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  • Introduction
  • Chapter D
  • Chapter E
  • Chapter F

  • Introduction

    This is the second of a series of three articles.

    These articles are designed to be used in conjunction with the accepted classical guitar scale fingerings used for the examination requirements of most North American and European music schools, and to further the guitarist's understanding of the guitar fingerboard and the immense number of fingering permutations available for a given idiom. Choice of fingering will be seen to have a profound effect upon the interpretive presentation of a musical idea through the alteration of timbre (caused by string selection) and phrasing by means of shift selection.

    The permutations in the grids are best approached GUITAR IN HAND in order to understand them best. They appear quite complicated at first but become easy to understand when attempted once or twice. To demonstrate them for oneself in this way is probably the best way to absorb them. PLAYING WHILE LEARNING is also the best way to incorporate mechanical finger patterns into the neuro-muscular memory as soon as possible (provided that the student practices slowly and correctly). I have avoided using picture diagrams or "boxes" in these articles as these diagrams only serve to separate the student's knowledge of the notes and their names from their positions all over the fingerboard. With the grid system used here, the student should be constantly referring to the scored scale above and, as a result, must absorb the notation AND the note's position on the fingerboard simultaneously.

    The jazz or session guitarist of today is expected to improvise freely in all keys and also be able to read fluently all over the neck. With these articles I hope to equip the classical player with some of the tools of the jazz guitarist, which can help bridge the unfortunate gap between styles and allow anyone studying this work to gain better understanding of their instrument and the music played upon it.


    All scales in the intermediate and advanced grades of most examination requirements for classical guitar can be considered as mobile fingering forms that can be performed at any position on the neck, thereby changing in key without altering in mechanical presentation. For the following articles these forms are best understood as follows;

    2 Octave Major Scale commencing on String 5 or String 6

    Chapter A & B

    2 Octave Harmonic Minor Scale commencing on String 5 or String 6

    Chapter C & D

    2 Octave Melodic Minor Scale commencing on String 5 or String 6

    Chapter E & F

    3 Octave Major Scale

    Chapter G

    3 Octave Harmonic Minor Scale

    Chapter H

    3 Octave Melodic Minor Scale

    Chapter I

    These nine chapter designations have of course NOTHING to do with the key names and are simply a way of listing them for the convenience of giving each permutation some sort of a designation that is logical within the framework of the article.

    The previous article dealt with Chapters A, B and C. This article deals with Chapters D, E and F.

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    Chapter D
    2 Octave Harmonic Minor Scale commencing on String 6

    At this point I suggest that you attempt to learn, practise and memorize the following scale fingerings. Slow repetition with no mistakes is urged, until the patterns begin to flow easily. This sort of practise will slowly build a neuro-muscular memory matrix of the whole tonality of each one of the Chapters. (Each of which represents one of the nine scale forms)

    I have utilised a reference system of letters (alphabetically indicating the scale forms as ordered in this work) and numbers (indicating the shift string) to give the student easy reference to the various forms. e.g. D4 refers to the 2 Octave Harmonic Minor scale form commencing on String 6 and shifting on string 4. A small letter after the initial scale code indicates that there are perhaps 2 ways of playing the form - as in D4a and D4b. A small Roman numeral after the initial scale code indicates that there is another less important shift on that string. E.g. D4iii would mean that although the main shift is on String 4, there is another less significant shift on String 3 (iii).

    This scale form is normally performed with one shift on String 4 as follows in D4a (* indicates a shift). The shift is then systematically transplanted to develop the scale form.

    Figure 12

    This excerpt from the Fugue from the Second Violin Sonata (Bach) provides us with a vehicle to play this two octave harmonic minor form at the fifth position in A minor. Although this example goes beyond the realm of this form by a few notes, the following fingerings still illustrate three different approaches to this example that are drawn from the previous permutations.

    Figure 13

    Diii begins more brightly than the other two fingerings. To keep constant voicing, I would finger the D natural note that is in the chord, on the second string here, and on the third in D3iii and D4a. The scale in bar 1 of Diii uses strings 2 and 3 and nicely accentuates the commencement of string 3, with the coincidence of it falling at beat 2 of this bar, on the note D natural. D3iii however, takes the scale all on string 3, apart from the A note at the bar's end. This suggests a great purity in this line, while D4a transfers to string 4 after four scale notes have elapsed, leaving another four notes onto the G#. This causes symmetrical sequences previously not apparent, while creating a more cello - like timbre, especially on String 4.

    The E major arpeggio at bar 2 beat 1, is more obvious in Diii than in D3iii or D4a, because of the feature of each note having a separate string and the tendency for harmonic accumulation. This occurs only in two note accumulations in D3iii, creating a "pairing" effect and an accumulation of three notes in D4a. The desirability of this arpeggio effect is to some extent dependant on the function of the G# at the start of the measure.

    In Diii the G# blends in with the E arpeggio and apart from stressing the beginning of the new measure, has little other effect. In D4a the G# is magnified in importance by its location at the end of a four note sequence on string 4, followed by the abrupt punctuation of a left hand shift.

    The high scale at beat 2 bar 2 is common to all our fingerings, yet this scale effect is perpetuated in Diii by its adherence to String 1 as much as possible. In D3iii and D4a, we find an echo of the "pairing" and arpeggiation of the E major arpeggio in the previous measure. The tone becomes darker also, which is in context with the nature of the overall timbre, of these fingerings. D4a has fewer shifts than Diii or D3iii.

    Here again, the "correct" fingering is a matter of preference. By this in-depth analysis of the interpretational effect of each fingering, at least the evidence supporting their uses, is now clear.

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    Chapter E
    2 Octave Melodic Minor Scale commencing on String 5

    This form is normally executed with an ascending shift on String 4 and a descending shift on String 1, as follows;

    Figure 14

    In the Courante from J.S.Bach's Second Violin Partita we find a good example of a D melodic minor descending scale that we can use the previous permutations to solve.

    Figure 15

    There are no slurs in Bach's original, however the guitarist may wish to insert some as I have added here. E2 works well with the slurs in these positions, as does E3. In El, however the string crossings interfere with the slurs. El is more suited to the slurs being located between notes two and three of the triplets, but even then this breaks down in bar two, triplet two, of our example. One could adopt a policy here that is common in modern fingerings of Bach, which is to substitute a string crossing for a slur (and vice-versa) and still use El as a viable fingering for this passage, if the slurs are kept between notes two and three of the triplets where possible.

    Tonally, the fingerings become progressively darker sooner from El to E3. E2 is attractive from the aspect of balance within the fingering, as it has either a string crossing or a shift located between notes two and three of each scale triplet.

    El has a unique feature of having two of the triplets begin with the first finger and is therefore a very secure and easily accentuated fingering and combined with unusual slur possibilities, presents an attractively unusual approach to this passage. In cases such as this there is no correct way, only a number of alternatives. The evidence suggests either El or E2 as the most feasible alternatives.

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    Chapter F
    2 Octave Melodic Minor Scale commencing on String 6

    This scale form is normally performed with a shift on String 5 both ascending and descending as follows:

    Figure 16

    Here is an opportunity for you to try to use some of the advice given throughout these articles.

    Figure 17

    Here is an A melodic minor scale passage that occurs in the Preludio from Suite Antiga by Guido Santorsola. Using the fingering patterns given on the previously, try to write out and learn four other possible fingerings of this passage. Using common sense, your musicality and the analytical devices you have learned in these articles, decide which of your fingerings is best, and, examine the various attributes of all your fingerings, both pros and cons.

    Next time we will examine three 3 Octave scale forms.

    3 Octave Harmonic Minor Scale commencing on String 6 Chapter G
    3 Octave Melodic Minor Scale commencing on String 6 Chapter H
    3 Octave Melodic Minor Scale commencing on String 6 Chapter I

    Until then, I hope you will have enough time and patience to grasp the points I am attempting to make in today's article. Perhaps even to try to put some of the principles examined and explained above, to use in your own repertoire.