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Paganini's 24th Caprice Variation III

Anthony Ridi (2010) · [archive]
Style: Classical · Level: Expert · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1

Welcome to part IV of this XIV part lesson on Paganini's 24 Caprices. I hope you've all done your homework and have memorized the previous excerpts. The explanation for this lesson is a little more involved.

Octaves are the theme of this variation. If you have heard any guitar recordings of this work, you would have noticed that the distance between the bass note and the melody note isn't just one octave. The actual interval distance is two octaves from its sister bass note and the interval is properly called a compound octave.

Now some of you may be asking the question,"How can you play a compound octave interval when your fingers can really only reach one octave in unison?" I am also predicting this question, "If we are supposed to play compound octaves in unison, then why is the tab written for only one octave?" The answer: artificial harmonics.

Unfortunately, there are no symbols for artificial harmonics on WN's composer so I had to display only the fingering for this caprice. Therefore, what is written as fingering is completely correct. However, there is more to it. It seems like many lessons have been posted on harmonics, natural and artificial; so, if you have never heard of these terms, I suggest you do a little homework.

There are many ways you can produce harmonics on the guitar. You can produce natural harmonics by lightly touching the string directly and I MEAN DIRECTLY over the fifth, seventh, and twelfth fret. When I mean fret, I literally mean the metal thingy and not the space between the frets. Also, please note that there are many more natural harmonics available, however I chose the most important ones as examples. For a more detailed explanation of harmonics and why they exist (in almost all instruments and not only the guitar) look up these two words: Overtone Series...Physics...mmm, fun!

Getting back to the lesson, to produce that compound octave, you must use artificial harmonics. Now, electric players can produce these sounds with a few techniques: Squeal Harmonics and Tap Harmonics. However, classical players do it a little differently. The concept is actually quite simple to understand if you know how to do tap harmonics. Both the classical and this electric technique are similar to each other.

To achieve the compound octave, the guitarist must sound the harmonic octave of the melody note. For example, take the first set of octaves in this study (C, first fret B string and C, third fret A string.) When you fret the C on the first fret of the B string, you have to simultaneously sound it's harmonic twelve frets higher or on the thirteeth fret on the B string. Don't forget that the harmonic is exactly twelve frets above the original note.

ie. C first fret on the B string=C thirteeth fret, B string.

D third fret on the B string=D fifteeth fret on the B string.

To produce that octave, you have to use your right hands index finger to gently touch the string directly, AND I MEAN DIRECTLY over the thirteenth fret. Just to make sure we are on the same page, let me recap up until now. Ok, now you have your left hand fretting the C on the first fret of the B string while your index finger is lightly touching the B string directly over the thirteenth fret. If you are able to do tap harmonics, everything up until this point must be a sinch. However, this is where the similarities end. Instead of tapping the note to make the harmonic sound, you have to sound the note with your ring or pinky finger (whichever feels more comfortable) while your index is touching the octave of the C or the thirteenth fret. Therefore, instead of tapping, you are plucking the string with your ring or pinky finger while your are lightly touching the 13th fret or C's octave, producing the harmonic, which ultimately is being fretted by your left hand on the first fret of the B string. Wow, you can explain it in one sentence.

The best way to practice this caprice is by learning the fingering first without producing the compound octave harmonics. Get a handle on the fingering until it sits well in your hands. The harmonics will be easier to do if you practice this way. If you have any questions, send me a note. If you find any part of my explanation unclear, let me know. If you already know how do this technique and like/dislike my explanation and or has some criticism, let me know...LET ME KNOW!! HAve fun guys and gals learning this study and for those new to artificial harmonics, congratulations on your efforts in expanding your technical knowlegdge of the guitar. My head hurts so much now from writing this lesson that I am going to take it easy and go play some Nirvana.
Paganini's 24th Caprice Variation III