Inventions as in the Shearer Method Books II and III are duets;  both parts are student playable, generally with an upper-register higher part and a lower-register lower part.  They are designed as reading studies in a variety of keys and fixed positions.    This Invention in E major is in open position and features slurring, rhythmic syncopation, pizzicato, glissandi, ponticello, and p golpe (tapping on the soundboard).

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Pizzicato

The piece begins with a pizzicato (pizz) pattern on bass strings in Guitar II.  Pizzicato in Italian litteraly means “pinched,” and orignates from 17th-century music to indicate that the string player plucks, rather than bows the strings.  In guitar, pizz means to play strings in a muted way, most typically with the flesh of p.   It’s a beautiful guitaristic color, especially when contrasted, as in this piece, with another ordinary played guitar.

To play pizzicato:

  • Place the lower R. H palm lightly touching the saddle and the strings.   Be careful not to have too much R. H. palm on the strings––this will competely dampen the vibration.  Have only enough to slightly mute or muffle the strings.
  • Strike the string with the flesh of p.  Use p rest-stroke to produce a fuller body and louder sound.

Practice pizz :

Syncopation

One of the biggest challenges in the Invention is rhythm which for both parts is actively syncopated.  Syncopation means giving stress to the weak beats by rhythmic duration.   Here, the weak beats are the “&” of the count which are tied to the next beats.  In Guitar II (mm. 1-2), syncopation happens on the “&” of 2 and  the “&” of 3.  Count and clap the excerpt:

Measures 1-2, Guitar II

In Guitar I (mm. 3-4) syncopation occurs only on the & of 1 as a quarter note displaced on the weak beat..   Again, count and clap the excerpt:

Measures 3-4, Guitar I

The syncopated patterns of these two excerpts repeat throughout, but there are other patterns whcih should be isolated and clarified (count and clap) as part of a pre-reading routine before actually playing the Invention for the first time.  Be sure to scan for those challenges.

The Key of E Major

If you’ve never played in E major, you may want to wait until your familiar with C, G, D, and A major since those share notes.   The Key of E major includes F#, C#, G#, and D# in its key signature.   Begin by studying the E-major scale form, shown in the graphic below and which starts and ends with 2 on (4) (boxed).  Open strings are marked “0.”

E Major scale form

Once your left hand is coordinated, moving through the scale form, learn the notes on the staff.  Say and play the notes, vocalizing either letter names or solfege syllables.  If necessary, play the scale several times per note with i, m alternation.  As you play, visualize the note name and its location on the fingerboard.

.To test your knowledge of the scale, try playing the scale in skips of 3rds (the interval name which is a distance in steps from note to note).  Carefully follow both the left- and right-hand fingerings.  Diagonal dashes indicated guide-shift fingerings.

When you’re secure the pizzicato technique and the scale form and key, try the Invention.   Work one segment or phrase at a time, always clarifying pitch and rhythm where necessary.

More inventions like this may be found in The Shearer Method Book II and Book III as well as a forthcoming Learning the Fingerboard Supplement that focusses on the harder flat keys.

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