Mauro Giuliani’s 120 right hand studies are core for classical guitar. So many times I hear about the horrors of such studies. Specifically the monotony of the simple chord changes, C to G7. I’m surprised by this, I’ve never been one to turn down an exercise, and perhaps I’ve focused too much on the technical aspect of exercises. 120 RH Studies are a fantastic workout and part of my daily warm up routine. I was thinking about the latest comments I’ve read about them and how they are torture to the ear to listen to and it got me thinking, and I just wanted to share my vision of this great study.
I watched a video today of an 8 minute guitar performance, Napoléon Coste: Fantaisie Dramatique ‘Le Depart’, Op.31 performed by Tariq Harb. There must have been so much discipline put into this one piece. Just to think about all the technical aspects had been put into each section, then carefully worked together and mastered as a whole for performance. If Mr. Harb were to have played the whole piece through 3 times in one sitting, that would probably be well over 30 minutes on one piece. My thought on this is if a person should get bored with a simple exercise, how can you even expect to practically face a challenge such as Fantaisie Dramatique ‘Le Depart’?
Likewise, many accompaniment works have the guitar working continuous arpeggios and chord passages. Yes, they are more complicated than the 120 RH Exercises, but they too would see to become a drag.
One other observation regarding the 120 RH studies, I recall from my early exposure to them. As a new student of classical guitar, they seemed difficult and picky. How can anyone expect you to be able to hit all those notes accurately going up and down repetitively over and over again?
So the 120 Right Hand Exercises are more than just a mechanical work out for the right hand. It’s an exercise of the mind, to be able to focus concentration and maintain that discipline for the duration of their practice. Many times teachers and educators will tell you to look for the musicality in your practice. This means for this study, it may be of benefit to think of another instrument performing grand melodies overtop of the accompaniment you are playing. From this, you can vary the dynamics of your playing, from piano, to forte, change the position of your playing, ponticello to tasto, the attack of your right hand to for a crisp thin to a full warm tone. All the while with your practice, you will listen to the sound of what you are playing, even clear notes. Hopefully, with the accompaniment of your ever trusty metronome!
The work you put in to Giuliani’s Right Hand Studies will forever serve your foundation in classical guitar, just as scales and other studies and exercises, and lend to the ability to play the larger works that we strive for.