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Andrew Paul MacDonald : Lyrical Etudes Book 1 Op94 : Doberman – Yppan

Andrew Paul MacDonald

Doberman – Yppan: 27 pages

Canadian – born MacDonald, has written here 6 Etudes that are technically challenging, but then again, that’s the point of Etudes in the first place, isn’t it? They are definitely concert Etudes, and are supposed to be played in the order here presented, although the composer realises that they can be collected into smaller groups should that be necessary.

Each of the pieces has its own specific challenge, with No1 consisting of an arpeggio pattern of semi -quavers in groups of 10s, each being a mixture of stopped strings and open ones in what is a complex, but repeated pattern of strings that moves up and down the fingerboard, often changing one or two of its notes so that the held pattern does not stay unchanged for very long, and the player really has to keep his/her eyes open and be able to read instantly any changes.

No2 is marked as a lively 142 dotted crotchets a minute in a 12/8 pattern that first climbs up and down within two bars in a crotchet/quaver pattern, and then runs up and down in constant quavers. This general rhythmic pattern continues over a multitude of different arpeggios reaching to the highest points of the guitar and then plummeting down into the lowest .A middle section of octaves, and then also some speedy hammer – ons and pull – offs takes over for a while, before the rising and falling arpeggio pattern returns and the coda finishes with the tune that one associates with ‘Good Evening Friends’, that old music hall four note melody, as a humorous close.

No3 is in a mixture of time signatures including 10/8, 13/8, 8/8, 9/8 and 11/8 and begins with a melody on the lower strings topped by a rocking pair of open strings that are occasionally lower in pitch than the melody below. The differing mixture of time signatures makes this piece trickier than it might otherwise be. Then an arpeggio driven pattern still involving the top two open strings but moving constantly underneath takes over in patterns of 8.This system of changing the musical patterns of the arpeggios continues for the rest of the piece which eventually closes on some harmonic Bs.

No4, marked Fluid, is mostly a study in thirds that move constantly up and down the fingerboard, with many accidentals being used and in a situation that requires much care. This then turns into a more complex idea using these thirds still but also adding a further running pattern that uses pull- offs too. Like before in previous pieces, this then alters slightly as it continues, adding further voices, usually above this continuing pattern until the final coda where an enigmatic chord closes the piece.

No5 is almost entirely made up of harmonics of both sorts, and is one of the hardest in the set of six, mixed as they are with ordinary note passages or chords underneath the harmonics that are constantly in motion

The final No6 is a Maestoso and littered with demi – semi – quavers in multiple runs and arpeggios, often with pull- offs and using very high hand positions a number of times. An unexpected coda where everything suddenly winds down and a few pizzicato notes played piano close the piece and the set.

These are really some of the hardest studies I have ever come across, but they are always interesting, very imaginative musically speaking, and definitely something that will improve a good player’s technique even more, as they do enter into musical realms that I have not seen before.

Chris Dumigan

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