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Classical Guitar Lessons: Phrasing, Playing Expressively

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This lesson is a,
this is a short lesson on phrasing and
playing expressively.
Throughout the curriculum you will hear me
talk a lot about phrasing and
a lot about keeping the music.
And, and the atmosphere of the music or
the communication of the music, the
expression of whats happening,
and those can be, those can be seemingly
very vague terms.
But one of the things that can help focus,
your, your expressive playing and and
musical playing is just actually being
able to break down a phrase.
Sometimes I think it's,
it's hard to look when you see all these
notes to just to, to know what to do.
But I can give you three examples from
three, you know, pretty well known pieces.
As three different examples of how to
actually analyze a phrase.
And we'll start with a, I,
I purposely picked them from three
different periods of classical music.
One from the classical era, the,
the theme from the Sor variations on
Mozart Opus nine.
The, the next one oh, we'll cover, we'll
look at the very first
four bar phrase of the prelude from the
second Lutz Suite by Bach.
And then we'll look at a more of a longer
phrase with more
longer long breathe phrase like the, like
basically the, the first section of Julio
And we'll look at.
Well, we're going to talk about is how to
phrase on two different levels.
Something that I,
we can refer to as phrasing on a small
level or micro-phrasing.
And then, combining those smaller phrases
into one large phrase.
In the Mozart variations the theme,
by, the variations on a Theme of Mozart by
Fernando Sor.
The theme is a very good,
clear cut example of a typical phrase of
the classical era.
I'll just play that theme for you right
Just the first repeat.
In those, in that first repeat, we, we can
really think of on the,
on the smallest level, we can think of
individual phrases like this.
Phrase one.
Phrase two, now going into phrase three.
And then phrase four.
Once you're in, that would be an example
of, of four micro-phrases.
Then if we kinda expand outward from
there, and put and, and
double those, and, so twice the size, we
get this.
And we call that a period in classical
music, and a period typically starts on
the tonic,
in this case E major,
it and the first, and the first half of
that phrase is called the antecedent
phrase, and
a concadece, usually cadences in the
classical era often in
the dominant chord, so in that case, B
dominant seven.
Then the consequent part of the phrase,
just like the word sounds,
the consequence, so the consequent phrase
of that period is the phrase beg,
that begins in the dominance.
Can even hear the B dominant 7 chord
underneath that phrase in your ear.
then coming to resolve on the tonic again.
Where, where it started at the beginning.
And so that's, that's a phrase period.
With an antecedent and a consequent
So if we combine those two micro-phrases
together, that's what we get,
we get the period.
And I'll play that for you right now
Now, the next,
what happens next is just another period.
Now, within these phrases if you can
choose, wisely choose a note to play with
direction towards.
What I call, direction notes,
they give you, they really give your
phrase some purpose and
let's, for example, in the antecedent,
phrase of the period.
I'm basically focusing all my energy and
my crescendo toward the high B of that
And, and I have proof of that because it
is the appoggiatura,
it has an appoggiatura relationship
coming to rest on the seventh of that B
dominant seventh chord.
Then the consequent part of the phrase.
I'm really concentrating on the F
double sharp.
That's the spicy note.
That's, that's the strongest note in that,
in the,
in the consequent part of that, of that
Theconsequent phrase of that, of that
So even the repeating notes in the melody,
I can use even the repeated notes as a
kind of a crescendo ramp toward it.
And that's and basically if you have that,
if you, phrases, phrasing on the guitar,
we have to remember that we're playing a,
a percussion instrument.
And so crescendo and decrescendo.
The direction notes in our, in our
phrasing and
being able to identify things like phrase
periods and antecedent and
consequent phrases will, will really help
you there.
And then you can phrase, you know, an even
large, larger level by combining the two
periods and having a sense of the entire
repeat even feeling like one phrase.
It's like
Notice that at the beginning of
the second phrase period the antecedent
part of the second
I basically made a decision to really
begin to, to start that even louder than I
had played anything prior to that.
And that's a way of bringing shape to the
entire first half of that theme.
And then the consequent phrase, I relax.
Even a little bit of a poco ritardando at
the end,
the second time through that theme is not
a bad idea.
But it's basically a,
a gradual decrescendo through the
consequent phrase of that, of that period.
Now, when you put those two periods
together, the overall effect is that of
an arc shape, cresting at the third
microphrase, and then at that fourth or
the, in other words, the antecedent phrase
of the second period.
And then coming to relax into the fourth
micro phrase,
or the consequent phrase of the period.
So, in the next lesson on phrasing and
playing expressively we are going to use
Julia Florida and
Bach, Prelude from Lute Suite Number Two
as examples.
In the last lesson on phrasing and
playing expressively, we used the theme
the Mozart variations by Fernando Sor.
As a way to identify a phrase, and
actually name the smaller phrases,
or microphrases with in phrase periods.
And that's much easier to do in a lot of
classical era music.
You know, music basically from 1775 to
And, and even beyond that.
But what about music by Bach or music of
the Baroque era?
Some of the phrasing in that music is not
quite so
clearcut, not quite so proprietary.
And so I'd like to maybe unlock a little
bit of that mystery for you.
By using a couple examples of Bach, the
second loot suite prelude for example.
It's a very famous passage with
I'll go ahead and just play it now.
Very, very simple, very short phrase.
It's four bars long and Bach typically
starts out
a lot of his preludes with a four bar
phrase, where he,
he, he basically in four bars he he, he
takes the listener through the tonic.
Sub dominant, the dominant chord in the
third measure.
And and in the fourth measure atonic and
may, and
maybe some variations in there, but that's
basically what he's, what he's doing.
He's kinda getting the listener's ears in
just four quick bars, one long phrase.
A sense of the key that, that the piece is
being played in.
And then from there he, he tends to
explore and go into other key areas.
But he sets the tone right there from,
from the very first phrase.
Now, the material,
the melodic material in there is basically
the same all the way through.
You have this stepwise three note thing
A leap, and
then another leap resulting in a leading
And then up to the tonic by step.
So, right in there is just a lot of
information, and, and we can,
we can even phrase during that, so each
measure is its own kind of micro phrase.
Now, I can play each of those the same
And that sounds okay.
But when we have three of those in a row
like that and the chords, and
the chords that are changing underneath
starting from tonic, sub dominant,
dominant, each of them are, are getting
I'll use another example from from the
from the first
prelude which, which I'm sure all of you
have heard many, many times.
The same thing happens but, in here it's
an opportunity to actually build
the phrase because while the melodic
material is the same,
the harmonic te, material is actually
getting, is adding tension to the phrase.
And then in the final m, the fourth
measure of that phrase that tension is
released with a two, five, one progression
in A minor.
So, I'll apply a little bit Chrishengo
through those first three
measures to help shape the phrase in
something more like a arch shape.
So how I'm doing that is, I'm actually
using my bass.
I'm listening to my bass and
trying to progressively grow the dynamic
of the bass.
So I get, if I play the bass alone.
See and that, with, through the bass I'll
just, I'll, if I can,
if I Crescendo with the bass using my
Then that will also help.
And then also Crescendo with my fingers
through the same melodic fragment.
That will give the, the phrase the sense
of it expanding and growing dynamically.
And again, the peak of it.
That, the, that scale actually releases
all of the, the, the,
the brief build up of tension in the
And then I, and then dynamically of course
at the end I relax the phrase.
One more time on that phrase.
Another example from the same composer,
a very popular piece is the first cello
suite prelude.
[SOUND] And this is an art, this is
an arpeggiated manner but the same thing
We have tonic in D-major.
Then, we have a four cord G-major over
the, over this tonic petal.
Then, we have a, A dominant seven, again,
over the, over the tonic pedal of D,
continuing in the base.
And, in the fourth measure, we return to
the tonic again.
Again this is very typical of Bach when
when he most of the preludes you'll find
have a very simple four bar phrase
that that really just sort of sets the
tone and, and
gives the listener an idea of what phrase
would sound like in that key.
Using the material that he's gonna use
throughout the that prelude.
So notice how I Crescendoed from the first
measure on through the second,
a very gradual ramp, and at the third
measure, where the A dominant 7 5 cord is.
That's where I was doing my loudest
playing for that phrase.
And then as that, that chord shifted back
into the tonic the D-major I then
relaxed my dynamic and, and, and got
There'll be another lesson that actually
covers the first cello suite prelude in
more depth.
This is another installment
on phrasing and playing expressively.
In previous lessons we looked at classical
era phrasing with the variations
on a theme Mozart by Sor, and then we used
a couple of examples in another lesson,
a couple examples by Bach, from Bach
preludes about how to phrase through that.
But what to do with some of the more, the
music becomes more long-breathed
in terms of its phrasing and, and, and
throughout the, the, the latter half
of the 19th century is, there's more
searching elements to the music.
They go into more key areas and those kind
of thing.
Well, how, how to break that down?
Well, a lot of those rules started to get,
to become the rules of the classical era.
Of course, in the 19th century we start to
become broken and, and
composers could really have their own
style, and their own,
they can make a phrase as long as they
want, as long as they want to, really.
So I want to use from the guitar
an example of Augustine Barrios.
Julio Florito, which is one of my all time
favorite pieces.
It's a gorgeous melody but there's but
it's not the easiest kind of, of, melody
to break down because it's quite long.
In fact, the whole first section the, A
section of,
of Julio Florito is basically broken into
two large phrases.
So I'll just play the A section for you
right now.
And it's just a two bar introduction and
then a measure of three,
the melody starts.
the A
It then goes into B minor for the, for the
second section or B section.
So yeah, that's a lot of that's a lot of
music that goes by in really just two
So, so how to analyze that, were, were,
how do I know when to crescendo and
where to decrescendo.
Well, really good composers have a, have a
way, just a way of,
of writing something that really seems
perfectly logical.
And this is a good example of that.
If we look at the melody starting on
measure three.
We're in, we're in D major of course.
The piece is in D major.
He starts the melody on the fifth scale
degree and
some what lower, low in the guitar's
Over the course of, of 16 measures that
melody note is gonna go from here,
all the way up to here of more,
of an octave and a half above its original
starting place.
But how he gets there is, gives you the
clues to how to phrase.
He starts on the fifth scale degree.
[SOUND] Stays there for the next micro
is then in the next rhythmic grouping or
micro phrase.
Let's call them rhythmic groupings really
or melodic groupings.
That's where we now go up a fourth.
The melodies climb stepwise up to a
And then in the next measure.
Maybe it comes up step-wise to E, but then
essentially stays where it is at D.
So right there we have kind of a staircase
kind of thing forming,
and he actually develops that through the
entire A section.
So we have starting here A, step-wise up
and back down.
And then our first stair, stair step if
you will of three note.
And so, that's where I take the
opportunity to,
maybe, build the phrase a little bit or to
add some dynamic or
to crescendo, basically, up to that D
I sort of hold my position dynamically, if
you will.
And then another leap up
a perfect fourth to G.
Holding position, and then, and
then you basically caps the phrase with a,
with a lovely turn which then winds its
back down to the original starting place.
Like this.
So if I play that whole phrase, I want you
to listen for, again, where I crescendo
the phrase and where I kind of, sort of, I
hold my position dynamically.
And then when I move forward again.
It's all really in the details of the
I'm just taking my cues from the melody
that Barrios wrote.
And there
you go.
That's the first phrase of the A section.
That's half of the A section right there.
The second phrase does it essentially the
same thing.
But, we climb higher, all the way up to a
high D, and, and,
I'll just play that, and you'll, you'll
hear what I'm doing with that.
So, I want to save in that second phrase,
I want to make sure I still have room left
dynamically upward.
So that I can make those, that, this high
B, high C, and high,
high C sharp and high D a higher peak than
the previous phrase.
So basically I'm making an arch shape like
this for the first phrase and
then a little higher for the next phrase.
That has a simultaneous effect of
providing an arc shape for
the entire first section, the whole A
This the kind of narrative that if you can
imbue the music
with this kind of lyrical narrative, and
I really believe that the best composers
write this into their music.
It's just a, a logical thing that happens.
It's a, it's an evit, inevitable
conclusion, if you will, for their music.
If you can imbue your pieces with this
kind of musical narrative it really pulls
the listener along just like a good novel
or a good movie they can't put it down.
So look for these, look for these clues,
these melodic clues and harmonic clues as
well in all of your pieces.