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.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

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!

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