The Giuliani Studies

Posted by Adam Perlmutter

In his day, the Italian guitarist Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829) was considered by many to be the world’s greatest performer on the instrument. Giuliani was also a masterly composer; his concertos and sonatas remain cornerstones of the classical guitar literature, and his 120 Studies for Right Hand Development (originally published in 1812) has long been used by students and professionals alike. While the 120 studies were written with the nylon-string classical guitarist in mind, working through the patterns can be of equal benefit to steel-string players of all persuasions, as you’ll see in this lesson. Each of the studies contains the same three-bar progression—C–G7–C—but a different picking-hand pattern, arranged in progressive levels of difficulty. By combining Giuliani’s patterns with other keys and chord progressions, and even some alternate tunings, you can work on exercises that will improve your picking hand facility and accuracy no matter what kind of string you’re playing.

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Giuliani’s studies start with some rather simple patterns. Let’s examine a few of them using a I–V7 progression in the key of E major. An adaptation of Giuliani’s Study No. 1, Example 1 pits dyads (two-note groups) on the first and second strings against moving quarter notes on the bass strings. In this and all of the other exercises in this lesson, fret the notes of each chord shape for an entire measure while you pick the notes, letting everything ring together at whatever tempo you’d like. As indicated in the music, pick the lower notes downward with your thumb (p) and the higher notes upward with your middle finger (m) on the first string and index finger (i) on the second. You might also try picking the higher notes with your ring (a) and middle (m) fingers on the first and second strings, respectively. In all these examples, experiment with your picking-hand approach until you find a combination of flesh and nail that sounds good to you. Play the figure between the repeat signs until you can cleanly change between the E and B7 chords and accurately finger each three-note shape, then strum the last E chord with your thumb.

Excerpted from AG 215 November 2010

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