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General questions about the alto and its use (1 viewing) (1) Guest
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TOPIC: General questions about the alto and its use
#2315
Jazzgeir (User)
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Re:General questions about the alto and its use 4 Years, 10 Months ago Karma: 0  
I suggest we approach, arrange and use Bachs music the same way he did.

Bach rearranged his own pieces, he rewrote pieces for other instruments, he rearranged for new ensembles. Oh, and Bach himself took melodies from other composers (he arranged a Weiss suite for keyboards if I'm not mistaken), Bachs melodies were used by other composers, and he reused melodies in new contexts. A few themes from the christmas oratorio were taken from quite different context, for instance.

His compositions are not generally idiomatic music for specific instruments (unlike Weiss for instance) so I would be very surprised if Bach himself would object to heavy rearranging of his works.

Bach was a highly pragmatic musician, and this could defend strongly the bold statement that the only criteria Bach himself would limit himself to would be that the music should work well; within this open kriterium we should feel *quite* free to do whatever we like with his music.

This would include (in the process of adapting his music to alto, or d-minor tuned guitar) changing keys for entire pieces, transposing single notes an octave up or down, revoice the chords to fit different tunings: All this should be A-OK if the music "works"!
 
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#2316
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Re:General questions about the alto and its use 4 Years, 10 Months ago Karma: 0  
I recently acquired a 13 string d minor tuned alto guitar made by Heikki Rousu second hand (I think it was late september or early october), and now I am able to play the Weiss' c minor fantasia focusing more on "subjective" playing and rehearsing. I have not practiced a lot, but I have tried to do it correctly from the beginning.

I thought it'd be nice to post a few notes here on how I have perceived picking up an alto guitar coming from a classical guitar because many considering an alto guitar may be interested in the "conversion".


  • Your right thumb (p) needs a lot of attention when starting rehearsing:


    • I Always use apoyando (rest) stroke (except when repeating a quick note) since we don't play with our little finger on the soundboard like the lute players do: When you have 13 strings available at your fingertips, you really need a reference in order to place your fingers right, and a thumb resting on a bass string is just that reference. I'm quite early in the learning process, but I would be very surprised if the experienced alto guitar players do not use apoyando almost all the time...

    • The apoyando stroke includes automatic damping of the "next" string, and this is very handy on an alto: The dampening of bass strings is one part of the technique where alto guitar players actually have a harder job than the lute players: The sustain is too long to be ignored on an alto; the sound will be cluttered and obscured if you fail to dampen bass strings properly. The apoyando strok will dampen strings nicely when going diatonically downwards, for instance

    • The other way to dampen a bass string is by placing your thumb on the "next" string to be played and bend your thumb against the the string beneath (using the side of your thumb) right before striking so that the lower string is dampened. This must be performed swiftly and accurately, and takes quite some practice to get right. Typically this must be used when you play “upwards”. You play string 13, let your thumb rest on 12, and then right before 12 is played, your thumb is bent to stop 13 from ringing. This technique is used on the classic guitar too, but the many positions on the numerous strings make it much harder

    • Sometimes there is no way to dampen a string except resting your thumb on it for a split second, and this can be very difficult if the tempo is high because your thumb may have to jump up and down at great speed while “plucking away” with 'ima'. Serious practice needed!

    • You must be prepared to constantly analyse the music to find out which notes must be dampened, when to do it, and how to do it. This is basically the same on a 6 string guitar, but infinately much more important and frequent on an alto. This process must be done with each piece being rehearsed and you may have to reconsider while rehearsing the piece, since the faster speeds could change your initial analysis. If i play c-e-d, and the first two notes are part of a c major chord, then the c can ring on while striking e, but they must both stop when you should play d, since this is probably a harmonic event. I play c, apoyando onto d, then move my thumb to e, then apoyando to f, then move my thumb back to d, dampen the c string (by the side of your thumb) right before striking d, and then dampen the e as well by using apoyando onto that string. Sounds easy, but quite hard to do quickly and consistently

    • All this is easier with big hands! Stretching from the 13th string and all the way up to string 1 is equally much easier with big hands. I believe technique must a bit different with small hands, and an 11 string alto guitar may be a better alternative if you have have very small hands...



  • The other plucking fingers also need focus, since they must get used to be moved up and down more, and spread out more. On a 6 string guitar you use 'ima' on string 1-3 most of the time, sometimes 1-4, and rarely 1-5. On an d-minor tuned guitar however, you must be prepared to use ima on strings 1-6, and most of the time they are not placed on adjacent strings either, so often you need to use 'i' on string 5, 'm' on string 3, and 'a' on string 1

  • Your left hand is likely to get away with far less practice, if you play from tablatura. Lute music is often idiomatic, and playing it the way it was composed sounds better, and feels much better to the hand than arranged music. In addition, the shorter string lengths make it a bit easier as well, since fingers need not be stretched very far horizontally on the finger board. I was pleasantly surprised when digging into Weiss' music at least. The only thing that slows down practicing is learning to read tablature. It's good to start with a piece you know intimately.



I have come up with a few right thumb drills, actually, and I may write them down if people are interested. The key is to rehearse all the different distances required when changing strings with integrated damping. I have searched for good exercises for this but I have not found any really useful collection of exercises...

Oh, and one last thing when you start up on an alto: Expect to start really, really slowly. Experience from a classic guitar and ditto anticipation can cause some aggravation and impatience; going to an alto is a great opportunity to start practicing the way it SHOULD be done. We all know how it should be done, yet so few of us manage to do it.

At the age of 45 I realize that I learn much more slowly than when being 15, but that is compensated by practice experience, concentration and awareness. Practicing correctly will produce great improvement in a relatively short time, surely.
 
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Last Edit: 2012/11/27 13:00 By Jazzgeir.
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#2317
Sten (User)
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Re:General questions about the alto and its use 4 Years, 10 Months ago Karma: 4  
Neat observations and many good points made!

Best regards
SAten
 
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#2318
tenvec (User)
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Re:General questions about the alto and its use 4 Years, 10 Months ago Karma: 1  
Many congratulations on your effort to master baroque lute tablature. Playing from original tablature is often easier than playing a guitar transcription. As Bob Barto says, "there are no difficult passages in Weiss".
For damping, you can also use the left side of the thumb(for a right handed player), and the bass of the right hand, a quick"flick". Left hand fingers can also be used.
Have you found the major lute tablature sites?
James.
 
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#2319
Jazzgeir (User)
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Re:General questions about the alto and its use 4 Years, 10 Months ago Karma: 0  
Tablature is quite easy to read, but it feels really, really strange to play without having the slightest idea of what notes you're playing!

In that respect tablature creates a *shorter* distance between notes and instrument while at the same time it creates *greater* distance between the instrument and the music produced.

I always want to understand the music I'm playing, and the only medium for that is standard notation to me. But for learning the instrument there is no better, surely.

I have plans to use the instrument for continuo work as well as solo work, and that plan includes laying out 3 or 4 voice chords for all inversions and keys, both for open strings and "moveable". And I plan doing this in normal notation to get to know the instrument "from the other side", so to speak.

I have spent hours and hours on www.slweiss.com and the lovely transcriptions of Jean-Daniel Forget (whose name is heavily misleading in english), a gentleman whose contribution to the baroque lute repertoire is priceless. I my opinion there is no greater joy than playing pieces in the original notation, and proof read from the original facsimiles. This is as close you can get to the music, I'd think.

This is the only baroque lute tablature sources I have been exploring, and pointers for other good sites are more than welcome!
 
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Last Edit: 2012/11/28 10:35 By Jazzgeir.
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#2322
tenvec (User)
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Re:General questions about the alto and its use 4 Years, 10 Months ago Karma: 1  
Quickly, off the top of my head, Google the following names:
Thomas Schall, Richard Civiol, Alain Veylit, Sarge Gebode. These all have a large amount of downloadable tablature. Of course, a fair amount is for renaissance lute, but there are baroque tablatures on all of them. A smaller site, but interesting, is that of the Finnish lutenist, Arto Wikla. The US and practically every European country has a lute society, and these sell tablatures. A major seller of tablatures is Tree Editions, as also, Minkoff.
With regard to holding a multi-string guitar, it is generally recommended to hold the instrument more vertically than is usual with a 6s instrument. A knee bolster may be helpful.
James.
 
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