12 Inventions by Peter Nuttal

This collection of pieces was first published in 1984 and, at the time, was a forerunner in new music for young and beginner guitarists, offering a refreshing and important contrast to the traditional nineteenth century repertoire. I have used this book throughout my years of teaching and recently have been seeing the music in a different light, making it even more relevant to students today. I put this down to my ideas developing and so finding different aspects of learning to be the ‘most’ important (in other words as I get ‘older’ my priorities are changing!)

In the forward Peter describes the pieces as “…reasonably substantial while avoiding awkward technical problems.” He also says “I have sought to make them melodic, readily appealing and essentially guitaristic in style.”

He has certainly been successful in this, which is what I love about the music. You can really work on getting involved in the music without worrying about the technique.

All the pieces do include important aspects of guitar technique (making them guitaristic) such as arpeggios, melody and accompaniment, and barres, and they move freely around the fingerboard exploring the natural sonorities of the classical guitar. They teach players to listen to the music and to hear the emotion in harmony as well as to recognise and highlight melodic lines and follow melodies that move between treble and bass registers. The pieces are very clearly produced with a consistent and sensible approach to fingering, that is to say not too much!

It is obvious to the player where the voices/melodies are and where there are patterns of sound and movement in the music, for example a chord sequence that moves through various positions. I love the way Peter uses the whole fingerboard but makes movement and chord shapes easier by including lots of open strings.

The opening Prelude is marked cantabile and written in a flowing style with the melody emerging from the arpeggiated harmonies and easily moving from the treble to the bass. This is great for developing right hand balance.

In Ragtime Serenade Peter introduces syncopation using left hand sliding shapes and barres, simple technique that produces real character in the music.

Gaelic Song I has some bigger chords, all in comfortable shapes, with lots of movement around the fingerboard. The long melody in the bass is accompanied by open trebles enabling you to concentrate on your thumb technique and tone, and there are some simple slurs as well as some brief sections in three voices. The music is marked Lento e espressivo asking you to focus on melodic shaping and hearing the emotion in the harmony.

The next piece Mexicana offers a big contrast, faster moving and more rhythmical with bigger chords, a strong driving bass and fluid movement around the guitar.

I love the way that Peter has linked Trilogy, Chorale and Pastorella together in a little ‘Performance Suite’, although they also work beautifully alone. This gives you great experience in hearing and linking contrasting styles together through harmony and melodic characteristics. The Chorale has strong counterpoint with 3 clear voices and some great tensions and clashes in harmony. The Pastoralle introduces 6/8 movement with lovely lilt and movement throughout and fast flowing shifts for both hands.

The second Gaelic Song is a more complex piece in the size of chords and the sharing of the melody through different registers, requiring more right hand control, dynamic contrast and rubato.

Romance has a true arpeggio accompaniment giving you fuller chords to negotiate (up to 4 fingered notes) that support and enhance long melodic phrases. There are some big and quick left hand changes in this piece and the challenge is to recognize the sliding shapes and highlight the musical movement that they provide.

The last three pieces in the book are definitely more complex although still very accessible and natural to play.

Impromptu is marked Allegretto and molto legato – achieving this is a challenge in itself, and reflects your progress in having more control over movements and being able to think more quickly. It is a detailed piece, constantly moving between positions without breaks and with a lot of campanella fingering, that is, melody played across different strings so that the individual notes ring on and give a more legato feel.

Scherzino Americano is probably the liveliest piece in the book with a marking of Spiritoso e ritmico. The rhythm is strong and quick with a melody mostly in higher positions (the final note is a top A fret 17), and syncopation and articulation that really help you to recognize and bring out the character.

Finally Berceuse sums up in many ways what this volume of pieces is all about. It is marked Lento sostenuto and makes clever use of a simple sliding barre shape and the calm and gentle, lilting harmonies that this produces. The tied pedal bass notes highlight the serene character of the first half of the piece which contrasts beautifully with fuller flowing sound of the quick ‘p i m a’ arpeggios in the second half. The way the music is written really brings forth the musical character making it easy to understand and so encouraging you to listen to music and develop your sound and interpretation.

Every piece is full of character and musical interest while at the same time developing the basic, important guitar techniques in an easy and interesting way. The music is engaging and enjoyable to both play and listen to and gives the player valuable performing opportunity and a real sense of achievement.