Independent Voices

Monday, December 17, 2007

So far we have dealt with one musical event, be it single note or chord, happening at a time. However, music usually involves many events happening simultaneously, as when several voices sing together or different instruments play in a group. Each of the voices or instruments may be moving independently. This also happens on the guitar, where lines of music represent different “voices.”

This is more easily understood with a practical example.

Here the two separate lines or voices can be seen easily from the stem directions of the notes. How do we count two lines at once? The answer is to focus on the faster moving notes—the longer notes simply need to be held. In this example we will count three to the measure, which will give the time for the quarter notes, and simply leave the finger on the dotted half notes so that the sound continues.

Now try these examples.

Here is a piece in two voices. I have included tablature to speed up the note finding, but as far as possible try to work just from the notation in the upper line, particularly when you have tried it a few times.

At this point we can play pieces by Sor and Bach in two parts. To give them their full effect, we need to hold the sustained longer notes, so be sure to study the notation as well as the tablature.

“Andante” (Fernando Sor)

Study Notes

  1. At this point, the piece actually goes into three parts, because the composer wants you to hold the D and the B for three full counts. In the following measure we are down to one voice. Sometimes this is written with rests above and below to indicate that the other parts are now silent; however, this is not necessary.
  2. Here we are back in three voices again. The rest sign between the F and D at the begin-ning of the measure warns you that another voice is coming in the middle. The same pattern exists for the next six measures.
  3. Remember to hold the high C until all the lower notes have been played.

“Bouree” (J. S. Bach)

Study Notes
Although you have tablature, it is very important to follow the fingering written in the upper line because there are some necessary movements of the whole hand.
  1. The small slide sign beside the first finger indicates that the finger slides up to the A. The thumb moves also so that the hand moves up into the new position.
  2. The second finger crosses over to sound the E because we want the A to continuesounding and to be ready for the next measure.
  3. Be sure to hold the first finger on the F-sharp in spite of the movement of the secondfinger.
  4. This little scale passage should be practiced slowly at first. Start with the m finger andbe sure to alternate the fingers.
“Country Dance” (Frederick Noad)

Study Notes
Practice this to a fairly brisk tempo when you know the notes. Notice that in 6/8 time there are two groups of three, so there is a feeling of two as well as of six. That is why this is known as compound time.
  1. There is a slightly challenging jump of the third finger from the low G up to the F. However, if you repeat this a few times it will take the difficulty out of it.
  2. The sign over the G indicates a slight hold beyond the time value. It serves to show the end of a musical phrase, and is known as a pause sign or fermata.

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Music in Multiple Voices

So far we have concentrated on reading a single line, comparable to the voice of a single singer. But from about the ninth century onward musicians have been evolving interesting ways to make music with more than one voice. Some experiments became agonizingly monotonous—for instance, when a voice was accompanied by a second voice five notes below it. This was found intolerable and was banned by theorists, and the art of counter- point (note against note) developed, with guidelines to make the combinations work in an interesting way.

Fortunately, we can jump a thousand years by turning a page. This chapter covers reading and playing in more than one part, wiht some interesting solos to practice at the end.

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