Approaching Different Versions of a Piece on Your Learning Journey

I was having an email conversation recently with a reader on a topic that I thought may be of interest and potentially helpful to others, so I thought I’d share the crux of it with you today.

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Said reader was interested to know my thoughts on two differing transcriptions for guitar of Granados’ repertoire favourite, La Maja de Goya, having read my post from nearly three years ago (eek- time flies!) on the piece. My preference, really only for the simplest reason that I’ve not tried any other transcriptions, is for the Miguel Llobet transcription. A tried, tested, and beautiful sounding transcription (with a few of my own little editorial tweaks and changes here and there, of course!), that a number of the “greats” of the guitar world are known to have used (not that that should always necessarily be a primary guiding principle).

The Llobet version drops the tuning of the bass E and A strings down to D and G respectively, and is written in the key of E Flat. The drop D tuning most guitarists are probably relatively comfortable with, being a relatively common occurrence in the guitar repertoire. The drop G running on the A string is somewhat less common and therefore can present a bit of an initial brain-teaser to the uninitiated. It’s well worth persevering with this (and other alternate tunings in other pieces) as some quite beautifully resonant sounds can result.

So, said reader was looking at this E Flat transcription versus a G transcription and wondering which to focus on, claiming that they didn’t want a dumbed down version, but apparently lacking in “great facility” (to quote them verbatim).

My response to this was that in deciding which of the two tunings to go with, go with your preference and the one that suits your ear and technique. As I eluded to above, just because Segovia or one or other of the “greats” played a particular transcription does not mean we should not explore other versions, other tunings and other approaches.

A lot of the Spanish repertoire represents transcriptions from the original piano music, so I don’t see that we need necessarily get too hung up on things like that. The differing keys obviously have their own particular qualities, so whilst you might not get the same “flavour” as the E Flat version in the G version, something in there that speaks differently may perhaps be found.
And if a particular version or transcription is slightly more accessible for someone in their progression on the guitar, then I’m all for that too. Given that a piece such as La Maja de Goya could be considered a reasonably challenging piece or in an advanced part of the repertoire attempting to play such works before you’re technically or indeed musically ready for such a piece can lead to being driven nuts, disaffection with the instrument an injury or combination of all three! If an alternate transcription allows you to enjoy a fantastic piece of music more readily then I say go for it.  You can always come to more challenging versions at a later point in time when your technique has progressed.
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Guest Post from Daniel Nistico, The Resourceful Guitarist!

I’m so excited to be able to present on the blog today a guest post by the fabulous US-based, Australian guitarist Daniel Nistico. I’ve featured Daniel a few times over the years on the blog and it’s so great to be able to feature some of the fantastic work he’s been putting in to exploring lost parts of the repertoire and artists we’ve seemingly forgotten about (and this one today is extra-special for me as it’s a female guitarist Daniel is looking into! Yay!). Over to you Daniel……….