Giuliani Revisited: Part One

Gedankenexperiment

I wrote on the research page of my recently redesigned website about how my Giuliani Revisited began as a Gedankenexperiment, or thought experiment: how might Giuliani’s famous 120 right-hand exercises from Part One of his Studio per la Chitarra, Op. 1, be different were he to conceive of them today. Does anyone really need to practice exercises, for example, such as his numbers 51–65?

Exercise 51 from Part One of Mauro Giuiani’s Op. 1.

I suppose there are some instances when an inexperienced guitarist might be directed to work on tone, voicing, or simultaneity of attack, but exercises like the above have a short shelf life for anyone beyond a beginner. There are other clumps of Giuliani’s exercises that I also find less-than-useful.

Why are there so many editions of these exercises that add nothing to one’s insight into the original or enhance one’s experience with right-hand practice? There exist editions by Vladimir Bobri, Bruno Tonazzi, Richard Stover, Ruggero Chiesa, and probably many more that I don’t know about or that have gone out of print. And any edition, facsimile or modern, of Giuliani’s complete Op. 1 would contain these exercises. (The Chiesa edition contains all of Op. 1 and Stover’s edition is part of The Classic Arpeggio Book[1].) All versions of these exercises are basically the same.

Giuliani’s exercises occasionally have served as filler material for technique books: they appear in Pepe Romero’s Guitar Style & Technique[2] and Scott Tennant’s Pumping Nylon[3]. Pepe Romero’s Guitar Style & Technique contains some of the exercises rewritten in A Major and Scott Tennant re-orders Giuliani’s patterns in his Pumping Nylon. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but they are still the same right-hand exercises Giuliani published in 1812.

So, I made a version for myself in the early 1990s: gone were the interminable exercises of repeated chords. I added exercises based on pieces composed since Giuliani’s time, wrote exercises that required rhythmic independence between right-hand fingers, and devised exercises that studied string crossing—a skill often left to develop haphazardly. I also organized the exercises differently than Giuliani did: rather than present the patterns according to the number of notes used, e.g., three-note patterns followed by four-note patterns, and so on, I organized them according to the type of movement used, i.e., sympathetic or opposed motion between the fingers. These types of movements are explained in my Mastering Guitar Technique. There’s a section in that book that is a mini version of Giuliani Revisited.

It wasn’t a very difficult thought-experiment, and once conceived was fun and easy to work on. Students who have assiduously worked on these exercises have found that their right hands acquire a fluency beyond that which can obtained from simply playing a couple of arpeggio etudes and having that constitute their “arpeggio practice,” which seems to be a not uncommon approach.

Here’s an example of one of the exercises I added that naturally contains a three-against-four rhythm between the bass and treble voices:

Exercise 126 from Christopher Berg’s Giuliani Revisited.

It’s an interesting pattern, which gives an interesting effect. I used it in my Sonata-Fantasia, The Emperor and the Fool:

Measures 98–100 from Christopher Berg’s The Emperor and the Fool.

You can hear a little sample of this below:

Audio excerpt from Christopher Berg’s The Emperor and the Fool.

Now back to Giuliani. I wrote in my preface that I kept Giuliani’s original C major and G7 chords out of respect for a long-standing pedagogical tradition, but that other options were possible, and I listed a few pieces that could be applied to the various patterns, depending on how many strings were used: Matteo Carcassi’s Op. 60, No. 2, Leo Brouwer’s Etude 6 from his Etudes Simples, and Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Etude 1 work well for exercises requiring four, five, or six strings respectively.

I remember Segovia saying something on a 1970 Decca recording (later MCA) called, “The Guitar and I,” to the effect that C and G7 “bore the burden of all 120 exercises” and one should change the key so the left hand and ear wouldn’t tire. This is not an exact quote, but contains the gist. I no longer have the old recording and haven’t found the text of Segovia's comments online, but why the left hand might tire is the subject of part two of this post, which will come next week.


  1. Richard Stover, The Classic Arpeggio Book (San Francisco: GSP Publications, 1993).  ↩

  2. Pepe Romero, Guitar Style & Technique: A comprehensive study of technique for the classical guitar (New York: Bradley Publications, 1982).  ↩

  3. Scott Tennant, Pumping Nylon (Alfred Music, 1995).  ↩