A new rhythm arises when the accent pattern in  6/8 meter shifts from two groups of three’s to three groups of two’sThis is called hemiola.  Hemiola’s are used to create the effect of alternating bewteen compound and simple meters.  To hear, count aloud and clap the following:

Other rhythmic patterns also create hemiola, so long as they shift to a simple meter count:

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Air Notes

Air features considerable  hemiola and has been notated in a way that shows the combined rhythm of both thumb and fingers.  Consequently, the rhythm appears linear, as one musical line.  To indicate the sustain of the bass notes or melody notes, indefinite ties are added where necessary (this does not apply to open strings which naturally sustain).

However, the linear version more clearly shows the hemiola in m.2.

Of course to accurately show the bass and melody lines, notation should be realized in two or more voices as:

For more on hemiola, see pp. 99-101 in the Shearer Method Book II: Classic Guitar Developments


The goal is to play Air as sostenuto (sustained) as possible. To this end, take advantage of open strings when shifting the left hand.  For example, at the end of m. 4, use the open E to shift into Position II to prepare for the B minor chord at m. 5.

Likewise, use the open E and A strings to shift at m. 12 to play the A on (1) at fret V.

For more on Hemiola, check out the Shearer Studio article Kenya


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