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Storm Stenvold >> Beginning Classical Guitar >>
Lesson Subject: Beginning Classical Guitar
What you learn: Romanza (Romance)
Teacher: Storm Stenvold

Romanza (Romance)

Storm: Hello class, our lesson today will cover the classical guitar standard "Romanza" or 'Spanish Romance'. Romanza is one of my favorite tunes to teach classical right-hand technique, so put away your guitar picks and we'll get started. For this lesson we will focus on the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers of the picking hand. Below is an illustration on positioning your fingers, notice how the thumb runs horizontally  on the 6th string (E) and how the fingertips claw the higher strings.

Right Hand Classical

Storm: Traditionally classical guitar compositions are played on a nylon string acoustic, but you can play on a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar as well if you do not have access to a classical. Classical guitar is played in a seated position, with the guitar resting on the left leg which is raise 5-6 inches by using either a footstool or some other item like a book or block of wood. The classical guitar is designed specifically for finger picking, featuring a wide fretboard and the strings being spaced farther apart to allow the fingers to fit comfortably under or on each string. The thumb usually covers any notes played on the lower note strings (6th-E, 5th-A, 4th-D) and the index, middle and ring fingers will respectively cover the 3rd (G), 2nd (B) and 1st (E) strings. You use the fingernail as a pick to actually make contact with the strings. Here is the opening measure of Romanza.

Storm: In classical, the right hand fingers are denoted as such: P= thumb, I= index, M= middle, A=ring. Notice that you play the 6th (E), 1st (E), 2nd (B), and 3rd (G) strings.  The picking pattern is Thumb and ring finger together, middle, then index finger. The next two times you use the ring, middle then index fingers. Also notice how the bass note sounded by the thumb continues to ring.  I'd like to also point out that Romanza is in 3 counts per measure and each beat is divided into triplets. Here is a video of the picking pattern:

Video - Right Hand Picking

jay: Not use to this.

Storm: Jay, why don't you try slowing down the opening tab and looping it using the Riff tools. This is a great exercise to build up the independence of the right hand fingers which is a must for classical guitar. Here's a looping sound clip of the pattern at about 120 BPM (beats per minute), which is considered a moderate tempo. Try playing slower to a metronome (if you have one) this week while you pay attention to the technique.

Looping Right Hand Picking

Storm: The open strings work well if you concentrate on the right hand finger picking technique. You can hear how the E minor chord is at the heart of this section which is a key point of this tune. You can slow this section way down and still hear the chord structure and melody of the piece. Here are two more measures (bars 2 and 3) that descend the first string to add melody on top of the E minor chord.

jay: You change fingering why?

Storm: Jay, changing the fingering allows me to move positions along the first string (E) cleanly without sliding. Try practicing the left hand positions below.

E minor - 1st Run

E minor - 2nd Run

Storm: You use your 4th finger to set up the notes that follow in the next phrase. Next we will move back up the neck. Here's the next section. 

Storm: Now you move your hand back to the lower frets again, leading you into our next chord.

Storm: This covers the first six bars.

E minor - 3rd Run

Storm: In the next two bars you play an A bass note while playing a C, B and A melody line (1st string). This section is based on the A minor chord.

Storm: Now you will need to barre your 1st finger on the 5th fret while covering the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings. This technique is called 'half-barre,' basically because you don't cover all 6 strings like in most barre chords.

A Minor

Storm: The melody now descends in bar 7, and back in bar 8. This brings us back to the 'big stretch' in the first section.

Storm: Now you play in the 7th fret position using a full barre across all six strings.

B7 - 7th Position

Storm: You can now add melody notes to the 7th fret barre position by using the 3rd finger on the 8th fret.

jay: That 11 is a stretch without lifting.

Storm: Yes Jay, the 4 fret stretch to the 11th fret while you're still holding the barre on the 7th fret is quite a challenge. 

B7 - C Melody

B7 - D# Melody

Storm: This section covers bars 9-10.

Storm: You finish the section in open position, which is a standard B7 chord.

jay: Man and this is "just" a warm up?

Storm: No, it's a song. Bits and pieces of it make great right hand/left hand exercises, though.

jay: Aren't we looking at 1-4-5 blues progression?

Storm: Yes, based in E minor. This will help you to analyze the harmony structure used in this piece.

jay: Very cool classical blues!


ECid: Teach what scales could we use on this?

Storm: ECid, you can basically play using the E minor scale throughout this piece and even change to the E Harmonic Minor during the B7 chord if you like. 

Storm: In the next section you return by playing the E minor chord in the open position, but this time the bass notes are played on each beat, rather than the 3 beat long 'dotted half-notes' you used in the rest of the piece.

Storm: All of the phrases come from underlying chord shapes. Playing chords one note at a time is called an 'arpeggio'. The entire melody structure of Romanza is built on arpeggios and one of the main points of this lesson.

E minor - Final Run

Storm: The last strike of the chord separates the notes slightly for more emphasis in the last phrase. 

Storm: We will cover the second section of Romanza which is in E major in the next lesson. Goodnight everyone


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