Prayer is an intermediate-level piece that features sections of flexible rhythm, meter, and tempo in a playing style called rubato, a piacere, or ad libitum.   Technical requirements include glissando (sliding from note to note), one-handed harmonics, cross-string trills, and some higher- positions playing.

At the outset, the marking Tempo Rubato, Italian for, “stolen (rubato) time (tempo),” allows for some freedom to speed up or slow down the tempo.  However, fluctuating  tempo should never be erratic, or excessive, but done as an expressive response to other musical elements such as phrasing, dynamics, or melodic contour. Listen and compare the opening 7 measures, first without, and then with rubato:

Though subtle, notice how rubato expresively shapes the phrases with ebb and flow in the timing.  If you’re unsure when or how to interpret rubato, discuss with your teacher.

At m. 9 there is greater expressive freedom, with the marking, ad libitum, or in Italian, a piacere (both meaning at your pleasure).  Here the 9-note flourish (including the grace-note ornament) should be played without rhythmic counting and as quickly as possible.  The measure is written with 16th notes, for notational convenience.  Following at m. 10, the marking (in tempo) directs the player to resume the metric count.

Notice the diagonal line between the last two noteheads in m. 9.   This is a glissando.  The two notes are articulated with one right-hand stroke: the B is played at fret IV which sounds while sliding to C# at fret VI.


A glissando may be played quickly as in the ad libitum measure above, expressed in exact rhythmic timing, or played slowly and freely.  The second section of Prayer marked, A little stricter and faster, features a double glissando in both the melody and the bass.  These should be rhythmically expressed, so the 2nd notes of the glissandi arrive exactly on the & of 3.

The left-hand shapes differ between the starting dyad (two notes sounding together) and the ending dyad of the double glissando.  To execute, the 1st finger on bass-note E needs to quickly slur to 2 on F, then continue a glissando to the G#.

In the final measurethere is a rhythmically free glissando played from the G# which ascends the neck to nothing-ness (in volume and pitch).  The 1st finger should remain in contact with the string while the left arm shifts to its higher position to play the XII harmonic on ①. This can be a relatively slow glissando, if a ritard is also taken.

One-Hand Harmonic

Many of the harmonics in Prayer are played only by the right hand.  To sound, extend i, touching the required fret (VII or XII) and stroke the string with p.  More about this and glissando can be found in the article One-hand Harmonics and in The Shearer Method Book II, Classic Guitar Developments.


  1. Anonymous


  2. Joseph

    Beautiful and evocative music for these trying times. Thanks, Dr. Hirsh.

  3. alntom

    Thank you so much Joseph.

  4. Amy Ilona Stein, PhD

    Thank you for sharing this link and the lovely piece of music.

  5. alntom

    Thank you so much Amy!

  6. Martin O'Brien

    “Prayer” is a beautiful composition. I’ve loved the piece since first hearing a few years ago and am finally getting around to learning it. These notes about technique are very helpful. Thank you Dr. Hirsch!

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