Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Have I put my foot in it?  In another thread I described a right-hand gesture on the baroque guitar that uses the ring finger.  Is that inappropriate or historically inaccurate? By starting this, have I opened a can of worms?  Or am I just exposing my own ignorance. The offending statement was:

In a festival session I was taught a right-hand gesture that was called a trill...  using the ring and index fingers.  If I say a = ring finger and i = index...  and then u = up and d = down...  The trill is a rapid flurry of:

ad, id, au, iu, ad, id, au, iu, ad, id, au, iu...


As an aside, I was also taught various other rasgueados that incorporate the ring finger.  They are not far removed from modern rasgueados.  I don't want to drop names, because the problem may be in my interpretation of the instruction, but I was shown these types of rasgueados by different very respected players.  So, are these not supported by historical sources?  Are they proscribed by historical sources?

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Before you started your new thread, Monica Hall wrote: «Surely you shouldn't be using the ring finger at all on the baroque guitar? Only the thumb and index and middle fingers.....» From my first thread at this forum, I was told that the book «Guide to Playing the Baroque Guitar» by James Tyler would: «help to answer many of your questions, the ones you have now and the ones you will have soon».

I ordered the book, I am reading, and I find the book interesting. There is a chapter about strumming. The basic technique is described in this way: «Down strokes are played with the backs of the nails of the third, second, and first fingers and up strokes with at least the index finger. The strumming motion should come from the right-hand wrist alone and should not involve the forearm». He also describes rhythmic ornaments as trill and repiccio, and both of them start with a down stroke as mentioned.

It would be nice to get a comment from you, Monica Hall. Do you think Tyler has misinterpreted the historical sources, or are you talking about something else?

As a beginner on baroque guitar, I find the combination of rasgeuado and puntado a great challenge --  to make the strummed passages melt in with the plucked ones is not very easy. Guess there is some work to be done.

I suspect, at the bottom of it, that the answer will be similar to what it is for most other such issues...  There will be some definitive statements, and some not-so definitive.  In the end we will have guidelines, but nobody will be able to say in definite terms that X is correct and Y is not.  Usual practice was one thing, but nobody knows to what extent different players deviated.  And (as the Spanish like to say) un largo etcetera. 


As with all things guitar, I'm sure some significant amount of information was transmitted orally -- musical notation to this day cannot express the things you can do with the right hand. I doubt that anybody would say Tyler got it wrong, nor would I care to hear that Monica got it wrong.  I don't think that's what it's about.  Rather, I think there might be some statements made here and there that indicate what players generally thought was good practice. As a lazy amateur, I just hope to take advantage of the research and hard work of others.


If I had the time and access to the materials, I would love to learn about how much flourish players put into their strumming.  I've seen people do wild things all over the instrument.  I've seen all manner of rasgueado, strumming in circles, players who look like they get more sound out of their shoulders, elbows, and the expressions on their faces than out of their hands...  The list goes on.  I would love to discover descriptions of analogous attitudes and styles of the period. 


As an amateur player, I want to do two things...  Enjoy playing my instrument, and understand what was the practice of the time so I can contrast it/learn from it/ enjoy it within my own context as a modern (post-modern, or even post-post-modern?) regular guy.  For me, the important thing about understanding historical practice is that it informs my appreciation of the music and the time. 

I am replying to this message belatedly as I have just come across it whilst looking for something else. When I said  «Surely you shouldn't be using the ring finger at all on the baroque guitar? Only the thumb and index and middle fingers.....» I was referring to playing punteado.   When strumming  full downstrokes with the back of the nails you would include the 3rd, 2nd and 1st fingers.   However Corbetta, when describing the repicco variation in the Caprice de Chacone on p.72 of La guitarre royale does make it clear that only the thumb and 1st and 2nd fingers are used except for the first full chord of each bar.

James Tyler doesn't always get it right however - (and nor do many other so-called experts).   On p.177 of his book "The early guitar and its music" he has wrongly transcribed Ex.App.1.19 because he didn't realize that Corbetta refers to the courses in the Italian preface in the italian manner i.e. the 5th course is referred to as the 1st, the 4th as the 2nd.   So the first four quavers of the example are played on the 3rd, 2nd and 1st course and the next two on the 4th and 5th.   In the French preface the courses are referred to in the usual manner.


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