April 29, 2011

Sustained notes within a line

This has come up a few times for me recently, and while it's not an original idea, I thought I'd share it for those who don't know about it.

Classical guitar is a rather percussive instrument with quick decay, and often times the music we play has notes written within a line which are far longer than the instrument will actually sustain. Yet, when you hear this music played by a great guitarist (whose expensive guitar may or may not offer an extra millisecond of sustain), the line sounds unbroken.

There are tricks for increasing sustain, vibrato can help, but this is what really makes it work. You need to match the next note to the memory of the attack and tone of the sustained note. Otherwise, if you accent it too much or too little, you may give the impression that you're starting a new phrase.

Also, sometimes (especially in baroque or renaissance music), a voice can disappear for several measures before returning. To my ears, it's particularly effective when, for example, a piece with three voices sounds like they're the same three voices throughout. This doesn't mean there can't be dynamics or variation in the tone color, it's a matter of intention and attention to detail. I noticed this effect a lot with Paul Galbraith's Bach recordings.

What it all boils down to is that you should make a goal of matching the sound your create with the instrument with the intention you've got in your head. Then you just need to listen a lot to great music and educate your imagination.


PS: I've concluded my video project, as I have to finish moving out of my house and am just too busy for the next few days. I will keep posting music I work on periodically, so please subscribe to my Youtube channel.

Here's a link to the playlist with all 13 videos I made this month.

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