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Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)
Strauss's music amounts to a huge body of symphonic and operatic work written over 60 years. Full of vitality, endlessly melodic, brilliantly orchestrated, it begins and ends in the romantic tradition, but for the most part expresses something more modern and individualistic, not without controversy in its time. Variation of style and structure is drawn from the descriptive (literary) nature of compositions, and an extraordinary inventiveness enlivens the scenes, moods and situations. Strauss said once that he produced music the way cows give milk, and indeed his music rarely seems contrived.
Strauss wrote 15 operas on a variety of subjects and across the whole spectrum of drama. He acknowledged being enchanted by the soprano voice, and his writing for it highlights many of the works, including Adriane auf Naxos (composed in 1912). The opera has been described as 'sparkling', which sums it up well, and passages influenced by Bach, Mozart, Puccini, and Wagner add to the interest. The storyline is a play within a play, the second part being the mythological 'Opera' staged in the story. The three pieces transcribed* are from this Opera.
The guitar arrangements
All classical guitar pieces are compromises. The instrument has only six strings, the left hand four fingers able to be used, and with the right hand it's rare to use more than three fingers and the thumb. So, despite the amount of noise possible, it's inevitable that passages occur where either harmony, bass or fragments of counterpoint that would be beneficial are left out. In particular, the higher up the neck music is played the simpler it tends to be, if harder to play, and unless the low bass is an open string there wont be any.
So I think the main part of attaining a fair transcription (better to be called an arrangement if the original musical structure is not strictly followed, as in this case) is determining how a good compromise can be reached. Melody, counterpoint, bass and main harmonies demand inclusion, and register is important. One may generally assume the original score can't be improved on. However, if the music may sound well on guitar, and the above elements can be incorporated without the playing becoming very difficult, something enjoyable to play and worthwhile listening to should be able to be achieved.
Overture; 'A golden time …'
Here the Mozart influence, better, inspiration, is wonderfully evident. A gentle waltz time (only the first section of the overture is transcribed) carries the colourful harmonies, strong melodic threads and connecting flourishes that stamp both pieces. The aria is alluded to in the Overture several times, which as you would expect, is intricately woven with the hints themes later to be established in the Opera. It has a kind of 'jazzy' freedom, and it's always miraculous to me that composition so involved can retain its musical line, here done in Strauss's inimitable way. The aria, sung not far into the Opera, has the perfect inevitability of Mozart, but again it is Strauss. As explained, keys have been changed to suit the guitar.
Chorus and Aria
This selection from the finale has features well worth trying to translate. The device of having a strong chorus, in the style of a Bach chorale, stated and then counterpointed by a solo voice in a restatement, is potent, and that in the opera the chorus (of the three nymphs) isn't immediately followed by the accompanying aria (of Ariadne) means the latter comes as a moment of surprising beauty. Neither parts are complicated, and lovely arpeggios, a feature Strauss's music, often impart the assured progressions.
A problem was to capture the distinct register of the soprano voices, some statements of which would seem non-negotiable even without knowing the soprano voice was a passion of Strauss's. This could only be done, as intimated above, with some simplification. However the sound was worth working for, and fortunately the repetitive nature of the piece allowed for sections to be played at various registers to good effect, the higher producing the excruciating soprano harmonies.
Also, the original is in Db, so by raising the key a semitone I was able to utilise the guitar's D tuning as a full sounding configuration on which to arrange the piece. I'm fond of harmonics and open strings (in fact, arresting sounds in general) and used them where appropriate (or as sometimes, necessary).
* Overture; 'A golden time'; Chorus and Aria
These 15 carols have been arranged for the beginning guitarist and can be utilized in a variety of ways: They can be played as is or with another guitar (or piano) playing the chords. The guitarist who is just starting out can play the basic melodies by playing all the 'stems up' notes. A duet can be achieved by assigning one person to 'stems up', the other, 'stems down'. Merry Christmas!
Carols included: Coventry Carol, Deck the Hall, The First Noel, God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas, Here We Come A-Caroling, The Holly and the Ivy, I Saw Three Ships, Jingle Bells, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Joy to the World, O Come, All Ye Faithful, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Silent Night, What Child is This?
These 15 folk songs have been arranged for the beginning guitarist and can be utilized in a variety of ways: They can be played as is or with another guitar (or piano) playing the chords. The guitarist who is just starting out can play the basic melodies by playing all the 'stems up' notes. A duet can be achieved by assigning one person to 'stems up', the other, 'stems down' . Notes in brackets are optional. For a more complete treatment of some of these tunes, see "Songs of Childhood" or the "Progressive Variations" series. Table of Contents:
Alouette!, Aura Lee, Early One Morning, Frère Jacques, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Greensleeves, I's the B'y, Oh, Susannah!, Old MacDonald, Scarborough Fair, Simple Gifts, She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain, This Old Man, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Un Canadien Errant.
Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937) was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music has entered the standard concert repertoire.
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Ravel was born in the Basque region of France and much of his work shows a Spanish influence (this, together with his interest in jazz has produced some exceptional guitar transcriptions). He was a pupil of Faure and at first fell, like many contemporary composers, under Debussy's spell. However, his ascetic and intellectual bents produced from the start a refinement of composition and orchestration, and development of melody, all his own. Later music, including the Concerto, shows his love of the rhythmic features of jazz, and thoughtful incorporation of the innovations of modern music – strong dissonance, atonality etc.
With the Adagio the opening theme, which has a long line typical of Ravel, undergoes a series of variations. In waltz time (this feel must be kept up for the intent of the piece to be brought out) over an implacable bass the music marches on with hypnotic effect to the coda, a final gem of roving harmony that descends into quietude.
Beethoven, Ludwig van
The Moonlight Sonata
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor ''Quasi una fantasia'', popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata, was completed in 1801 (at the age of 31) and dedicated to his pupil, Countess Giuciella Guicciardi, whom he later confessed to have been in love with. (It is hard to conceive how she would have felt having something this beautiful dedicated to her.) Already struggling with deafness, Beethoven was yet to write his greatest works, which as you are no doubt aware, are among the most famous ever composed.
The Sonata is a beloved piece because of its haunting Adagio, with which it begins. This is directed to be played with sustained slowness and very quietly, becoming at the loudest mf or ''moderately loud''.
For guitar I have dropped the key to Am (which I notice other transcribers for guitar have also done: music is restrictive enough for that sort of coincidence to be expected) since this allows a liberal use of the open A and E strings (in the bass), particularly for the E which grounds the tense diminished scale passage before the recapitulation. It also (serendipitously) keeps most of the more difficult passages at the bottom end (the low fret range) which guitarists become familiar with first.
The piece has a signature rhythmic device which is first encountered at the end of bar five. Hard on the heels of the last note of the final triplet a sixteenth note sounds before a half note of the same pitch in the next bar. There is no dynamic change. How best to play it? I think, like everything involved in playing guitar, once you have basic techniques in place the best thing to do is what feels most natural and gives the sound most faithful to the score. In this case I play the last triplet note with the (right) thumb and the sixteenth note with the middle finger (medio), followed by the half note with the middle finger also (all of which I've marked), but another way may be preferred.
Here's a bright and lively guitar solo inspired by the joyful sounds of African soukous music. Simple harmonies and happy melodies. This piece gives its own twist with the quirky rhythms. Enjoy listening and playing.
Bach, Johann Sebastian
The original piece is part of Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068, written for his patron Prince Leopold sometime between the years 1717 and 1723. The air is usually played slowly and freely, and features an intertwining harmony and melody. The title comes from violinist August Wilhelmj's late 19th century arrangement of the piece for violin and piano. By transposing the key of the piece from its original D major to C major, Wilhelmj was able to play the piece on only one string of his violin, the G string.
"Alka Salsa" is the sixth in the series "Seven Short, Saucy, Salsa Solos". You can buy this single salsa solo, or, you can buy the whole collection and get a bonus solo called "Loco" for free!! Click here to listen to the whole collection. Allow yourself plenty of time....there's almost sixteen minutes of music. Enjoy!
It's a blast from the past! This collection of guitar solos is inspired by Blues, Jazz and Rock. You'll find humour, clichés, and new challenges in these six pieces. You can buy them individually or as a set. Have a listen......there's over 12 minutes of entertainment here!
"Bach to the Future" is a set of pieces written for the Classical Guitar Society of Victoria's composition competition. The theme was "A Celebration of J.S.Bach for the Classical Guitar". This work received a commendation. The set of five pieces starts off with a humourous reference to BWV 1006a, and ends with "Fancy Fant'sy", (which is available separately). Have a listen and...enjoy!
Backintyme Dance harks back to a previous era. It's the fourth in the series of "Five Fun Dances". Click here to listen to all five.
'Bandit and Ol' Plod' are guitar solos inspired by two mountain ponies. Listen and you'll hear their different characters. Bandit is a bit more lively, and Ol' Plod is surefooted and steady. Enjoy!
Here's a humourous piece written in boogie style. It's full of fun and energy. It was inspired by the arrangement of "Guitar Boogie Shuffle' by Guy Van Duser.
Perfect for that lazy Sunday afternoon...
"Blue Salsa" is the fourth in the series "Seven Short, Saucy, Salsa Solos". You can buy this single salsa solo, or, you can buy the whole collection and get a bonus solo called "Loco" for free!! Click here to listen to the whole collection. Allow yourself plenty of time....there's almost sixteen minutes of music. Enjoy!
Very light classical. Originally for piano in Ab major. But this transcription is rather close to the original. This is one of those pieces I love to hate... It's not very original but it has a certain charm!
"Bounce". It's bright, happy and 'dancey'......and it's got more bounce than a kangaroo! It's followed by Happy Rock which plods along with a cheerfull bass line and a bright, chirpy melody above. Blues and soft Rock elements are combined in this happy mix. Happy Rock is also available in an arrangement for two guitars under the title "Zany Rock"
The bourree is a dance of French origin common in Auvergne and Biscay in Spain in the 17th century. It is danced in quick double time, somewhat resembling the gavotte. The main difference between the two is the anacrusis, or upbeat; a bourree starts on the last beat of a bar, creating a quarter-bar anacrusis, whereas a gavotte has a half-bar anacrusis. It often has a dactylic rhythm. In his Der Vollkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg, 1739), Johann Mattheson wrote of the bourree, "Its distinguishing feature resides in contentment and a pleasant demeanor, at the same time it is somewhat carefree and relaxed, a little indolent and easygoing, though not disagreeable".
The "Bridal Chorus" from the opera Lohengrin (1848), by German composer Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883), is the standard march played for the bride's entrance at most formal weddings in the United States and at many weddings throughout the Western world. In English-speaking countries it is generally known as "Here Comes the Bride" or "Wedding March". Its usual placement at the beginning of a wedding ceremony is not entirely in accordance with its placement in the opera. In the opera, the chorus is sung after the ceremony by the women of the wedding party, as they accompany the heroine Elsa to the bridal chamber. In addition, the marriage between Elsa and Lohengrin is an almost immediate failure.
This is a hard-driving blues solo. It's part of the collection, "B-B-B-Big Blues Book and other oddments". You can buy the solos individually, or as a set.
Here's the Cat-chup Blues presented over a familiar four-chord progression. There's some tricky fingering here, including hinge bars and cross fret barring. This piece probably suits the more advanced player, (with larger hands and the necessary finger stretch). Enjoy the challenge, and enjoy the music.
Feeling stressed? Try the Chill Factor..... a pair of solos: "Peace" and "Gently Beckoning". These two slow, gentle, beautiful relaxing solos should calm you down. Make sure that you don't nod off when playing them....you might drop your guitar! ("Peace" is also available as a single solo).
"Chilli Salsa" is the seventh in the series "Seven Short, Saucy, Salsa Solos". You can buy this single salsa solo, or, you can buy the whole collection and get a bonus solo called "Loco" for free!! Click here to listen to the whole collection. Allow yourself plenty of time....there's almost sixteen minutes of music. Enjoy!
The journey starts with a pentatonic flurry, then we move gently, like a slow boat on the Yangtze. There's slight turbulence starting at bar 22, after which we resume smooth sailing. Enjoy listening to this exotic solo