I love learning how musicians from past centuries - like Sor, Aguado, Mertz, Tarrega, etc. - thought about music.
Something I've come to realize is that how the old masters thought and learned is not taught today.
Why wouldn't we learn like the old masters did?!?!
The old masters did things like:
- Practiced the building blocks of music such as triads, cadences, etc.
- Composed and improvised using these building blocks
- Copied out scores by hand of their favorite pieces in order to learn about music
- Associated keys and harmonies with specific emotions
Do you find any of this in classical guitar books today?
Something changed during the 21st century... books now lean much more towards the mechanics of playing guitar, but often neglect all those topics listed above.
Classical guitarists today:
- Don't practice the building blocks of music on a daily basis
- Rarely compose or improvise
- Don't copy out scores by hand
- Don't associate keys and harmonies with specific emotions
Each topic is a can of worms in itself, so today I just want to focus on the first and last.
Major and Minor Triads
Triads are one of music's most important building blocks and are found everywhere in pieces.
If you practice them on a daily basis, then you will greatly improve your musical fluency - you'll read, learn and understand music faster.
Identifying and playing triads will become second nature for you.
In a nutshell, triads are 3 notes stacked in 3rds.
Harmony and emotion
In the past, musicians associated keys with specific emotions.
If a piece is in C Major for example, then it was generally thought of as being:
Think of some pieces you're playing that are in C Major. Do you feel the moods and characters listed above portrayed in those pieces?
Take a listen to the first three etudes by Leonard Schulz, which are all in C Major. Do they portray the emotions above?
And what if a piece changes from one key to another?
It's not just for the sake of changing the sharps and flats you play - it's so much deeper than that!
Composers change keys to provide contrasting moods and emotions to the music.
So if a piece goes from C Major to A Minor, then it will go from those emotions listed above, to:
So that gives us some powerful information to use in our playing, even if a simple piece like the one below.
Grab your guitar and have a play through the example below (click image to enlarge).
The A section is in C Major
The B section in A Minor
Overall, the A section can be played:
- With decisiveness
- With simplicity
- With innocence of youth
(Performer translation: lively tempo, bright tone, energized articulation, generally mezzo forte dynamic)
And the B section:
- With tenderness
- With quiet melancholy
(Performer translation: languid tempo, dark tone, lengthened articulation, softer dynamic)
Think of a piece you're working on.
What keys does it use and what are the emotional effects of those changes?
What can you do in your playing to bring those emotions out more?