Impressionism on the guitar?
Every time I give my masterclasses I think; how wonderful it is to have so much time and to be able to go into depth about guitar playing. It is even better when you can hear an immediate growth and I see it happening monthly.
Last time, one of my favorite themes came up; the “impressionist coloring“. Do I hear a big question mark there?
First of all you take one of those pieces of music that don’t tell the “story” very concretely… I’ll just mention as an example the beloved Etüde Simples nr 6 by Leo Brouwer (or Bubbles, the piece of music I composed myself) or a very quiet and slow piece with a lot of “silence or sustained notes or chords” like in this case one of the Dreamscapes by Damian Mc. Cluskey. I take the latter piece as an example (so a slow “coloring” with many silences in between).
The making of the “story” is then actually entirely up to you, with dynamics and timbre you will have to transfer your thoughts or your image, to the listener because without a plan it becomes a big chaos of notes or a sleep-inducing whole.
That’s where step 1 begins right away; what do you really want to say? And what does the musical structure or harmony ask of you? For me, that is the absolute basis and forms the structure of my musical outline.
Do you have it? How are you going to shape it in terms of sound color and dynamics(and with that which techniques are you going to use and where?). And then it comes…… you hear something, you see something but how, HOW, do you get that out of your guitar?
Of course, you can practice your techniques until you weigh an ounce but some things sometimes don’t work out. For example, I asked my student to play ” a sweep” in the Dreamscape (dream world) in order to paint in timbre from the long silence that the piece holds. With that I wanted to create a sound from silence that is not concrete (pats and the note starts and then lasts x seconds) but rather…zzzzzoefffff and there I believe was a tone….but I hear more of a “color”…. That sweep turned out to be not so easy! My skills as a tone artist (yes, a beautiful word that we should especially honor) and teacher were tested and both our patience.
As it turned out, the student played as soft as she could and completely “Sul Tasto” but it remained; PATS instead of ZZZZooeff. The difference appeared to be in maintaining “some” tension in the joints (and even arm muscles) of her hand versus; complete relaxation without any pressure towards the string. In addition it turned out that the nail was almost completely sidelined and therefore from the air (because otherwise the string would not sound through and then you get silence instead of “vagueness that turns into vagueness”) had to be played directly without any pressure and without nail projection.
An additional exercise was to play the next note or chord within the so-called dynamic “cone” (even more difficult); where is the sound in terms of strength at the moment you start playing again and how can you let this pass “naturally” into the next “sweep”. Of course, your instrument comes into play as well; some instruments lend themselves better to “sweeps” than others….and have more dynamics than others.
And playing ppp is sooo hard!
We got it off the ground with a lot of listening, a lot of trying.All in all, it was a wonderful class with wonderful results and an “impressionistic” sound painting stood.
For all of you who have not yet mastered this “technique” and have been inspired by this blog; I wish you lots of fun! And if you need a little help; you know where to find me!
Ps do you want to know what that sounds like then? Listen to my latest new CD: Loving Urgency (available to order through me or through all online channels).