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Carlevaro Technique

Get Rid of String Squeaks

Get this in your head once and for all: String squeaks are unbearable and they are one of the reasons why classical guitarists are often not considered real artists or at least artists to be taken seriously. Just think about it, string squeaks are ugly and they detract from the beauty of the music you play. In order to get rid of them you must first become very aware of their presence and come to hate them with all your strength. This will be the starting point of a life long battle that will become second nature to your playing. I can assure you though that as soon as you become aware of the squeaking and acknowledge that it is a problem to be dealt with, you will have achieved half the victory to overcoming the problem.

Imagine that you were playing for an audience and that someone in the public made an annoying noise with his mouth every few seconds. I am sure you'd stop and ask that person to "please stop". As a matter of fact, Maestro Andres Segovia did just that in a concert I attended in Bari, Italy. Well, it is exactly the same thing we do to the audience whenever we throw in a string squeak. It is terribly annoying and the only reason we can stand them is because we become "selectively deaf" to them. 

In the video below I show you how to avoid string squeaks by lifting the left hand fingers perpendicularly with respect to the strings. The excerpt is from Bach Chaconne in D Minor. The player must make it part of his life mission as guitar players to eradicate this big shortcoming of Classical Guitar Technique altogether. When you practice a new piece or when you examine a piece from your repertoire, you must examine each left hand movement closely and see how and where the squeaks are generated and then find the correct movements that will allow you to achieve the same musical result without damaging the beauty of the music you are trying to bring to life. 

Typically string squeaks are generated when a finger is lifted off the fingerboard diagonally with respect to the strings. The obvious solution is to make the lift perpendicularly. To allow for swiftness and speed in the moves, the player must use the whole Playing Apparatus (Fingers, Wrist, Hand, Elbow, Forearm, Shoulder and ultimately, the whole Body) and not limit the playing to the hand and fingers alone. The secret is to practice each change of position very slowly so as to be able to have a clear image in you head of what it is that your hands are doing when they are in contact with the strings and when they are moving around the fingerboard. Close observation of every move is the key.

The way to get rid of them once and for all is a process that requires maximum attention and awareness of everything that goes on in your left hand. The first step is to get rid of the obvious and easy to eliminate squeaks that typically make up for over 50% of the unwanted squeaks. Yes, these are the types of squeaks that have entered the playing simply because we have become deaf to squeaks altogether but will be taken care of by just becoming aware of their existence. It is only a smaller percentage of squeaks that will require "extra work" to be eliminated. These are typically taken care of by incorporating the correct behavior of the finger(s) involved. Other times the solution will consist in changing the fingering of a given passage altogether and/or even to eliminate certain notes completely. When you think about it, it is preferable to play less notes in an "immaculate" musical surrounding than to play all the notes  at the cost of beauty.

The example and animation below are taken from staff # 4 in Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Notice how finger 1 lifts from the low F# in measure 12 perpendicularly with respect to the strings in order to avoid the undesired string squeak.

A Whiter Shade of Pale Staff # 4

It is guitar transcriptions in general that have in a way "forced" the incorporation of string squeaks in the guitar technique. This is because the guitar has tried to increase its repertoire by adapting pieces originally written for other instruments and in the process of doing so, the guitar player had to face situations where at first glance the only option to make a musical phrase flow as expected by the composer was to move on the fingerboard in a certain way. The result was a string squeak that killed the beauty of the musical passage. That same musical passage would have not suffered had the player removed a note or two and in the process saved the beauty and spirit of the work. I encourage you to listen to teh playing of Uruguayan player Alvaro Pierri, perhaps Abel Carlevaro most prominent student, and see how this Master is able to make the most beautiful guitar music without making string noise. Pierri dominates Carlevaro technique, the same technique I teach in all the pages of mangore.com. Other great masters that use Carlevaro technique are Eduardo FernandezCesar Amaro, Baltazar Benitez and of course Abel Carlevaro himself and yours truly. 

Below is another great example from Isaac Albéniz Granada where I show how many times is the way we lift the fingers off the fingerboard to cause the unwanted squeak. This type of squeak is more difficult to eradicate and you must fine tune your ear to make sure none goes into your playing. Remember that 99% of string squeaks can be taken care of with the proper attention and technique skill.

Granada Introduction

Study Granada with me here

Yet another example on how to avoid string squeaks taken from Handel Passacalle, staff #6. Fingers 1 and 2 are literally thrown in the air to prepare for the rotation of the left hand

Avoid Squeaks

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