Etudes Simples by Leo Brouwer

Difficulty I, A (from about grade 3)

For me these are pieces that you can benefit from whatever stage you are at when you first approach them, and they should have a place among the music that forms the foundation of classical guitar technique and musical development.

The studies cover all aspects of basic technique as well as more unusual ones such as double and multiple slurs and, being written by a guitarist, fit beautifully under the fingers utilizing the special musical qualities of the guitar to the full. They also challenge the player with rhythm, articulation and precise musical detail. For many Leo Brouwer is their first introduction to modern music, which can be daunting and needs patience to become comfortable with. If you do stick with it the rewards are enormous with new harmonies and textures to listen too, dissonances that create tension and movement in the music and so many contrasting moods and emotions.

Most of the studies are not melodic in the way that we used to, the music being driven by rhythm, patterns, harmonic progression and texture.

Numbers 1 and 4 have got lovely syncopated bass melodies with repeated treble chords as a ‘backdrop’ whereas in 2 and 15 the melody is in chords.

6 is a ‘wash’ of sound with a right hand pattern that creates energy and subtly shifting harmony. Slurs are very prominent throughout (a technique often overlooked), generating speed and rhythm in 7, feel and texture in 9, 13, 14 and 19, flowing legate in 17 and as a technical essential for the ornaments in 16 and 18.

Once you are familiar and happy with the style you can really find and enjoy the emotions – no.2 with its very slow and melancholy feel, gorgeous harmony and relaxed rhythms in 5 and 17, energy and drive in 6 and brilliant quirkyness in 10 and 11!

Do not worry about coming back to these. You will enjoy them even more and still learn something new in the process.

Selina.

B = beginner. Grades 1-3 or roughly 1-3 years playing. I = intermediate. Grades 4-6 or roughly 4-5 years playing. A = advanced. Grade 7 and above, 6 years or more experience.