Technique Tuesdays - 9th July - Leo Brouwer Etude 2

For the second instalment of Technique Tuesdays we'll be continuing with Leo Brouwer's Etudes Simples. Once again, you can buy a copy of the etudes here

Here's this week's video:

Technical Challenges

  • Balancing the voices

The main focus of this etude is on playing a choral-like texture, which poses one main technical challenge - balancing the voices. A common problem I hear in textures such as this is an overpowering voice - usually the bass, played with the thumb, or the uppermost note. A good exercise for overcoming this challenge is to practice emphasising each note of a given chord in succession, first p, then i, and finally (it doesn't apply in this video but for four note chords you would also do a). This will help you to hear each individual note and give your ear the ability to accurately asses the balance of each chord. After this initial work you will then want to spend a good deal of time on playing each note in a chord perfectly equal. You'll then start to get a feel for what notes might want to come out a bit more over others.

  • Bringing out the bass voice

In the latter half of the piece the bass note of each chord is indicated as an individual voice through the use of down-stemmed notes. This means we must bring it out more distinctly over the over notes. We discussed some techniques for bringing out a bass note last week, and they can certainly be used here. A more practical approach in this kind of texture, though, is to use to work we just did on bringing out different voices to help us achieve this goal.

  • Damping

This piece also presents the challenge of damping, if you pay close attention to the rests Brouwer has indicated in both parts. Damping in the chordal parts occurs on the first eighth-note rest of the eighth-note patterns that occur throughout, and can only be achieved through right-hand planting due to the use of open strings in almost all of the chords. Damping in the bass part can also be done in this manner, again it's the only way to damp the open string notes but in the case of the fretted G notes you can just lift you finger to damp instead. 

Damping is much easier to understand when it's shown in context so please refer to the video and follow with the music to see how I go about using this technique here.

Musical Challenges

  • Timbre and Dynamics

This piece poses many of the same musical challenges as we saw last week. There are many dynamic and expressive markings, particularly lots of crescendo and diminuendo markings and dynamic contrasts. The only thing I want to address here is the idea of timbral, or tone colour, changes. To support the change to a strong forte at the beginning of the second line I change from a more natural sound, over the soundhole, to a ponticello colour, near the bridge.


That's all for this week folks, please leave comments and suggestions below. Follow me on your preferred social media platform (links are at the bottom of the page) and subscribe on YouTube to keep up to date with these videos.

Happy practicing!