Discussion:
The Complexity Barrier
(too old to reply)
Kent Murdick
2005-05-29 15:13:34 UTC
Permalink
Often in the past when I have taught students I have run into what I
call the complexity barrier. This is the point where the student is
certainly capable of playing the peices at a certain level, but he
can't yet mentally handle the complexity. You see this in the Carcassi
Method which at first sight appears to contain very simple pieces but
in reality these pieces are not on a beginning complexity level and
tend to confound the beginner. The first two books of Sagreras, IMO,
are quite the opposite. My only cure for breaking a complexity barrier
is to find or write as many pieces as I can that are at an advantageous
level of difficulty. The object of course is to continue to challenge
the student while still allowing him to play cleanly and musically.

This brings me to what I think is Galbraith's most valuable
contribution. I think he has more or less broken a complexity barrier
for the guitar. Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as
complex as Galbraith's music?
Mick Stranaham
2005-05-29 17:22:26 UTC
Permalink
Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as complex as
Galbraith's music?
It would be easier to have this discussion if you would be more specific.
Can you name a certain piece in PG's repetoire that you think is too
complex for all other guitarists?
Kent Murdick
2005-05-29 20:25:28 UTC
Permalink
The Ravel piano pieces he played when I heard him were extremely
complex. If I had the program I could be more specific, perhaps
someone on the list would know what they are. The Bach French Suite he
played was tough but the extra high string allowed him to play it
almost entirely in the first position - no hughe deal there. .
William Jennings
2005-05-29 17:26:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kent Murdick
Often in the past when I have taught students I have run into what I
call the complexity barrier. This is the point where the student is
certainly capable of playing the peices at a certain level, but he
can't yet mentally handle the complexity. You see this in the Carcassi
Method which at first sight appears to contain very simple pieces but
in reality these pieces are not on a beginning complexity level and
tend to confound the beginner. The first two books of Sagreras, IMO,
are quite the opposite. My only cure for breaking a complexity barrier
is to find or write as many pieces as I can that are at an
advantageous
Post by Kent Murdick
level of difficulty. The object of course is to continue to challenge
the student while still allowing him to play cleanly and musically.
The classical guitar demands focus on the task at hand and challenges
our ability to maintain conscious control over several simultaneous
things going on at the same time. As soon as the student gets a grip on
one thing something else demands their attention.... it's multi-tasking
big time. :-)

That's why we are such control freaks. Ever think about that? When I
realized just how much of a control freak I was becoming I decided to
relax control in other parts of my life. By sport fishing, dancing,
cooking, relaxing with non-classical guitar friends I don't concern
myself with control, I just have fun, relax and enjoy things. With the
guitar it's always keeping those balls in mid-air, staying focused,
alert, on task and very relaxed at the same time.

Che' de
Post by Kent Murdick
This brings me to what I think is Galbraith's most valuable
contribution. I think he has more or less broken a complexity barrier
for the guitar. Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as
complex as Galbraith's music?
d***@yahoo.com
2005-05-29 17:35:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kent Murdick
Often in the past when I have taught students I have run into what I
call the complexity barrier. This is the point where the student is
certainly capable of playing the peices at a certain level, but he
can't yet mentally handle the complexity. You see this in the Carcassi
Method which at first sight appears to contain very simple pieces but
in reality these pieces are not on a beginning complexity level and
tend to confound the beginner. The first two books of Sagreras, IMO,
are quite the opposite. My only cure for breaking a complexity barrier
is to find or write as many pieces as I can that are at an advantageous
level of difficulty. The object of course is to continue to challenge
the student while still allowing him to play cleanly and musically.
This brings me to what I think is Galbraith's most valuable
contribution. I think he has more or less broken a complexity barrier
for the guitar. Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as
complex as Galbraith's music?
Sometimes I write some pieces out for beginning students layer by layer
instead of giving them completed music. I'm trying to find some more
good pieces to do this with. In other words I will give them a piece
of sheet music that has nothing but the bass notes, but that's their
music for now. Once they are able to play that I'll write in the other
notes.

I don't know how far you can take this. Right now this is something I
do with about 3 pieces of music for people just starting.
richard c spross
2005-05-29 21:23:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Post by Kent Murdick
Often in the past when I have taught students I have run into what I
call the complexity barrier. This is the point where the student is
certainly capable of playing the peices at a certain level, but he
can't yet mentally handle the complexity. You see this in the Carcassi
Method which at first sight appears to contain very simple pieces but
in reality these pieces are not on a beginning complexity level and
tend to confound the beginner. The first two books of Sagreras, IMO,
are quite the opposite. My only cure for breaking a complexity barrier
is to find or write as many pieces as I can that are at an advantageous
level of difficulty. The object of course is to continue to challenge
the student while still allowing him to play cleanly and musically.
This brings me to what I think is Galbraith's most valuable
contribution. I think he has more or less broken a complexity barrier
for the guitar. Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as
complex as Galbraith's music?
Sometimes I write some pieces out for beginning students layer by layer
instead of giving them completed music. I'm trying to find some more
good pieces to do this with. In other words I will give them a piece
of sheet music that has nothing but the bass notes, but that's their
music for now. Once they are able to play that I'll write in the other
notes.
I don't know how far you can take this. Right now this is something I
do with about 3 pieces of music for people just starting.
I think that's a great idea. I have a student who recently retired from his
job, which really exhausted him and had prevented him from moving
forward. Now things are going to turn around I hope.

This is a rank beginning student. Okay.
He can read single lines, and simple arpeggio pieces and we had made
it to CP's arrangement of "Ode to Joy" in his up dated method vol. 1.

I thought I had him corraled on the right track to play the piece, but
he came back a week later, saying it over whelmed him.

So I started all over again.
Made sure his nails were in order.
Made sure his right elbow was located correctly so the righthand could
stay over the strings.
Made sure the right hand was tilted so he could just see the back of his
right hand.
( I realize other people teach this differently )
Made sure he could play the widest string spacing sixth and first
simultaneously with a, m, and i against the p.

Now the next problem was getting him to recognize the notes when
they are stacked upon one another.

So I did what you did Kent, I wrote out the melody and the bass line
for the first line only and sent him off to practice it.

Well when he came back, he could barely do it.
So we repeated everything above, and finally he began to get the idea.

Then I showed him how to play the repeating g note free stroke on
the second half of the beat.
We went as you can imagine very slowly.

Then I pointed out that the line he had now played successfully
represented 3.4 of the piece.

Only the third line represented something new, and I broke that
down to three harmonic intervals which come near the end of the line.

So I demonstrated to him through his own action that he could
now expect to be able play the entire piece with the exception
of the three intervals, which when now practiced in isolation
would come easily and voila he will be on his way.

Richard Spross
richard c spross
2005-05-29 21:26:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Post by Kent Murdick
Often in the past when I have taught students I have run into what I
call the complexity barrier. This is the point where the student is
certainly capable of playing the peices at a certain level, but he
can't yet mentally handle the complexity. You see this in the Carcassi
Method which at first sight appears to contain very simple pieces but
in reality these pieces are not on a beginning complexity level and
tend to confound the beginner. The first two books of Sagreras, IMO,
are quite the opposite. My only cure for breaking a complexity barrier
is to find or write as many pieces as I can that are at an advantageous
level of difficulty. The object of course is to continue to challenge
the student while still allowing him to play cleanly and musically.
This brings me to what I think is Galbraith's most valuable
contribution. I think he has more or less broken a complexity barrier
for the guitar. Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as
complex as Galbraith's music?
Sometimes I write some pieces out for beginning students layer by layer
instead of giving them completed music. I'm trying to find some more
good pieces to do this with. In other words I will give them a piece
of sheet music that has nothing but the bass notes, but that's their
music for now. Once they are able to play that I'll write in the other
notes.
I don't know how far you can take this. Right now this is something I
do with about 3 pieces of music for people just starting.
David,

My apologies. I thought it was Kent responding. At any rate,
Just understand it is a good idea sorry about the mis read.

Regards,
Richard Spross
d***@yahoo.com
2005-05-29 21:59:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by richard c spross
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Post by Kent Murdick
Often in the past when I have taught students I have run into what I
call the complexity barrier. This is the point where the student is
certainly capable of playing the peices at a certain level, but he
can't yet mentally handle the complexity. You see this in the Carcassi
Method which at first sight appears to contain very simple pieces but
in reality these pieces are not on a beginning complexity level and
tend to confound the beginner. The first two books of Sagreras, IMO,
are quite the opposite. My only cure for breaking a complexity barrier
is to find or write as many pieces as I can that are at an advantageous
level of difficulty. The object of course is to continue to challenge
the student while still allowing him to play cleanly and musically.
This brings me to what I think is Galbraith's most valuable
contribution. I think he has more or less broken a complexity barrier
for the guitar. Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as
complex as Galbraith's music?
Sometimes I write some pieces out for beginning students layer by layer
instead of giving them completed music. I'm trying to find some more
good pieces to do this with. In other words I will give them a piece
of sheet music that has nothing but the bass notes, but that's their
music for now. Once they are able to play that I'll write in the other
notes.
I don't know how far you can take this. Right now this is something I
do with about 3 pieces of music for people just starting.
David,
My apologies. I thought it was Kent responding. At any rate,
Just understand it is a good idea sorry about the mis read.
Regards,
Richard Spross
No problem Richard.

I hope the terminology I'm about to use doesn't dig up a dead horse,
but I think some of this complexity has something to do with vertical
vs. horizontal perception of written music.

By the time I started playing classical guitar, I had already had
experience analyzing Bach chorales and writing 4 part harmony in
theory. So my understanding of music was "chord, chord, chord, chord"
and it just so happens that melodies are created by these chords being
next to each other, and other tones added between them.

I think when a beginner sees a piece of music with 2 or more lines,
their brain immediately freezes up, because they are perceiving the
music as 3 independent lines going across the paper, 3 things that they
have to think about and manage and play. They can't for the life of
them figure out how they are supposed to do that. How am I going to
keep track of three lines at once? That's three different trains of
thought! That's three different activities! Who can possibly think in
those terms?

Stating it superficially, If they instead simply looked at it beat by
beat, "chord, chord, chord" and just saw that there were some notes in
between, they would probably get through this barrier much more
quickly.

I try to get my students to "analyze" pieces as soon as we start to
play them. The analysis is limited to their knowledge of chord forms
as they appear in the peice. I don't want to give them too much, but I
am trying to get them to use what they already know.

Once it is looked at this way then the individual lines can be looked
at more closely. Then you begin to emphasize that even though it is
one chord after another there are still a lot of little melodies going
on and each line needs to "sing."

-DaveK
richard c spross
2005-05-29 22:57:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Post by richard c spross
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Post by Kent Murdick
Often in the past when I have taught students I have run into what I
call the complexity barrier. This is the point where the student is
certainly capable of playing the peices at a certain level, but he
can't yet mentally handle the complexity. You see this in the Carcassi
Method which at first sight appears to contain very simple pieces but
in reality these pieces are not on a beginning complexity level and
tend to confound the beginner. The first two books of Sagreras, IMO,
are quite the opposite. My only cure for breaking a complexity barrier
is to find or write as many pieces as I can that are at an advantageous
level of difficulty. The object of course is to continue to challenge
the student while still allowing him to play cleanly and musically.
This brings me to what I think is Galbraith's most valuable
contribution. I think he has more or less broken a complexity barrier
for the guitar. Can anyone think of any player who plays anything as
complex as Galbraith's music?
Sometimes I write some pieces out for beginning students layer by layer
instead of giving them completed music. I'm trying to find some more
good pieces to do this with. In other words I will give them a piece
of sheet music that has nothing but the bass notes, but that's their
music for now. Once they are able to play that I'll write in the other
notes.
I don't know how far you can take this. Right now this is something I
do with about 3 pieces of music for people just starting.
David,
My apologies. I thought it was Kent responding. At any rate,
Just understand it is a good idea sorry about the mis read.
Regards,
Richard Spross
No problem Richard.
I hope the terminology I'm about to use doesn't dig up a dead horse,
but I think some of this complexity has something to do with vertical
vs. horizontal perception of written music.
By the time I started playing classical guitar, I had already had
experience analyzing Bach chorales and writing 4 part harmony in
theory. So my understanding of music was "chord, chord, chord, chord"
and it just so happens that melodies are created by these chords being
next to each other, and other tones added between them.
I think when a beginner sees a piece of music with 2 or more lines,
their brain immediately freezes up, because they are perceiving the
music as 3 independent lines going across the paper, 3 things that they
have to think about and manage and play. They can't for the life of
them figure out how they are supposed to do that. How am I going to
keep track of three lines at once? That's three different trains of
thought! That's three different activities! Who can possibly think in
those terms?
Stating it superficially, If they instead simply looked at it beat by
beat, "chord, chord, chord" and just saw that there were some notes in
between, they would probably get through this barrier much more
quickly.
I try to get my students to "analyze" pieces as soon as we start to
play them. The analysis is limited to their knowledge of chord forms
as they appear in the peice. I don't want to give them too much, but I
am trying to get them to use what they already know.
Once it is looked at this way then the individual lines can be looked
at more closely. Then you begin to emphasize that even though it is
one chord after another there are still a lot of little melodies going
on and each line needs to "sing."
-DaveK
David,

That sounds like a useful strategy.
Most of my students have no theory knowledge and haven't the time to
spend on it. I try to introduce them to chords, by teaching them how
triads are formed, inverted and embellished.

But rarely do they have the time to go home and study the material.
I think you are absolutely right about them being overwhelmed with
all the notes.

What I do is try to get them to see two notes in wide spaced intervals rest
stroke
first. This is because physically it is easier for them to play it.
In most instances this is easily accomplished, and then I teach them to play i
free stroke. This is how I introduce the free stroke. See by having the right
hand
stabliized with the a and p on a say six and one or five and one they can then
work the index finger into the palm in a straighter line.

What I teach about free stroke is not the norm. I execute my free strokes with
the knuckles below the string being played. This enables the finger to swing
through and clear the string above with out having to bend at the mid joint very

much.

I recently discovered that most other people are playing their free strokes in
an
eliptical manner. Since the way I do it takes much more time, energy and
precision
to execute it is easy for me to imitate those who do the eliptical motion. In
other
words the eliptical technique is subsumed by my approach.

At any rate, Once the hurdly of doing the i finger free is accomplished, then
I have them play the Andantino by Carcassi which requies them to play
rest stroke intervals in closer proximity such as on the fourth and second
strings.
The difference is that now they must release their fingers after playing the
harmonic interval inorder to allow the third string to be played with the i
finger.

So see we have made the exercise more difficult in two ways. first by having
to play rest stroke at the three string spacing, and two having to abandon
any support with those fingers while playing the free stroke i finger. This
requires
the student to keep their right arm steady in place, and that is not so easy to
do,
because depending on various factors, lengths of finger, degree of success at
making the thumb move often the arm will move to compensate for one of these
unbalances. Unbalance gets adjusted much later in my curriculum.

Now later in said piece, there are thirds over a repeating g and briefly a
repeating
d at the end of the third line.
Here I teach them to play the g with the thumb free stroke and the thirds with i
m
free stroke.

That amounts to three new levels of difficulty. One: Seeing the two notes
simultaneously,
Two playing the thumb free stroke. and Three adding one finger the m to the
motion
of the i. The i can help the m in it's direction. However if there is a great
disparity
between the lengths of i and m them m needs additional help for which I'll
usually
invent some exercise to help the student over come the difficulty.

So now I've taught the student how to play wide spaced and close spaecd
intervals
rest stroke and also taught the student how to execute pim free stroke.
After this piece I offer another piece Andante by Sor to give some breadth of
material
to the previously learned musics.

How it is becomes a challenge lies in the activity of the left hand fingers in
the first
two lines.
The middle part of the piece is not unlike what happened in "Ode to Joy".
The last two lines repeat the first two lines until the endng. If they can play
the
first two lines then the last two lines are relatively easy to unravel.

The only finger left to teach free stroke is the a finger.
So then we go to Jack Marshall's arrangement of Romanza to now play four
note chords all free, large intervals all rest, and single notes rests which
follow
the chords.

People may object to some of the loss of the harmony when the melody is played
rest, but it must be so, otherwise it vanishs against the onslaught of four
strings
sounding. One hears the high note of the harmony and it must connect with
the rest of the melody, not have the melody sudddenly drop out.

Boom plink plink Boom plink plin.

We want to hear the whole movement of the phases riseing and following
accordingly.

Now my student has all his equipment in place.
I take him back and have him play his arpeggio p