120 Right Hand Studies by Mauro Giuliani
The mighty 120 Right Hand Studies is a must for all guitar students. It is a great way to develop a strong and consistent right hand technique. Its simple structure of using C major and G7 chords as a skeleton for a wide variety of arpeggios is a stroke of genius. After almost 200 years this is still used the world over for technique development.
The 120 Right Hand Studies were written by the Italian virtuoso Mauro Giuliani (1781 – 1829) in the early nineteenth century, and the fact that they are still widely used today is a testament to their quality. Using a simple alternation between a C Major chord and a G Dominant Seventh chord, Giuliani has come up with progressive studies that will help you structure practice, work on specific right hand techniques, and systematically develop almost any arpeggio pattern that might be encountered in the classical repertory.
Music has changed over the years and modern repertoire has made new demands on the right hand. However, the 120 studies remain as one of the most effective tools to develop a solid technique in the right hand, creating a firm foundation for any repertoire.
As with scales, these right hand studies can be built upon by teacher and student to refine musical aspects such as chord voicing, articulation, tone control, and dynamics. Challenge yourself to compound your technical workout with a musical agenda and these simple studies will provide another level of musical development.
When I first encountered these studies, I was stuck on the first one for quite some time. Seemingly simple, the first study requires the student to balance the voices in the right hand making the chord progressions balanced and smooth. Aim to bring out the various voices and you will be on the path to developing the refined right hand control that is needed to play the majority of classical guitar music.
Don’t let the 120 studies overwhelm you by trying to tackle them all in one sitting, or even several sittings. Take small groups of them and work diligently being critical of your sound, articulation and shifting. If you feel comfortable with a particular study, then add some challenges to it such as altering the rhythm, adding dynamics, and varying the tone quality. If you do find that some provide difficulty, make a note of them and single them out for slow, methodical practice. With time and patience you will be able to conquer each study and your technique will be the better for it. We all have different skills and challenges, so don’t be down on yourself if you struggle with some. Rather, be exited that you have isolated a problem and now have the opportunity to improve!
Here is a list of ideas for you to add more aspects to the 120 studies:
Dynamics (p, mf, f, ff, crescendo, decrescendo)
Articulation (staccato, legato, accents)
Tone control (tasto, pont, and variations in between!)
Tempi (adagio to presto, accelerando and decelerando)
Expression (sadly, joyfully, nostalgically, serenely)
Voicing (bring out different lines in the studies, bass, middle and upper voices)