Riverside Sketches no.1

I wrote my first piece exploring pentatonic based melodies as well as my first real piece for Russian guitar. First things first, I’m quite happy with the piece and how it turned out. I’m not as happy with my playing of it, but I think I did well enough all things considered. I still need to do some tweaks to my guitar, mainly the heavier tension strings like I mentioned in my last post, but there is also the learning curve. I’m getting used to the spacing, though I still am not as comfortable with it as I’d like to be. My right hand technique though, works easily enough on steel strings, so no problem there. 

In my wife’s hometown, there is a river that runs out to the ocean, and it’s one of my favorite places to go for a walk and let my mind wander. Since it’s a place I’ve wandered many times and have sat by for hours as time flowed by, it seemed like a natural place to invoke as I’m beginning new compositional ideas and directions. I hope to do a series of these pieces and sketch my thoughts and feelings by the river as well as more literal pictures and gestures of the river. Enjoy the music, and farther below, I’ll jump into a more technical ramble about this piece. Also, I would love to hear other people’s take on this piece, so please play it and share!

This piece is in a fairly simple form, AABBA, but with an intro and some short transition phrases. In the A section, I worked with a stereotypical pentatonic scale G A B D E and kept the accompaniment mostly diatonic. I like the feel of a more limited melody while the harmony is broader. I’ve been interested in writing with pentatonics for a while, but I think it’s definitely the romantic Russian guitar music I’ve been practicing that has helped me end up with a piece like this. The transitions definitely come from what I’ve been playing, as well as a better handle on stress and release.

In the B section, I went used a more typical guitar texture to accompany a different pentatonic form, C# D E G A, for a short melody before the first and second ending, which have a bit of their own feel to them. I bring the first ending back up for the repeat, and originally, I had something different in the final measure, but I just had this itch to throw in that chord leading to the repeat. I’m not sure if I can explain it to myself much less anyone else, but I know it’s what I want. 

With these two pentatonics that I use, even though they’re constructed in a similar kind of  1 2 3 5 6 style, they’re made up of different intervals. This is what I’ve found interesting and is driving me to explore more with pentatonics. Whereas the major and minor scales are the same interval sets just shifted over, you can create five different pentonics with the 1 2 3 5 6 pattern, each with their own unique set of intervals. Two of them are here, and I hope in my Riverside Sketches to present them all as I imagine them.

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