Fretboard Harmony for University Study: Method and Historical Context

Fretboard harmony is essential in any thorough approach to the education of classical guitarists yet no effective method or materials for teaching a course in fretboard harmony is currently available. This dissertation aims to remedy this state of affairs by providing a method book intended for use in an upper-level undergraduate course. 

The design of the method book is informed by the study of historical documents and by the examination of recent theory and keyboard harmony texts. In Chapter I, materials from the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical guitar traditions are examined to assess the historical conception and use of the guitar as an harmonic instrument. These include Matteis’ The False Consonances of Music, Sor’s Méthode pour la guitare and Horetzky’s Preludes, Cadences and Modulations. Having established some historical context, the dissertation proceeds in Chapter II toexamine theory and keyboard harmony texts to determine if there is a consensus on the ordering of presentation of concepts. The type of exercises given and their deployment are also assessed.

The fretboard harmony method which emerges from these studies adapts this information to the particular exigencies and constraints of the guitar, resulting in a text which is intended for use in a full-year, upper-level undergraduate course. It comprises Chapter III and consists of a progressive arrangement of over 250 exercises along with written instruction. It begins with fretboard orientation and proceeds through single-note exercises, intervals, triads, chords, chord function and chord progression and modulation. The derivation of barre chords and “common” or “familiar” chords is explicated through a systematic method of chord formulation. Melody harmonization and figured bass realization are employed as pedagogical tools and are objectives in themselves in learning to actualize harmony on the fretboard. The harmonic scope of the method is confined to the vocabulary of the common-practice period. The use of secondary dominants, Augmented and Neapolitan 6th chords are final goals.

Chapter IV is a conclusion of the study with a discussion of potential areas of future research.

By Jeffrey James Mcfadden

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