TWO-HANDED TAPPING Play a Debussy classical piece
In the first of a trio of unique masterclasses, Paul Bielatowicz, tackles a Debussy classic as an example of two-hand tapping.
Carl Palmer’s guitarist Paul Bielatowicz is one of the very best two-hand tappers. Here he shows how to play Dr Gradus ad Parmassum!
Welcome to GT’s new, three-part series on two-handed tapping. During the series, we’ll be looking at applying the technique to different styles and using it in different contexts. To kick it all off we’re going solo with an arrangement of a classical piano piece by Debussy from his 1908 Children’s Corner collection.
Born in France in 1862, Claude Debussy was one of the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, best known for his piano pieces. Debussy was the leading figure in a movement of composition called Impressionism (although he himself hated the label), and his music is characterised by its use of non-traditional harmony and evocation of pictures, scenes and stories.
Children’s Corner is a set of six pieces Debussy wrote for his daughter ClaudeEmma, or ‘Chou-Chou’, when she was three years old. The compositions were not intended to be played by a child, but rather written to appeal to children and evoke images of childhood in adults. Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum, the first piece of the set is said to parody a piano textbook called Gradus Ad Parnassum, translated as Steps To Parnassus (Mount Parnassus being a mountain in Greece which, according to myth, was home of the Muses and a centre of poetry and music). The book was a collection of mundane technical finger exercises and Debussy’s satire includes a middle section that sees the pianist slow down to attempt the exercise in different keys. While the piece does provide the pianist with an ingenious study in finger independence, it’s anything but mundane.
From a guitar point of view, the piece is well-suited to a tapping approach that primarily uses two fingers on both hands. While the speed may seem daunting at first, two factors work in our favour: first, the different sections are mostly played using a tapping approach that feels quite repetitive; secondly, unlike most piano pieces, for the vast majority of the arrangement we only have to play one note at once.
As for the tempo marking, I opted for a loose ‘moderate’. Classical and classical-style solo pieces should be allowed a little breathing room with their tempo – I wouldn’t suggest performing this piece with a click, as to do so would suck a little of the life out of it. Once you have the notes under your fingers, listen to how different pianists play the piece to get an idea about what can be done with the ebb and flow of tempo. One benefit of having a looser tempo is that you can play it at a speed that you feel comfortable with – if the recorded video version seems a little too hard for you at present, then just play it slower, as the piece will sound just as good.
from a guitar point of view this piece suits a tapping approach primarily using two fingers on both hands
NEXT MONTH Paul tackles a shuffle blues using two hand tapping technique
Paul Bielatowicz taps out a Claude Debussy classical masterpiece
Claude Debussy could never have envisaged his music for rock guitar!