Sheet Music

Sheet Music Database

Our Sheet Music database is very searchable using any or all of the following - Composer name, Title, Musical standard, Exam board and Grade of piece both that of the exam boards and also our own Stafford Guitar grading.

Our aim is to not only bring you the up to date exam syllabus but also a selection of music we have enjoyed over our years of playing. The Stafford Guitar grading is to help you when selecting new pieces to learn.

In addition you will find Selina’s review of a piece or book helpful and again these reviews are carried out to help with your choice.

We are also happy to obtain music that we currently do not stock so if there is a book or piece you would like call and we will attempt to find it for you.

Sheet Music Database

40

Guitar Exam Pieces CD Grade 1

ABRSM

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Recordings of pieces from the new ABRSM Guitar Syllabus, from 2009. Innovative and valuable resource for candidates preparing for ABRSM exams. All duos are accompanied by another guitar, and playalong tracks for these pieces are also included.

Skill Level
Beginner
musabguide1

The AB Guide to Music Theory, Part I

ABRSM

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Provides an introduction to the basic elements in harmony and musical structure covering the basics of rhythm and tempo. An introduction to pitch, intervals and transposition, articulation, ornaments, and reiterations. This Guide is not only an excellent support to a good syllabus but also a fine reference work in its own right.

Skill Level
Beginner
Intermediate
42

The AB Guide to Music Theory, Part II

ABRSM

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Provides an introduction to the basic elements in harmony and musical structure. Separate chapters on voices, string instruments, woodwind and brass instruments, percussions and keyboard instruments, and instruments in combination. Covers non-harmony notes, tonal harmony and chromatic chords, and musical structure.

Skill Level
Intermediate
Advanced
musabtheory1

Music Theory in Practice, Grade 1

ABRSM

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The Music Theory in Practice series has helped more than one million musicians worldwide to learn about the notation and theory of music. Now fully revised, this workbook remains the best way to prepare for the Associated Board's Grade 1 Theory of Music Exam, offering:a clear explanation of music notation, straightforward language throughout, many worked examples and practice exercises, definitions of important words and concepts, specimen exam questions,helpful tips for students. As well as supporting the ABRSM theory syllabus, this workbook also provides an excellent resource for anyone wishing to develop general music literacy skills.

Skill Level
Beginner
musabtheory2

Music Theory in Practice, Grade 2

ABRSM

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The Music Theory in Practice series has helped more than one million musicians worldwide to learn about the notation and theory of music. Now fully revised, this workbook remains the best way to prepare for the Associated Board's Grade 2 Theory of Music Exam, offering: a clear explanation of music notation, straightforward language throughout, many worked examples and practice exercises, definitions of important words and concepts, specimen exam questions, helpful tips for students As well as supporting the ABRSM theory syllabus, this workbook also provides an excellent resource for anyone wishing to develop general music literacy skills.

Skill Level
Beginner
musabtheory3

Music Theory in Practice, Grade 3

ABRSM

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The Music Theory in Practice series has helped more than one million musicians worldwide to learn about the notation and theory of music. Now fully revised, this workbook remains the best way to prepare for the Associated Board's Grade 3 Theory of Music Exam, offering: a clear explanation of music notation, straightforward language throughout many worked examples and practice exercises, definitions of important words and concepts, specimen exam questions, helpful tips for students As well as supporting the ABRSM theory syllabus, this workbook also provides an excellent resource for anyone wishing to develop general music literacy skills.

Skill Level
Beginner
guitaracademy2

Guitar Academy Book 2

Richard Corr

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This is a very well presented tutor covering many areas that others miss and providing clear explanations. Book 2 follows on nicely from book 1.

Skill Level
Beginner

This volume starts with a quick reference of notes, chords and accidentals followed by an introduction that takes the same format as in book one. It previews what there is to look forward to in book two, focussing particularly on free stroke and the importance of the improvisation and chord exercises in a students overall musical development.

There is an excellent introduction to free stroke describing where and why it is used, and the differences with rest stroke. There are pictures and written explanations on preparation for free stroke and correct and incorrect finger movements.

While many guitar teachers still disagree over the use of free and rest strokes in the early stages of learning (I start my pupils with free stroke) this book provides more information than is usual and so gives the pupil and teacher more choice. This introduction to free stroke is followed up by several exercises using chords in thirds and arpeggios helping the student to become familiar with the finger movements. The book then goes on to cover accidentals and key signatures, scales including the blues scale, ties, swing rhythm, dotted rhythms and 6/8 time signature.

Each new subject has clear written explanations, loads of pictures both amusing and technical, and plenty of exercises for practice. The section on playing fingers with thumb includes some very good open string exercises and even though it does move on to more difficult stretches, these are introduced in a way that makes them not seem so hard! The pieces at the end of the classical section are longer and more involved giving the student a real sense of progress and achievement. The chord supplement uses more involved strumming patterns, and introduces tablature.

musrealguitar1

The Real Guitar Book Vol 1

Lee Sollory and Nick Powlesland

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A compilation of original plectrum guitar repertoire that sets out to inspire while also developing technique and musicianship. The aim has been to create a progressive selection of pieces that is accessible to relative beginners as well as to more experienced players, the diversity of styles providing something for every musical taste, whether it be blues, rock, classical, folk, reggae, pop or metal.

Skill Level
Beginner

This is a compilation of original plectrum guitar pieces by Nick Powlesland and Lee Sollory designed to inspire players while developing technique and musicianship.

The book uses music notation throughout which is excellent for the young plectrum guitarist, and means that the pieces are just as suitable for classical guitarists providing an excellent variety and contrast in style from the standard repertoire.

The music is challenging in details of articulation, dynamics and phrasing right from the start with the simplest pieces and each piece has a definite character and mood to get into! This is particularly evident in the musical directions which include "aggressively", "punchy", "easily, into the night" and "in a hurry", really encouraging feeling in young players.

The exciting counting and early development of strumming, bends and slides are all important for becoming a "rounded" guitarist and there are some great harmonies, notably in Tomorrow Will Be Better and Tuesday Bluesday.

Selina.

musrealguitarvol2

The Real Guitar Book Vol 2

Lee Sollory and Nick Powlesland

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A range of fabulous educational and concert guitar music by the UK's top guitar composers, educators and performers. All of the music in the Real Guitar Book is suitable for both classical and plectrum style techniques

Skill Level
Beginner
Intermediate

The Real Guitar books evolved after a frustrating and largely unsuccessful attempt to find exciting and challenging music for a new generation of solo guitarists.

These original pieces certainly fit this billing of exciting and challenging!

They were written to suit both classical and plectrum players and really push the boundaries in rhythm and harmony, encompassing styles such as rock, blues, folk and classical, and giving players music that really comes alive when played properly.

The rhythms can be quite difficult to read which is good as it develops reading and encourages a natural feel for the pulse and syncopation.

The pieces use the whole fretboard, with detailed articulation and dynamics, and strumming, bending and muting techniques that may be unfamiliar to classical players but really do help to strengthen and improve technique.

The particular highlights for me are Chillout, Swing Thing, Rockroach and Moonshine probably because they are so successful at emulating their respective styles and make me feel good!

This helps particularly younger players persevere with the classical guitar since it proves that their hard work has also resulted in music that everyone immediately recognizes and enjoys.

Players are no less challenged by this music especially in reading complicated rhythm and learning the fretboard.

All in all an excellent technical and musical experience with pieces that are great fun to learn and play.

Selina.

tocaguitar

i toca Guitarra

Cees Hartog

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The fantastic thing about this book is how Spanish the music sounds even when the pieces are quite easy and do not have many notes!

Skill Level
Beginner
Intermediate

The fantastic thing about this book is how Spanish the music sounds even when the pieces are quite easy and do not have many notes!

Hartog has managed to capture the essence of Spain in his melodies and harmonies and the strumming and arpeggio passages reflect the flamenco flavour without being complicated and difficult to read.

There are 11 pieces in "I Toca" ranging from grade 2 to 4 although the pieces are quite chordal which may make them seem more difficult for some students.

The contrasts within the Spanish style are big offering plenty of variety for students from the mysterious "far eastern" melody of Danza Oriental to the traditional Malaguena and the fast thumb melody in La Monteria.

Danza Espanola has a melodic first section followed by a contrasting second half that uses alternating "p" "i" arpeggios to great dramatic effect and gives tremolo alternatives for the adventurous to build up speed!

I particularly like El Papamoscas, which has a fast flowing melody that requires rhythmic drive and shape and so teaches understanding of phrases and breathing.

All the pieces in the book will particularly help students with chord shapes - recognizing them quickly from the music, fingering and smooth changes.

Selina.

tapasdeespana

Tapas de Espana

Cees Hartog

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Like I Tocca Guitarra the fantastic thing about this book is how Spanish the music sounds!

Skill Level
Intermediate

The fantastic thing about this book is how Spanish the music sounds even when the pieces are quite easy and do not have many notes!

The 12 pieces in Tapas de Espana are more difficult than I Tocca Guitarra and even more fun to play.

All of the pieces are full of contrast in texture and colour.

They are great for developing basic technical skills such as arpeggio patterns, left hand versatility, rasguado and quick articulation, as well as improving feel for changing rhythms and melody with accompaniment.

Guajiras uses alternating 6/8, 3/4 bars producing a driving pulse and carnival spirit.

Boceto Menorca changes from a flowing quaver melody to triplet arpeggios and finishing with a strong, very Spanish bass melody with quick thumb articulation and slurring.

All of this transports you to Spain and the traditional dance forms, colourful outfits and stamping of feet! I think that my overall favourites are La Coruna which has a more mysterious feel with fast arpeggios and subtle harmonic changes, and Bolero which is simply great fun needing well controlled rasguado, fast articulation and a strong "dancing" pulse.

Selina.

muszebramusic

Zebramusic

David Cottam

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This volume continues the overall sense of fun in playing the guitar and enjoyment of varied musical styles that we were first introduced to in Zebracadabra.

Skill Level
Intermediate

This volume continues the overall sense of fun in playing the guitar and enjoyment of varied musical styles that we were first introduced to in Zebracadabra.

The titles are wonderfully descriptive of the style and/or story of each piece which for me emphasizes the importance of this aspect of our guitar playing - one that is all too often neglected! A good example of this is Amontilado, which has a definite Spanish atmosphere.

Throughout the book, Cottam uses the whole fretboard, often utilising sliding shapes and open strings very effectively to get around. The speed of left hand work increases as the pieces get more difficult, as does the complexity of finger patterns, but Cottam always manages to produce music that sounds more complicated than it is to play through very clever writing.

This is great for the student as it provides a constant boost as you listen! There is also a distinct lack of fingering which I think is fantastic. Even for passages where it is not immediately obvious Cottam leaves you to discover the fingering that works, which means that you learn a lot more about the notes on the guitar and how to produce different effects.

The pieces make excellent use of "campanella" effects. This cross string technique is important and wonderful on the guitar and not used enough in my opinion especially as we are learning. Wisteria is an excellent example with clever and flowing campanella scales, and Campanella Prelude uses the technique throughout to great effect.

There are many different styles of music in the volume including some arranged traditional melodies, and David always seems to be able to put his own stamp on the music.

His Malaguena is completely recognisable as the traditional dance form but also unique in the way he voices and fingers the chords.

Little Cotton Socks, Little Toe Rag and Snapdragon all use fantastic articulation techniques where the player is required to use staccato in the bass voice and not the melody. This provides a big challenge but is so satisfying and brings out the humour and cheekiness that is suggested in the titles!

My last two highlights are Zebra Music, which is very different as a piece to listen to, and also totally suited to the guitar, and Arachnophobia which reflects its title beautifully with the effect of the pull off slurs while asking for excellent control and positioning on the first string.

The pieces that I have highlighted here are only a few examples put represent the strength of this volume, that is the unique approach, variety, use of the guitars natural assets and overriding fun in playing music on the guitar.

Selina.

mustimescapes

Timescapes

John Whitworth

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Nine compositions aiming to broaden the repertoire of the intermediate guitarist. The most fun I have had in ages, if you are searching for music to challenge the player and give pleasure to the audience this is definately for you.

Skill Level
Intermediate

I first started to play these pieces a week ago and I am already completely hooked!

They are beautifully simple in concept and very aptly named. John seems to have a knack of putting across expressive ideas in relatively few notes, and not asking the guitarist to perform acrobatics, ensuring that you can enjoy the music!

I was immediately attracted to the high levels of interpretation and musicianship being asked for. All the pieces work at many levels; if you are working up to this technical level the pieces will sound good without too much control of sound and dynamics, but if you are more advanced you can still get loads of enjoyment from the music by challenging yourself on matters of colour and shape.

The amount of instruction in the book is excellent. Each piece has a description that varies from the origin of, or inspiration for the piece, to technical instruction and musical goals.

The introduction on the title page briefly explains the history of the pieces and ideas for performance; for example as a continuous suite, individually or in smaller suites created by grouping three or four pieces together.

These are great ideas for students embarking on their first performances, and for more experienced players developing their musicianship.

The phrasing, dynamic and articulation markings are very detailed throughout giving you plenty to work with that will help you to bring out the shape and character of each piece.

The first section of First Light is made up of long legato chords asking for lots of dynamic control and it finishes with a simple but beautiful quaver melody.

Road to the Hills and The Traveller are more lively and rhythmical while Edge of Storm uses low dissonances and a throbbing bass line for dramatic effect.

Serenade pays homage to Erik Satie's famous Gymnopedie No 1 for piano and Walton's 2nd Bagatelle for guitar asking for a legato melody line with accompaniment very much in the background.

The rhythm in Milonga is easy to highlight and great fun to play.

Introduction and Tango is very cleverly written with two simple voices that fit together and bring out the spirit of the dance perfectly.

Late Night contrasts a slow, broody introduction (great melody), with a lively swing rhythm and the collection is brought to a close by the haunting Beneath the Stars where the bass melody is backed by a fast but gentle open string arpeggio, finishing with the melody from First Light in harmonics, dying away.

The most important aspect of this collection for me, and, for that matter, of being a guitarist, is summed up by John at the end of his introduction;

"I hope you enjoy playing these pieces and bringing them to life…"

Selina.

muszebracadabra

Zebracadabra

David Cottam

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Above all this music is great fun to play while offering excellent technical and musical progression for students of all ages.

Skill Level
Beginner

Above all this music is great fun to play while offering excellent technical and musical progression for students of all ages.

David Cottam manages to communicate many different musical styles using mainly simple notes, shapes and slides giving beginners access to a wider musical "atlas" and early experience of techniques such as "campanella" (cross string melodies) and articulation.

He introduces some quite difficult syncopated rhythms, but does so gradually so that you are not always aware of the offbeat rhythm until you hear the effect, and he uses easy notes so that the student can focus on the rhythm.

These pieces also explore the fretboard right from the start often using sliding chord shapes to develop the link between notes in the higher positions.

Cottam makes excellent use of finger patterns for both hands that help to produce music that sounds more difficult than it is to play - always a confidence booster for students! One of the best and most important features of the book for me is the lack of intrusive fingering. It is only marked when necessary to indicate patterns or positions that are not immediately obvious, giving teachers and students much more freedom, and developing sight-reading skills.

Examples that stood out to me include Grasshopper Guiro which develops "p" "i" technique across the strings and includes left hand strumming at the nut, and Swing Shift that uses simple sliding shapes and a swing rhythm that gradually becomes syncopated. Chimes of Saint Swithun where the slow, resonant cross string harmonies require good tonal control, and Tirandosaurus Rex where the repeated chords work on "tirando" technique and the "Primitive" direction allows the player to let rip!

My favorites have to be Icicles and Floating World where the wonderful use of natural harmonics produces beautiful, haunting melodies and harmonies through overlapping sounds. As a teacher, I highly recommend this book for students of all ages - wonderful for practising music making!

Selina.

musiclongroad

The Long Road Home

Gordon Giltrap

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Here are seventeen superb arrangements of Classic Giltrap guitar compositions all taken from Raymond Burley's CD The Long Road Home

Skill Level
Intermediate

I was uncertain about this book when I first skimmed through and I now put this down to a lack of understanding of the style and the way that it needs to be played, having had no previous experience of his music.

Each time I play through the book, I find another piece that I love, and that communicates new pictures and emotions to me.

There are many technical challenges in the pieces especially, I think, for "very" classical players like myself.

For example, he uses quick multiple slurs that require relaxation and freedom of left hand movement. The sound of individual notes is not important, rather the overall flow and direction of the musical line.

There is a lot of left hand movement around the fingerboard that requires agility but again I would say that relaxation and a rhythmic feel are foremost.

The harmony is much more interesting, unusual and surprising than I expected and as I played, I found that the overall feel had to be improvisatory and free within the rhythmic structure of the piece.

That sounded a bit too technical so let me see if I can put it more simply! The pieces all have a strong rhythmic framework but the notes need to sound free and flexible around this. So if you can play without technical worry (even if the notes are not all correct) you will get much more enjoyment from the music.

The book is a very well set out and clear edition and there are quite a lot of fingering suggestions, mostly barres and positions, that are helpful and only written once!

Remember not to feel restricted by fingering as everybody's hands work differently and your hands need to flow naturally with the music.

There is a noticeable absence of dynamic and musical markings, apart from well-chosen words at the beginning of each piece such as "lazily", "stately" and "lively", and I think that this is a key as to how the music should be played. It is all about interpretation; looking at the title and general speed/ musical instruction and then listening to the music and getting "caught up" in its story! You can then write in your own phrasing, dynamics, articulation etc, or let the music unfold differently each time you play.

There are many contrasts in mood between these 16 pieces and some testing counting and time signature changes.

The calm, peace and space of the first piece, The Long Road Home, provide a wonderful opening to the book. It is not too difficult and allows you to practice listening and experimenting - a great introduction to the style.

My other favourites include Kaz with its lazy, low harmonies and melodic line; the stately Lord's Seat; London, which has a slow and wistful feel; For those who Bring Sunshine, which is lively and hopeful; the exuberance of Fell Runner and finally A Christmas Carol - a slow and reflective piece with fantastic harmony and lovely delicate touches to the melody.

The highlight for me is probably A Misunderstood Man, a piece that took me longer to appreciate with its slow, ever changing melodies but in which I now find new lines, feelings and pictures every time I play.

This volume of 16 pieces has taught me a lot about interpretation and freedom in performance and I know that this will benefit my technique, playing and performance in general.

Selina.

musicbrouwer4

El Decameron Negro.

Leo Brouwer

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I have loved this work from the first time I heard it played. Yes it is difficult and you may be put off by the rhythm patterns, counting and shear range of movement required to get around your guitar however it is definitely worth the effort no matter how many years it takes you to learn.

Skill Level
Advanced
musicbrouwer3

Nuevos Estudios Sencillos.

Leo Brouwer

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A group of studies covering various techniques such as arpeggio, staccato, legato, afro-cuban rhythmic patterns, tremolos, partial barre, this is an essential book for the committed student.

Skill Level
Beginner
Intermediate

I have always been a fan of Leo Brouwer’s music and so was immediately drawn in to these studies with their great use of the guitar and "natural" technique that compliments rather than fights the music!

Like Brouwer’s "Simple Studies", they provide varied technical and musical skills as well as training the ear to the more unusual sounds and dissonances of modern music which is very important in the development of the young (and not so young!) budding guitarist.

At the same time Brouwer manages to keep the music very lyrical, linking each study to a composer (homage to…) which heightens interest!

My only worry is the statement in the notes for study number one that the collection is for beginners or children. I think that these pieces would be of benefit to, and enjoyed by players of any age, but possibly suited to those with a bit more experience since the notation, rhythms and voicing is quite tricky in places.

I would place them at a grade 3 to 5 level, possibly 6 if all the tempo and articulation markings are kept to (for our database beginner/ intermediate)

Each study has written notes which clearly explain what is required and what to focus on.

The music requires clear dynamic control, careful articulation even between voices, pinpointing melody within arpeggios, legato phrasing and syncopated rhythms. There is simply loads to work on in each piece!

My favourites are Tarrega (no. 5) with its minimalist style, tremolo development and strong echoes of Brouwer’s Decameron Negro; Prokoviev (no. 4), which has an excellent, rhythmical bass melody; the lovely harmonies and chord melody in Villa Lobos (no. 8) and the beautiful simplicity of Szymanowski (no. 9).

Overall, this collection of pieces would be of great benefit to players of all standards and I particularly like the link to composers that will hopefully encourage young people to explore different kinds of music. Importantly the strongest element of "study" here is musical – excellent!

Selina.

musicbrouwer

Oeuvres pour guitare.

Leo Brouwer

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A must have book for all guitarists containing:- Brouwer studies No's 1 to 20. Dos Airs populares cubanos. Dos Temas populares cubanos. Danza del Altiplano. Pieza sin titulo No's 1, 2, 3. Preludio. Fuga No1. Parabola. Tarantos. Cadence - Haydn. Cadences - Giuliani. Cadence - Sor.

Skill Level
Intermediate

Leo Brouwer has always been one of my favourite composers. His music sits naturally on the guitar and flows smoothly from your fingers developing technique and musicianship in the process. There is loads of variety in his compositional style with challenging, contemporary works contrasting with traditional and nationalistic styles.

Leo Brouwer Guitar Works published by Eschig is a fantastic resource for guitarists and provides excellent material for helping to focus practice. It includes the 4 volumes of “Etudes Simples” (which alone make it a worthwhile purchase!), “Dos Aires populaires cubanos”, “Dos Temas populaires cubanos”, “Danza del Altiplano”, “Pieza sin titulo” nos. 1,2 and 3, “Preludio”, “Fuga”, “Parabola”, “Tarantos” and three cadences on pieces by Haydn, Giuliani and Sor.

The book starts with a comprehensive introduction, the first subtitle of which is “The birth and development of a vocation”. It outlines Leo Brouwers life, education, influence and development as a guitarist and composer. This is an interesting read to help gain an insight into his music. It describes his central role on the Cuban musical scene and how he was part of the birth of the avant-guard movement in the 1960s, managing to combine these ideals with the traditional music of Latin America, for example his use of the ‘cinquillo’ (five note cell) or the ‘tresillo’ (three note cell) in “Pieza sin titulo no.1” and “Study no.5”, rhythms from the Yoruba culture imported into Cuba by Nigerian slaves.

The contrasts in this collection of pieces offer the guitarist huge challenges in musicianship and interpretation, introducing inexperienced ears to new and exciting sounds in a “friendly” way, in other words contemporary music that is accessible to all!

When I was a young guitarist the Simple Studies were in my “learning” repertoire for their technical benefits, contemporary style and strong presence in the exam syllabus!

Between then and now an awful lot more didactic music has been written for guitar in many styles and some of the “older” repertoire has been, to put it bluntly, sidelined. These studies are now returning to the exam repertoire, and, revisiting them recently, I rediscovered how great they are!! They cover a wide range of techniques for both hands with a very strong emphasis on musicianship and quality and variety of tone, for example bass melody is highlighted in nos. 1 and 4 and no. 2 concentrates on chord voicing and control. No. 6 is obviously developing right hand arpeggio technique with subtly changing patterns but also encourages the player to listen to and shape the long musical phrases. Dynamic control and articulation are important throughout. Combined with the strong, often driving, and ‘funky’ rhythms, this musical shaping makes the contemporary style very lyrical and the dissonance fun and attractive to listen to.

The 3rd and 4th ‘books’ have stated goals and are more substantial as pieces. No. 11 for example has 2 completely contrasted sections and requires some very nifty fingering and position changing – brilliant for the left hand and ‘dot less geography’! Like 11, no. 13 is “for slurs and finding/ fixing positions”, but also contains uneven rhythms, unusual sounds and improves left hand finger independence. 16 to 18 work on ornaments mostly written out so you are ‘encouraged’ to learn how to count them, and they are beautiful, lyrical pieces. 19 and 20 concentrate on 4 note chords and introduce the idea of the graphic score by using motifs in boxes.

‘Dos Aires Populares Cubanos’, ‘Dos Temas Populaires Cubanos’ and ‘Danza Del Altiplano’, as their titles suggest, all use folklore tradition as a base from which Brouwer redevelops and extends the original melodies with his own unique style which highlights, for example, the ‘guajira’ and ‘zapateado’ while adding so much colour and texture in harmony and rhythm.

Much of the rest of this book is dedicated to more contemporary and avant guard music. There are familiarities in form and name in the Preludio and the Fuga no.1 which helps, and for me the experience of the first part of the book further helped me to approach the three ‘Pieza sin Titulo’ with some understanding of his writing and so more confidence to listen and explore.

Parabola and Tarantos and the most difficult to approach for players inexperienced in contemporary music. Parabola has a page explaining the way it is written, no time signature or bar lines and in many cases notes that are not even beamed together! There are however a lot of musical directions and familiar words and, if you are willing to have a go, great satisfaction in ‘finding’ the piece through careful listening and construction. This exploration of tone colour as well as the many instrumental effects here are fundamental to what Brouwers compositions have brought to the guitar. Tarantos has a graphic first section where motifs are in boxes to be used by the player in a kind of guided improvisation highlighting the original improvised character of the melancholy Andalusian song upon which the piece is based. Harmonic/ rhythmic sections (expositions) alternate with melodic variations (falsetas) giving you a real sense of where the music has come from however strange and modern it may seem at first.

This sort of writing does of course introduce the classical guitarist to the idea of greater freedom in music and interpretation, something that helps us with all of our playing and technique.

The three final cadenzas were written in Brouwers avant guard years but show a completely different side of his music that recognizes the Classical style and the technical demands therein that are so vital to the guitarist. They provide excellent workouts and are great fun to play, especially if you make yourself familiar with the pieces that they attach to!

I think that this volume is a difficult one to ignore and contains music, especially the simple studies, that every guitarist should be at least familiar with. The technical and musical challenges are too many to let slip through your fingers, and there is probably something to help with most sticky situations that you find yourself in with other repertoire. The ideas help you to focus your practice, both musical and technical, and so can easily be used to help to structure your overall practice and improve your sense of direction. The music also covers a wide range of standards, in grade language, from about 3 to post grade 8 so it truly is a book for life.

Learning to interpret the contemporary sounds and harmonies in these pieces is, perhaps, one of the biggest benefits and will open a whole load of doors and opportunities that you may not yet have considered. It is easier to learn tunes that we know in styles that we are familiar with – easy to sing, easy to hear, easy to listen to – but are we really challenging ourselves enough?

I am sure that once you start to play this music, to listen and explore the new sounds, you will quickly become hooked! I have certainly never looked back.

Selina.

musicbrouwer2

Un Dia de Noviembre

Leo Brouwer

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An extremely enjoyable piece for those looking for music to please an audience who may be new to classical guitar. Clearly printed and easy to read the music spans two pages ensuring no page turns.

Skill Level
Intermediate
Advanced

This piece has a beautiful melody, wistful and contemplative at first, with plenty of contrasts in emotion and atmosphere to captivate the listener and the player.

The piece really shows Brouwers complete understanding of the guitar and how to get the best from the instrument and the player.

He uses patterns of fingering in both hands and although some of the moves are tricky, with one difficult stretch, the piece feels very natural overall, falling under the fingers and allowing more time for interpretation.

The music employs good, basic guitar techniques, most importantly keeping the melody and phrasing flowing over the accompaniment while also recognizing the bass line. It is also good for listening to harmonies and progressions, and how these influence musical direction.

The piece has three main sections; A introduces the main melody and returns after B and C. B maintains the melancholic feel but moves into a higher register, moving back and forth between 2 motifs and giving a more restless feel. C is in a major key with a brighter feel and stronger rhythms in contrast to the gentle, arpeggio accompaniment of the first two sections.

I found that the more I play this piece the more I find within it. It is very enjoyable to play and an excellent ‘audience’ piece. A must for any Players/Performers repertoire.

Selina.

scenesfromwildwest

Scenes from the Wild West

Gary Ryan

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A suite of 6 superb pieces by Gary Ryan. Ryan's lyrical and atmospheric style effortlessly draws on the inspiration of images of America's Wild West to provide an exceptionally attractive set of pieces which can be performed individually or as a suite lasting 25 minutes.

Skill Level
Intermediate
Advanced

I wanted to write some technically challenging and tuneful contemporary repertoire that would hopefully be rewarding to play and at the same time encourage extrovert, rhythmic and entertaining playing.

This is Gary's opening intro to this unusual and extremely enjoyable set of pieces, and I think that he has succeeded in his wishes! In the suite he has explored a very wide range of techniques taken from many styles of guitar playing and American music.

There are references to steel, slide, plectrum, rhythm, electric and flamenco guitar as well as mandolin, banjo, country, western, gospel, jazz, rock, film soundtracks, classical and nursery rhymes to name but a few!

These pieces are not for the faint hearted, and you do have to be adventurous and willing to "have a go", but the results are such good fun to play and listen too that it is well worth the effort.

Gary has written a description and explanation of each piece at the beginning of the book which is extremely useful. There is no comprehensive list of how to execute the various techniques used in the music although he does include some brief comments on the score. This is probably because he wants it to come from the player as much as possible, and for us not to feel restricted in our interpretation.

I was nervous of this at first but eventually decided that I should get away from any strict "classical" and technical ideas and go for what sounded good! By doing this you get the most out of the music and learn to play with greater freedom, which can only improve your overall playing.

One of the most useful aspects of the pieces is that you need to be able to relax and enjoy playing technically and rhythmically demanding music. Guitarists are notoriously bad in my experience at counting rhythms, but here you have to go through that process to eventually be able to feel the rhythm and pulse and get the best out of the music by achieving the required fluency.

The music includes some of the more unusual guitar techniques such as strumming the strings behind the nut, scraping a fingernail along the length of a string and various sorts of tapping. Getting used to these techniques is great because it necessitates moving you hands and arms away from their set positions, which in turn means that you need to develop a relaxed and correct posture and playing technique. I would put the grade of the set at 7 to 8.

Railroad

"…portrays the long journey of a steam train gaining momentum as it winds its way along a mountain track. The piece is played with the lowest two strings of the guitar tuned to C and G and results in the three open bass strings being tuned in perfect fifths, like the cello. This allows greater freedom in the key of G major, facilitates more unusual 6 string chords and produces a rich bass sonority in the subdominant key centre of C major." This description really helps the interpretation of the music. After the slow introduction the train starts to move and once you have worked out your rhythms you can definitely hear the "chugging"! Techniques include slurred ornaments, strumming with the index finger and getting used to the unusual tuning, as there are many fingered noted on these strings.

Across the Plain

"…is quiet, lyrical and reflective, depicting a family on a wagon journey across the warm, wide-open plains and prairies of America. The musical feel is spacious and cinematic, reflecting the lyrical, sustained sounds of a string orchestra." This piece offers a wonderful opportunity to experiment with tone colours and shaping of phrases to make the most of the cinematic feel which is definitely there. Sustaining a legato line is very important and there are some harmonics to be worked out.

West Coast Breeze

"…combines a fast finger picking style and right hand string stopping with African and Latin American cross rhythms to depict the sunny 'beach lifestyle', freedom and wealth of California. It is partly influenced by Pat Metheny, a guitarist and composer whose music I enjoy." This is a very lively and energetic piece requiring some fast articulation, staccato control and excellent feel for a solid pulse! The rhythm is syncopated and written in 2 voices which makes it difficult to work out at first but great fun when you have done the leg work and can really feel and hear it.

Rockweed

".. is inspired by the intense desert heat of Monument Valley, Arizona and is a musical word play on the tumbleweeds that blow around the landscape. The style draws upon the music of Bobby McFerrin, James Brown, Miles Davies and Steve Reich and uses many of the techniques in electronic dance music……, particularly building energy over time via the use of trance like repetitions and subtle rhythmic alterations." There are lots of directions and unusual effects in this piece but the "slow, spacious & improvisatory" marking at the beginning gives you the time and freedom to experiment and really add something of your own to the music. This is something that you may not be used to but that is so valuable to our musical development.

Rondo Rodeo

"… is a lively finale inspired by Aaron Copland, with many recurrent ideas suggesting the celebration and energy of the rodeo, complete with cowboys (and girls!), bucking bronco, farmyard noises, swinging saloon doors, honky tonk piano and the hoe-down!" This piece is simply great fun to play and helps you to develop confidence with rhythms and effects like glissando and different types of pizzicato. The naturally strong pulse of the music carries you along and the various special effects mean that you have to let go with your left hand quite a lot - very good practice!

Smoke Rising

"…was written for Trinity College London as a study for Grade 7….Extensive use is made of 'tamboura' and there are also some tricky slur combinations to execute. The music depicts a ritual Apache Indian dance around a campfire and contains a short section where the strumming should be improvised around a sequence of chords in the style of a rock track." The strumming technique used here is very useful as well as extremely effective to the music. Overall it is one of the easier pieces in the group and is musically very rewarding; shut your eyes and you can see and smell the campfire! You will be very satisfied when you realise that you can create the atmosphere without too much difficulty.

I would recommend this set of pieces to anybody; they are fresh and exciting and will help to build confidence in technique and musicianship.

Selina.