classical guitar phrasing dynamics volume

learn to play asturias leyenda albeniz guitarNew Spanish Flamenco Course:
Asturias (Leyenda), by Isaac Albéniz!

Limited-Time Special: Buy Now and get
2 Bonus Skill-Builder Courses Included

Click here for more.


 


Balance Ratios: A Way to Quantify Musical Expression and Phrasing

We would all like to play classical guitar with beautiful phrasing and expression. It would be wonderful if every tune came out flowing and rich, with emotion and power.

But often, the music comes out muddled. Instead of clear and clean, it sounds chunky and disorganized. This is true even if we get all the notes.

One of the reasons is what we call “balance”.

What is Musical Balance in Classical Guitar Music?

Musical balance is the volume-relationship of one note or line of music to another.

In classical guitar music, we usually have multiple lines of music happening at the same time. These are often the melody, the bass, and some accompaniment. This type of writing is what makes the classical guitar sound so full and complex.

On guitar, we are both the conductor and the orchestra. We direct the action, and we make the sounds.

In a perfect scenario, a listener would know exactly what notes were the melody. They would be able to hear the bass notes as separate from the accompaniment. And it would all just “make sense” to them (even if they didn’t understand why).

We primarily use volume to separate the different parts (or “voices”) of the music. When we make some notes loud while others are less so, it’s called “balance”.

The Big Question: How Much?

Here’s the problem: we often think we’re bringing out the melody, but in reality, we’re not. We can record ourselves playing to test this. We may find that what we thought was exaggerated and distinct is in fact hardly noticeable.

So the question is: How much louder should the melody be? How much louder should the bass be than the accompaniment? Just how much difference are we looking for?

For this, we have to make a decision. We must decide exactly how much louder one voice is than another, then play it that way.

To help us remember, we can use simple ratios.

Mental Tool for Balance: Ratios

Instead of hoping to play the melody louder, we can play it X times louder than the other voices. And we can state this as a ratio, such as 2:1 or 3:1.

We can play the melody twice as loud as the bass. We can play it three times as loud. Whatever the situation calls for, we can decide the ratio and play it that way.

Once we choose a ratio, we need only remember it. Knowing the desired balance for any two notes helps us play it musically every time. We’re less likely to go on “auto-pilot” and just play monotone notes.

Tip: Make Decisions (and Play Them)

When we make musical decisions, our technique gets better. To play one voice four times as loud as another takes control and attention. This work leads to more control and higher-quality attention.

Guitar practice is more fun and more effective when we work on specific challenges. Balance ratios give us these specific challenges. They push us to play more expressively. They give us direct goals upon which to focus.

The more questions we ask and decisions we make, the better musicians we become.

allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.





Become a Member and Play More, Beautifully!

“The basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.”
Charles Poliquin  

Join the program that takes you from the beginning fundamentals to advanced mastery, so you…

  • Move your hands safely and fluidly

  • Enjoy fulfilling practices and meaningful work

  • Play beautifully with expression and flow

Click the button to take a step towards an organized, effective guitar practice. >>>




Featured Courses

$39


jesu bach classical guitar

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach

One of the best loved of all classical pieces.

See more...


$39


read music guitar high positions notes

Play and Read Music in the Higher Positions

Learn to read music and identify notes on the entire neck.

See more...


$39


how to play segovia scales

Better Technique, with “Segovia’s Favorite Scales”

Detailed explorations of this popular technical tool.

See more...


$39


pachelbel's canon guitar

Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Great for beginners to intermediate players.

See more...


$47


how to read music for guitar

How to Read Music for Guitar

A full course to get you started reading music

See more...


$39


malaguena guitar

Malagueña, by Ernesto Lecuona

One of the most fun and recognizable guitar songs in the world!

See more...



See more…