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One of the most common complaints examiners and 'general musicians' make about the guitar is that guitarists tend to make everything sound the same.

Guitarists are probably usually aware of it when this is a problem, so this is one of the most important things about ABC Guitar. Right from the start (well, from about Grade 1) you really can make a difference to this sense of style.

Yes, it can help you get better marks for your Grade exams, but we think in the end the point is to feel better about your playing.



To be exact, they make everything sound like Tarrega.

What do we mean by a "sense of style?"

Its about history. History is the story of how people lived in the past (not necessarily that long ago either!). And its not just about battles and kings, it is also about art and poetry and music and how people felt about things. We can never know exactly how people felt about music in the past, but we can have a good try at working out how they thought about it, what they were used to, what would sound about "right" to them.

We could say then, a sense of style means playing in a way that people who knew the music when it was new, would recognise as being 'about right'.


Much of this discussion relates to three books published by the Associated Board:

A Performer's Guide to Music of the Baroque Period

A Performer's Guide to Music of the Classical Period

A Performer's Guide to Music of the Romantic Period

All highly recommended to teachers and mid to upper grade students.

 Please go to abrsmpublishing.com for more details.


Let's look at what you can do to make this difference. In the end you have to do all these things at once, but we have to talk about them one at a time.

Tone: this is literally the sound you make, whether it is warm and sweet (playing near the fingerboard), sharp and metallic (playing near the bridge) or 'neutral' (playing over the soundhole). The kind of tone you make, and how you vary it, is probably the most important single aspect of style.

Dynamics; forte and piano, crescendo and diminuendo: how much of these things and how you change them.

Articulation: how you join notes together, ranging from staccato (chopped up short) to legato (smoothly joined up)


 forte = loud, piano = soft

crescendo = getting louder

diminuendo = getting softer




In the broadest possible ways, here are some suggestions for varying your tone, dynamics and articulation stylistically


 These 'broad brush' ideas are intentionally basic to be accessible to early Grade players


Music of the Renaissance and Baroque Periods

(List A)


Tone: mostly on the metallic side, though never extreme. Keep basically the same tone throughout a piece, unless you use some variation on repeats. Consider softer tone in arrangements of gentle vocal music.

Dynamics: keep dynamics simple and direct, change them mostly on repeats or at the ends of big phrases or sections. Only use short, subtle crescendo and diminuendo at the most.

Articulation: lots of staccato especially in lively dance rhythms, and in repeated notes. Legato for small parts of phrases and arrangements of slow vocal (or vocal-style) music.


 Speaking academically, most of this applies more to the Baroque, not least because surviving written evidence is rare from the Renaissance (the Associated Board books referred to above don't address the Renaissance).


Music of the Classical and Romantic Periods

(List B)


For late 18th century works very similar ideas apply to those for List A. Basically all variables increase towards a maximum as you approach the late 19th century.

Tone: generally neutral to warm, with increasing degrees of variation later in the period. Variety within a piece can be used, with more rapid contrasts used between phrases and modest contrast within phrases.

Dynamics: more complex and varying, with longer crescendo and diminuendo, sometimes to dramatic effect. Greater extremes are possible eg ff or pp.

Articulation: lots of staccato still for anything meant to sound lively, but tending more towards overall legato later in the period.


 Late 18th century ("Classical") music is much more similar to the early 18th century ("Baroque") in style and approach than it is to the late 19th century ("Romantic")


Music of the Modern Period

(List C)


Tone, Dynamics and Articulation: anything may be required depending on the piece. Be prepared for anything: from the greatest extremes, to music that sounds like it is trying to sound like something old.

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