Vals by Calatayud


Vals by Bartolomé Calatayud (1882-1973). The thumb plays a bass line, just one note per bar, index and middle fingers play the accompaniment, and ring finger the melody. Apart from a run of bass notes mid way, it follows the same pattern throughout, uses the open strings and makes infrequent use of the higher frets. I was almost able to play it by sight-reading and yet, by bringing out the melody line and applying some vibrato, it can sound quite nice. It’s probably one I should have tackled earlier, but it’s good to have some sight-reading practice.

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Ragtime


To counterpose the melancholy that makes up so much of the classical guitar repertoire, I thought I’d try something a little different. This is a ragtime piece by A. J. Weidt, written in 1902 and titled simply Ragtime. You can get the score from the Delcamp forum. It’s a fun little piece, so I’ve memorised it and will keep it fresh in the fingers.

My tremolo so far

The tremolo, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a technique of playing a note very quickly over and over again to produce the illusion of a sustained note. It’s not particularly common in the classical guitar repertoire but it is used throughout one of the most famous pieces, Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

I haven’t practised this technique much. Now and again I give it a whirl, and over the course of a year and a bit I have noticed some small improvement. I’ve decided to record it now so that in the future I can compare recordings and see how much I have progressed. The fastest I managed before my technique started to fall apart was 130 bpm. You can hear the metronome ticking away in the background. The consensus seems to be that a proper tremolo starts around 140 bpm, so I’m a little way off:


But as well as bringing it up to speed, I want to have it more even and more consistent in tone. It’s very easy to slide into a galloping style of tremolo that doesn’t sound good. I’m still not going to spend much time practising it, though, because none of the pieces I will play in the near future requires this technique, and I think it will improve itself naturally as my overall control improves. I’ll record it again later in the year to see if I’m right or not.

New strings

OK, I last changed strings on the 1st of September 2016, more than 200 hours of playing ago! So much for my commitment to change them more often. Anyway, last night I changed them again.

I liked the mellow tone the old bass strings had. The new ones sound raspy to my ear, but I suppose I’ll get used to them soon enough. They certainly can’t be accused of being dull.

My motivation for changing strings this time was that some pieces called for harmonics, something that doesn’t work well with lifeless strings. I can hear the harmonics ring out much clearer with the new strings.

They seem to have settled in much quicker this time. They were barely out of tune when I picked up the guitar today. Maybe I’m getting better at fitting them, though I don’t know why I should be because I’ve had no practice.