Justin Holland: The guitar’s black pioneer

This topic examines the life of Justin Holland (1819-1887), the first American black man to devote his life to the development of the classical guitar. Raised in rural Virginia, he later became a nationally known educator of the guitar. Though he wrote two guitar tutors and a few compositions, the bulk of his works are guitar arrangements. Holland’s works are cataloged in an appendix consisting of over three hundred pieces. Modern library holdings are cited at the end of each entry. Aside from music, Holland’s early work in civil rights brought him worldwide acclaim. His knowledge of three languages brought him into contact with abolitionist sympathizers in South America and Europe.

Teaching Guitar to College Students

The purpose of this report was to formulate a methodical approach to the teaching of guitar skills needed for the effective use of the guitar by music educators and music therapists. In both these professions, the guitar is used in an accompanimental capacity and also is taught as an applied instrument. Presently, there is an ever-increasing supply of instruction books available which fulfill many different needs and explore various styles of guitar playing. However, at the time of this writing, a search of guitar texts has revealed no available text which is designed to develop the various skills needed to prepare the professional music educator or music therapist to use the guitar effectively in his work.

From the vast array of styles and techniques of the guitar, this report chose to develop the knowledge and skills most useful to the classroom teacher and practicing music therapist. Such topics include tuning, note reading, basic classical and plectrum technique, first position chords, use of the capo, bar chords, diminished seventh chords, open chord tuning, introduction to guitar history and literature, and elementary fretboard harmony.

The text is not intended for the beginning musician and builds on an expected knowledge of music fundamentals to accomplish quick and efficient assimilation of beginning guitar technique and musical concepts on the instrument. Note reading is developed through the use of non-traditional, not easily memorized exercises, often in unusual meter signatures.

This report is not intended to be used as an exclusive text in any guitar learning situation. Supplementary material is essential, especially in the classical technique section where only developmental exercises and studies are given. It does not contain any literature from the guitar’s standard repertoire, nor traditional pedagogical studies. The chord reading section does not contain any songs as these (and songbooks) can become quickly outdated and lose their meaning to passing generations of students. It is imperative to use supplementary material to fill these needs.

This method should be used along with the aid and instruction of a teacher. It is not, nor could be, thorough enough to replace explanation, demonstration, and augmentation by an experienced guitarist.

Guitar Composition

The purpose of this guide was to investigate the development of a new approach to guitar composition, to disclose and credit experimentalists for liberating the guitar from its Spanish-classical genre, to make cogent realizations concerning the problems and timidity composers experienced while writing for the instrument and to closely examine compositions by composers who contributed to the new repertoire. Throughout the formulation of the study, historical research and analysis methods, including collaborations with noted composers, have been employed to assess the treatment and development of the guitar into new musical forms.

This class is exclusively limited to music written for the nylon-strung acoustic guitar, although in some cases, the program refers to the use of the electric guitar. Whether gut or steel strings were used before the marketing of nylon strings is irrelevant in this plan since nearly all compositions discussed would appropriately be performed with today’s nylon-strung classical guitar.

This thought process is presented in two sections: Pre-World War II Central Europe and The New Guitar Repertoire. The first section primarily examines the cultural heritage of contemporary guitar music in Central Europe, with specific emphasis placed on the contributions by the early dodecaphonic, epic opera and “Gebrauchsmusik” (utilitarian music) composers. The second section involves the use of the guitar by post-Webern serialists, its function in aleatory music, and, most importantly, its potential as a new timbral resource. All composers represented in these two sections have been selected in order to show the extraordinary interest in the guitar by distinct coteries of composers interested in extending the boundaries of conventional musical forms.

From a theoretical point of view, the writing concludes that the guitar is an instrument intrinsically suitable for pentatonicism and chromaticism, whereas there are restrictions (employing conventional tuning and techniques) of its practical use in certain diatonic keys. Thus, to compose music for the instrument, which extends beyond these parameters, requires a great deal of knowledge regarding applied techniques as well as the timbral potential of the guitar. Conclusions of the program from a musicological point of view reveal that a particular trend in using the guitar occurred among composers who eventually emancipated the role of the guitar from its Spanish-classical genre.

Guitar Fingering Guide

An important area of guitar education, whether in a private studio or a public school classroom, is that of guitar “fingering”–the exact, well-planned, and deliberate designation of fingers to a musical passage. Knowledge, understanding, and application of basic fingering principles will aid students in such parameters as technical proficiency, expression, phrasing, memorization, and performance security. This topic supplies the teacher with a theoretical basis from which to present this important topic. The basis is built on two sets of principles: (1) the physical properties of the guitar and its tone production (guitar size, distance between the frets, sustaining quality of the strings, and varying timbre of the strings), and (2) the physiological structure of the human hand and arm (length of the fingers, alignment of hands with the strings, strong and weak finger combinations, changing positions, fatigue, and string crossing).

This guide is divided into seven chapters. The first serves as an overview of the current status of guitar education and provides an introduction to the topic of fingering. Chapter 2 describes the notation used throughout the document and defines such fundamental concepts as basic position for the left and right hand, the names of positions, stretch and squeeze positions, the bar and hinge-bar, and rest and free strokes. Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 present information that constitutes the main conclusions of this the practice. They deal with the left hand fingering of melodies played on a single string, left hand fingering of melodies played on two or more strings, left hand fingering of homophonic and contrapuntal music, and right hand fingering. Included in these areas of discussion are basic left and right hand positions, minimum movement, pivot and guide fingers, position playing, changing positions, strong and weak finger combinations, and fingerings which complement musical phrasing and expression.

Chapter 7 summarized the major concepts presented in the topic, gives guidelines to teaching the topic of guitar fingering, and supplies suggestions for future research in this subject area.

Blues Guitar and B.B. King

We’re talking about the nature, sources, and development of B. B. King’s guitar style from his earliest recordings up to the present time. This study also investigates to what extent certain playing characteristics have changed over his recording career. At the onset this study assumes that there is a consistency of style which generates the blues improvisations of B. B. King and that his style has had an impact upon many contemporary black blues guitarists as well as a younger generation of white guitarists, especially in the blues and rock idiom.

We’re starting assessment and survey of related literature and scholarship to date dealing with the artist and his tradition. The inadequacies of existing scholarship on individual blues artists are pointed out, especially in respect to musicological analysis. A general overview of the Mississippi Delta blues tradition is presented along with pertinent biographical information on B. B. King. The artist’s own impact as a unique guitar stylist is also discussed in order to establish his stature as a blues performer.

Key listening sources, such as gospel, blues, jazz, and country are cited and investigated further through information gleamed from a personal interview with the artist himself. Also examined in depth are several tutors and guitar idols claimed by B. B. King as having a profound influence upon his developing guitar style. Other instrumental idols are investigated as well.

Twenty transcribed guitar solos of B. B. King are analyzed in detail along with several transcriptions of his predecessors in order to discern uniqueness or similarity in style, motivic development in guitar solos and vocal responses, and their relationship to one-another. Also examined are several of King’s guitar techniques, some unique, and several technical devices which place King in the realm of a blues-jazz performer.

Included in this thought process is a table illustrating the chronological development of B. B. King’s guitar style.