with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Lesson 8 – Parallel Shifts and Graduation

Rest Stroke

I continue to work on my rest stroke. I played Carulli’s Waltz from Shearer “Classic Guitar Technique”, Volume 1, p66. I’ve been working on this for several weeks, and it’s getting noticeably better, though I still consider that it needs work. He reminded me to play the index finger more softly. Its role in this piece is to fill the space between the bass and the treble, and it should not compete with those two voices.

I played Sor’s Andante II from p73. This piece has a section in the middle which features a rest stroke in the treble voice while the bass note is played free stroke with the thumb. In order to practice this, the bass note is played in anticipation of the beat, and then the treble falls right on the beat with the rest stroke. As these skills develop, the delay is reduced until both notes are played together on the beat.

I played Sor’s Allegretto I from p74. This piece has a few tricky fingerings, but is otherwise not difficult for me. This is a beautiful piece, though quite short.

We looked at Aguado’s Waltz on p77. Again, while it’s not necessary to play rest stroke here, we will use it to give emphasis to specific parts of the treble voice. The first note of each measure is played rest stroke. In measures 20 and 21, the middle note is emphasized. In measure 22, the last note gets the rest stroke. This brings out the ascending melody line, and syncopates the piece. For now, I’m to play the bass note slightly ahead of the treble, as I do in Andante II. This is a good example of how the rest stroke can be integrated into a song. It also shows why the hand position should not be different for the rest stroke and free stroke, as both types of strokes are being played in the same measure, and even at the same time. The finger has a bit of curve, even while playing the rest stroke, though it will give a little bit.

Difficult Fingerings

I played Giuliani’s Allegro on p76. There are some strange fingerings here that are necessary to make the following notes easier. Some of these still give me trouble. He didn’t comment, but on listening back to the recording, I realize I need to be aware of reducing the volume of the index finger again. This is hard to do when I’m concentrating on the other parts of the song. In the places where the position shifts, it’s easy to get thrown off. Just practice that portion up to and including the shift, but not beyond, until you can play that. Then, continue on with the following notes. All the tough spots should be practiced this way.


Owen has graduated me to the second Shearer book. Although I will continue working out of the first book, beginning next week, the new work will come from Volume II. The first book contains pieces mostly in the keys of C or G, to make the music as simple as possible and allow the student to focus on technique. The second book is divided by key, so you get used to reading in the various keys. It also discusses harmonics, advanced rhythms, and has some beautiful solo pieces.

Parallel Shifting

I played the C, G, and B Minor scales for him. He asked me to make the shifts parallel without angling the hand. The hand should stay parallel to the frets, and this avoids wasted motion. Transfer pressure from finger to finger so the tension doesn’t build. Then I played every note dead so they made no sound other than a plunk. This is how relaxed the left hand should feel.

He showed me a three-octave G scale beginning on the third fret of the sixth string. I had no trouble with this scale. It begins in second position, and shifts on the octave, then at the octave again. It ends at the 15th fret of the first string. Coming down, it shifts at the 12th fret first string to VII position until the C on the third string. Shift to IV position to D on the fifth string, then shift and finish the scale in II position.

We looked at Aguado’s Estudio on p78 of Shearer I. This piece employs some unusual fingerings designed to make use of guide fingers.

We also looked at Sor’s Allegretto II on p74. It’s important that strings continue to ring and that the lines are played as legato as possible. There are many contrapuntal passages in this piece, so you have to be aware of the voices as you play. The middle note of the three-note figures could be colored with a rest stroke.

He showed me Giuliani’s Andantino on p75.

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