Our ears can often play tricks on us and one of the harshest truths we have to come to terms with as guitarists is…we don’t always sound as good as we think we do. By no means should we become hyper-critical of our own playing but in order to improve we must be aware of our deficiencies. The best possible way to listen to your own playing objectively is to record yourself practicing. After going through the process of recording myself and my students I have noticed one consistent error in playing, which is to leave out notes at the end of measures. It occurs most noticeably in fast passages where there is a shift involved. Because our focus is drawn to the technical difficulty of achieving the shift the last note of a measure can often be played poorly or even left out all together.

Dropping notes is most common right before a shift

The three highlighted notes all come before a shift and the last two (in red) are fretted notes making the shift more difficult. Because we are so focused on the down beat we can easily forget to play the preceding note properly.

In order to remedy this situation you first need to become aware of the dropped notes. Recording yourself or the help of a teacher will quickly highlight trouble spots take a highlighter and mark in the score all of the notes that are being left out. Once you have identified the problem areas, work your way through each section accenting the notes that are normally obscured. Through slow and mindful work your ears and fingers will become accustomed to how the music should sound. Gradually increase the tempo of the passage until you can play all the notes clearly. Another means to get a different perspective on a passage that is suffering from dropped notes is by using a metronome set to the 2nd and 4th beat or even off beat subdivisions. This works at altering our down beat inclination of accenting the 1st beat of each bar and having all other beats suffer from a disproportionate lack of attention.


In the above excerpt we have a very often played passage from Barrios’ La Catedral All of the highlighted notes can be practiced with accents to make sure you are giving those notes their full duration

Example 2 from La Catedral

…and a third danger spot from the same work








If you enjoyed this, you will love all of the lessons and courses available in the CGC Membership.

Find out more here: Join Classical Guitar Corner