish school of approach (from teachers and composers like Dionisio Aguado, Fernando Sor, Francisco Tarrega, Emilio Pujol, & Andres Segovia) seemed to spawn a significantly stronger "breed" of technical virtuosity. It didn't take me very long, after exposure to the Tarrega Studies, to realize that I had indeed stumbled upon a "gold mine". As hard as I would try, I simply could never master these studies, and found that five minutes of them would be the equal of thirty (or more) minutes of any other type of technical pursuit that I'd ever been exposed to! Abstract? Perhaps, but once your fingers have "tasted" the invigoration from these exercises, it's hard to deny their value.
Many classical guitar enthusiasts would logically conclude that the legendary Andres Segovia should wear the crown of "Father of the Classical Guitar". After all, he was certainly responsible for bringing the instrument before the world during the 20th century. But, for that reason, I view him more as the "ambassador" of the instrument. Francisco Tarrega was born in 1852, and spent his entire existence composing and re-inventing the technique of the guitar, quite a feat given the instrument's tremendous "lack" of popularity throughout the late 19th century. Almost blind from childhood, he rose from the most humbling of circumstances, learning piano from a blind pianist in the same rope factory that his father worked in. He later learned guitar from a blind guitarist. Though Francisco toiled in relative obscurity, he was obsessively devoted to the instrument, and supported himself during his adult life by teaching wealthy patrons and, of course, other noteworthy guitarists/teachers of that time period (Miguel Llobet, Emilio Pujol, etc). It's been written that Segovia would've loved having the opportunity to study with Tarrega, but was barely a youth when Tarrega passed away (1909).
There are three types of Tarrega studies that I'll be sharing with you, now and in the future: "Slur" studies, "Bar & Reach" exercises, and "Bar & Arpeggio" studies. I believe that, after you've had a chance to witness the power of the any of these exercises, you'll relish the opportunity to work with the others. Brace yourself and good luck!
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