Study no.8 in Opus 6 in C major by Fernando Sor is a wonderful piece that really tests the refinement of our right hand. Balancing voices and creating long legato lines are two of the hardest musical techniques to master on the guitar, which makes this little study quite challenging.
To start off let’s acknowledge that this piece is written in a vocal style. The difference between a vocal style and an instrumental style could be summed up by saying; a vocal style can be sung and imitates the sung voice and an instrumental style can only be performed on an instrument which offers more agility and speed. This piece is written in the style of a chorale, and is quite reminiscent of J.S. Bach’s famous chorale pieces. One of Sor’s great attributes as a composer is that he really takes care of the voice leading in his works. More often that not, the voice leading can get thrown out the window on the guitar because it is quite difficult to maintain a musical line, let alone several at the same time. Because of the six strings and the way the guitar is tuned, there are passages that may be easily realized on a piano that are simply impossible on the guitar, a melody with accompanying thirds for example. Often the compromise on the guitar would be to drop notes out, or move them into different octave (Bach arrangements are a perfect example of this). So keeping all this in mind, we can appreciate Sor even more for his voice leading prowess.
Seeing that this piece is in a vocal style, the best thing to do would be to sing the parts! Singing lines in music is a wonderful way to solve legato, voice leading, and melodic issues before we even touch the instrument. It gets separate voices in our ear without the busy left and right hands obfuscating the musical material. The study has two complete voices, the melody and bass, and an incomplete voice that lives between the two.
- Play through the melody and bass separately making sure to play the rests, and listen for phrasing.
- Play through the inner voice. This is not as clear as the outer two because it sometimes overlaps with other voices, and sometimes drops out all together!
If I were to say that this study was about one thing in particular, it would be suspensions. Have a look at the image below and see that there are four clear groups of suspensions, and each type of suspension is different.
- The first couple are 4-3 suspensions written out on the downbeat
- The second set are 4-3 again but written out with appoggiaturas
- The third set have tied quarter noes providing rhythmic syncopation
- The fourth and final couple are cadential