The Lute Society: Beginners Lesson 7

Beginners' lesson 7

Anonymous, Fantasia
  • Lesson 7 of our beginners lessons, by Lynda Sayce
  • Piece taken from '70 Easy to Intermediate Pieces' (piece #45)
  • Full copies of the playing editions from which the lessons are taken can be ordered in our catalogue

Right Hand

This little piece offers important technical lessons for both hands. For the right hand, the challenges have mostly been addressed already in lesson one, (available via the society's website), and may be usefully revised in conjunction with this lesson. Our present Fantasia works well with thumb - index alternation throughout, apart from the opening and concluding chords, which will require thumb plus index, middle and ring fingers. Practise these chords on their own before working them into the piece. Pluck the individual notes separately first so that your ear knows what to expect, then you can easily identify any weak or missing notes when you play the whole chord. The new technical issue for the right hand is the relative athleticism required in string crossing, especially in bars 6, 8 and 9.

In these bars make sure that the whole forearm is involved in the right hand plucking motion, as previously explained in lesson 1. This is very important for preserving a consistent sound and articulation across the lute's compass, especially when the index finger has to pluck a lower course than the thumb. Resist any tendency to twist the hand in order to shorten the distance to be travelled, and be especially careful that the little finger anchor remains lightly on its spot, and is not roaming around the soundboard as you move the arm.

It is well worth working on the string crossings in bars 6, 8 and 9 individually, repeating each pair of notes several times slowly, and ensuring that the arm is moving smoothly before proceeding to the next pair of notes. Gradually reduce the number of repetitions until you are playing the passages as written, and, even more gradually, increase the speed. Listen carefully to your articulation on these passages, and be careful to avoid artificial accents on the index finger notes.

Left Hand

This piece also offers a couple of brief passages of excellent shifting practice for the left hand. When the left hand shifts up or down the lute's neck, the presentation of fingers to strings should not change. The easiest and most efficient way to achieve this is to simply pull the whole hand and forearm towards you to shift up (towards the bridge), and to push the hand and forearm away from you to shift down (towards the nut). Be careful not to twist the hand during shifts; common faults include moving the fingers but leaving the thumb behind, leaving the wrist sticking out awkwardly after the shift, and making excessive movements of the upper arm which leave the elbow sticking out. All of these points can be effectively checked by playing in front of a mirror.

When playing above first position it can be helpful to focus on the fret which your index finger must find, and then to cultivate a tidy presentation of the hand so that one can reliably position the 4th finger 3 frets above this without looking, and without worrying about those high frets. This concept of index finger position 'plus a hand' takes away much of the uncertainty of navigation in upper positions.

In any single line passages involving shifts there will generally be more than one possible fingering. If possible, I suggest arranging the fingering so that shifts occur after weak (index finger) notes; they will be less audible this way. I have suggested fingerings but you will find other good options in some cases. In bar 1 one can take advantage of the open string on the 4th note to move the hand up to 4th position. Make a mental note of where your 4th finger has landed for the 3rd note in bar 1 (fret e), then try to find that exact spot with your index finger without looking. When you can do that reliably, place the index finger at 4th position and practise finding fret h with your 4th finger. When you put the whole shift back into context, don't make a frantic grab for fret h; try to make a controlled and panic-free move to 4th position, locate your index finger lightly on fret e, then just drop your 4th finger down onto fret h.