Developing alternation with "a"

by Alan Hirsh

Right Hand

Remembrance is a p,i,a,i,a,i arpeggio study.  Before playing, make sure you’ve mastered free-stroke alternation on two strings.  This requires two important techniques:  the sympathetic and opposed finger motions.

Sympathetic motion means all fingers prepare on the strings and flex together, but with a slight successive delay between fingers.  Flexing i exerts a sympathetic pull on a (as well as m and c).  This powerful yet easy to execute technique requires that fingers must first prepare.  Ex. 1a shows the preparation of all fingers after p plays; Ex. 1b shows finger preparation and then sympathetic motion of i and a.  Both m (slightly lifted) and c should be moving with a.  For detailed info on sympathetic motion, watch the p,i,m arpeggio video
Opposed motion or alternation means that as one finger flexes, the other finger(s) simultaneously extends/prepares.  In Ex. 1c this occurs between the 3rd and 4th beats.  In Ex. 1d, a and i alternation is maintained through most of the measure.
Repeatedly practice the movement on open strings until coordinated:

Another right-hand technique needed for Remembrance involves playing a and p simultaneously.  This first occurs at m. 12, and later at mm. 40, 49, and 50.

During pre-reading, scan for any other irregularities in the right-hand pattern, and clarify .  If necessary, isolate the passage, by playing right-hand alone on open strings.

Left Hand

The left-hand involves both simple and somewhat challenging fingerings.  Where there is challenge, always isolate and clarify by blocking the left hand alone, either strumming or simplifying the right hand.  For example, consider mm. 9-12:

After vocalizing notes, block out the left hand by strumming each beat (large noteheads are actual notes of the passage; small noteheads indicate neighboring open strings).
For some passages, strumming may not be the only option for blocking.  Consider mm. 54 to the end:
Here, blocking may be realized as dyads:
…or strumming:

After thoroughly pre-reading Remembrance, begin your study, working one phrase at a time if necessary.  For more on the p,i,a,i,a,i apreggio, see The Shearer Method Book I, Classic Guitar Foundations, p.125-35.  Other studies that apply this arpeggio may also be found in Sheet Music section of the Shearer Studio.

1 Comment

  1. Kent Murdick

    As Shearer used to say to me in my beginning lessons with him (and I paraphrase here), “for a motion to be efficient, there is an action and then a period of relief or rest.” What is the period of relief in a free stroke? If you hold your had out in front of you, the fingers will fall in mid range. The reason they do this is that both the extensor and flexor muscles in the hand and arm are applying a small amount of ambient tension which holds the fingers in a state of equilibrium. If you quickly flex all the fingers toward the palm and then quickly relax them, they will return to mid range without any conscious effort. This natural return of the fingers, I believe, is the period of relief that is necessary for continuous, rapid repeated motions. There is a big argument going on about whether an efficient motion employs some conscious use of the extensors or no use of the extensors, but that’s not really as important as that there must be some use of this natural extension for the purpose of relief. I guess what I am getting at here is that the student must be aware of this natural release, and should be careful not to “beat it out” of his technique by too much attention to other aspects of sympathetic vs. opposed motion. Nice article, BTW.

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