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Re: Advocating Research on Fingering Practice

From: David Raleigh Arnold
Subject: Re: Advocating Research on Fingering Practice
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005 20:53:27 -0500
User-agent: KMail/1.7.1

On Saturday 22 January 2005 03:05 pm, Erik Sandberg wrote:
> On Friday 21 January 2005 20.57, David Raleigh Arnold wrote:
> > Quoted w/o permission:
> >
> > [quote][i]Originally posted by donaldsauter[/i]
> > [br]Jan de Kloe's article "A House Style for Engraving
> > Guitar Music" in the most recent Soundboard
> > prompted me to get some more thoughts down on the
> > subject of guitar fingering notation.
> > ...
> >   Richard Long,
> > editor of the Soundboard, told me the Letters to the
> > Editor column is "defunct" because of the potentially
> > large lag between a letter and the article it responded
> > to.  He suggested I put my thoughts on the web, and I
> > appended them to my page:
> >
> >   http://www.geocities.com/donaldsauter/gfing.htm
> Looks interesting at first glance; I added this link to the previous
> report in case someone will want to implement those rules sometime.

Which rules?  The ones from Sauter come basically from nowhere
and the ones I listed are tentative and not prioritized.  The
research *has not* been done.
> There might be some copyright problems; that page states explicitly:
> but I guess this isn't legally binding since (AFAIK) a method cannot
> be copyrighted.

I for one thought that proposal worthless.
> > I looked, but not very far.  You don't have anything.  You cannot
> > justify the notion that fingering "note stacks" is the best way. 
> > You should look at engraved guitar music pre-1880, or faithful
> > copies.  No forward progress has been made since well before that
> > time.  Before 1880, guitar music was extremely important in music
> > publishing.  By 1890, there was practically none published at all.
> > The Reads and Stones, the notation police, having never looked at
> > any of it, know nothing of the rules of fingering any of it,
> > because piano fingering is such a rare occurence that the knowledge
> > just disappeared with the engravers.  Furthermore, the Reads and
> > Stones are blissfully unaware that guitar music *formed* fingering
> > practice.  Consequently none of their pronouncements on the topic
> > are worth spit, and mid-twentieth century practice is not worth
> > much either.  Modern practice is a disaster.
> >
> > If you are not using the first finger, your hand is not in a
> > position, so a string indication should be used instead of a
> > position indication.  You ought not to base practice on finger
> > placements that don't happen.  These things were thought through
> > long ago.  A careful study of scores will reveal what rules there
> > were.  One, right off, is that a finger indication *never* directly
> > follows a note.  Some editions liked fingers at 4:30 to 5:00
> > instead of 6:00 when the stem was down, but even that did not
> > become best practice *IMO*.
> >
> > A few of the rules appear to be, in no particular order:

These are from me, not Mr. Sauter, quick, just a start, and definitely
not copyrighted:
> >
> > 1.  A finger indication should be as close to its note as possible.
> >
> > 2.  Better close to note head than stem.
> >
> > 3.  The fingering indications should lead the eye from one to the
> > next.  This is the part a computer will never do satisfactorily, so
> > it should not even be tried until everything else works for all
> > cases without problems or errors.  Flow is difficult for rests, let
> > alone fingering.
> >
> > 4.  Fingering on staff lines is fine, but never on leger lines.
> >
> > 5.  A finger never directly, meaning at 3:00, follows its note.
> >
> > 6.  You can stack two numbers above or below thirds on the same
> > stem, not
> > otherwise, but it is better before the notes if there is room.
> >
> > Often, as now, fingering was an afterthought, and that is a source
> > of many errors of all sorts.  The space should be allotted in
> > advance of the notes being placed horizontally, whether done by
> > hand or computer.
> >
> > I would have much more toleration for stacking right hand fingering
> > than left, because correct assumptions about it can quickly and
> > easily be made, because it is one-dimensional, not two-dimensional.
> >  I didn't find this reflected in old music to any degree, but that
> > means nothing.  I haven't looked at enough of it.
> >
> > I want to suggest that you trash all your work so far, and Jan de
> > Kloe's, and start over with some research to see what *was* done.
> > Sometimes the baby has to be thrown out with the bath water, or it
> > just dies and rots.  Welcome to the world of creative people. 
> > "Kill your darlings", as Mencken said.  If you do otherwise, you
> > are rejecting at least a century of tradition and expertise in
> > favor of twentieth century ignorance and know-nothingness. 
> > Certainly it is possible to suss out the rules and prioritize them.
> >  It needs doing. You appear to be interested, bless you for it.  Do
> > it.
> I can only speak for myself, but I don't have the time & motivation
> for it right now. Fingering notation is on the long-term todo, but
> much more urgent issues exist IMHO. If you need these features very
> much, you are very welcome to start hacking lily & implement the
> system you propose. It would be appreciated.

I did not propose a system.  I said that the proposed system had
nothing to recommend it, and asked that research be done before
proposing any more systems.  Then I gave a few rules which *appeared*
to govern how fingering was done when anyone still knew how to do it.
The examples which led to those theories are excellent, but to be
conclusive it would be necessary to have many more examples,
statistics, etc..

But it is solid that a finger never directly follows a note and that
it should be very close to the note head if possible.  The former
doesn't need to be implemented, but it would be nice to stop
recommending it in the docs.  The latter, being simpler than what you
do now, should be easier than maintaining what you do now, especially
because it's buggy now anyway on account of the extra padding which
shouldn't be there for (non)-collision with accidentals.

The reason that *other* guitar players are dreaming up systems is that
there really isn't any now.  The 'mid-20th century' system is the
product of ignorance, nothing more.  But the solution is research, not
invention.  daveA

The only technical exercises for guitar which are worthy of the
instrument consist in "Dynamic Guitar Technique".  I promise miracles.
Get it at:  http://www.openguitar.com/dynamic.html    
daveA         David Raleigh Arnold          dra..at..openguitar.com

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