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Five Towns College Lesson

January 1, 2010
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DATING BACK TO THE 16TH CENTURY, “El Noi de la Mare” is a traditional Spanish/ Catalonian folk melody. This beautiful song has truly stood the test of time. It was arranged for solo guitar by the great Spanish guitarist Miguel Llobet (1878-1938), and can most recently be heard in the Woody Allen film Vicky, Christina, Barcelona.

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This arrangement is a great example of what I call reduction harmony, suggesting “less is more.” The principle harmonic tones are key in the support of the melody. This approach usually makes the solo guitar more functional to play. Here are some key ideas to consider when learning this work:

Start with a standard D major chord on fingertips, with a relaxed and balanced left hand. Lead the first-string melody with the left hand pinky until the fifth-position A major chord change dictates a position shift. Continue leading the first-string melody with the pinky.

The second half of bar 3 places an A/C# voicing, holding the fifth string C# with the left-hand middle finger. To carry the last two melodic tones of the measure (the B and C# on the first string with the pinky) will be very difficult. Focus on a “silent release” of the fifth-string C# when making this move.

In bar 4 we have an example of chord anticipation. The fifth-string E on the 7th fret is under the barre and suspends the chord tone, but is not played until the second beat. This suspension must carry for the full quarter-note. You can place this E in your initial set up of the Bm chord at the downbeat of the measure.

Be careful of the left-hand movement in bar 7. In my adaptation, I have the harmonized melodic voice crossing strings. I use the right hand mand a fingers all the way through here.

The big G chord in measure 9 (and also the re-voiced G chord at measure 15) is played across the soundboard with the p, i, m, and a fingers. Feel free to slightly roll the chord sound, but remember the melody is on the first string. Bring attention to this high D with the right hand 3rd finger (a) rest-stroke attack.

The last measure demonstrates a touch harmonic technique. To pull this off, create a “gun” out of your right hand, and anchor the hand on a non-adjacent string with your thumb. Use the flesh of your extended right hand index fingertip over the 17th fret A octave, and trigger the note with your right hand ring (a) finger.

To get an idea of performance style, I have recorded a video of this piece and posted it on my Web site at: www.serenadeduo.com. Hope you enjoy it! —Gerry Saulter

Gerry Saulter is a classical guitarist who has performed across the globe as a soloist and chamber musician. He is on faculty at Five Towns College, New York as Associate Professor of Guitar Studies, and is the Director of Private Instruction of the Music Division.

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