The Leap Frog Principle

This book has been around for a number of years and it is one that I keep returning to, finding more that I like and want to include in my teaching and each time enjoying the fresh and unusual style of the pieces.

I am particularly attracted to the sub title - "10 Popular style guitar studies for adventurous learners"!

There is a very informative preface in which the composer puts forward his ideas behind the music which are very much to do with technique and ways to learn within fun and entertaining pieces.

He describes his "Leapfrog Principle" as a notion to "use scale patterns against open strings, avoiding complicated chord fingerings..." . He then goes on to describe the advantages that this limitation has, for example making the music comfortable to play, extending fingerboard knowledge, improving position changing and encouraging efficient fingering in both hands, as well as introducing the idea of improvisation.

The pieces are clearly laid out, with a short introduction to every piece that has some technical information and help but is mostly there to describe the story of the piece! For example for no.2 "The Whistler's Tune" he has written:

"People who whistle often don't remember all of the tune. This piece is ideal for whistlers because there are only a few bits that keep repeating. However in bars 21 to 28, the whistler still manages to forget the first phrase and tries to find it in different registers before eventually getting it right on the da capo."

All of the pieces are great fun using Giants, Butterflies, Genies, Grasshoppers and Ponies to bring out the contrasting characters really helping you to get involved in the music.

Initially the written music does look quite challenging with quite difficult rhythms, lots of syncopation, a wide range of pitch and a lot of accidentals. Although the rhythms do look complicated on the page many will be familiar from everyday musical styles, e.g. swing and blues. The most important thing here is to get the feel of the pulse of the music. Once you can count and feel this, everything else tends to fit into place nicely! As the composer says "a strong pulse is more important than strict accuracy, and a free, improvising rhythmic spirit should be encouraged."!

All of the pieces are very melodic with the melody often moving between the bass and the treble registers and any chords are usually small and mostly using open strings.

Confidence in position changing and reading higher notes is important, although the melodies are based around patterns of fingering in different places so easier than they seem at first. To return to the first example of The Whistlers Tune the last 2 lines consist of an identical finger pattern played in 4 different positions. However we always recommend that you can name the notes that you are playing, vital if you want to become a fluent and musical classical guitarist.

My favourites are Giant Jive, because it is wonderfully strange with a fantastic bass riff and some great clashes, and the Butterfly Boogie which has a light dancing feel and a warm character.

A special mention is needed for Waltz for Two Left Feet,(definitely me!) as it is a real challenge to get the changes of beat but once you have mastered that you almost catch yourself tripping over as you play - a great idea and very effective.

These are great little pieces, inventive and fun while challenging your fingers and your brain. Perfect for beginners moving on and for better players wanting some entertaining performance pieces or simply wanting to brush up on those basic skills! If you are relaxed with the position changes and rhythms here you can try anything!