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Jon Paul Yerby

A prospectus submitted to the
College of Music
In partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Music

November 19, 2011

A Figured-Bass method for the modern classical guitarist will serve various
didactic and practical purposes. First the student will learn figured bass notation in which
numerals below a bass line indicate chord tones, intervals and passing tones. A
progressive set of lessons and exercises present the various skills in a piece-meal fashion
to ensure proficiency in all aspects of figured bass realization. The process will better
familiarize the student with harmony on the fret-board, harmonic function and voice-
leading principles. The resulting knowledge of functional harmony as a part of proficient
continuo playing is beneficial to the students understanding of their pieces, particularly
the renaissance and baroque repertoire.
The canon of repertoire in which the guitar assumes the role of an
accompanimental instrument will be greatly augmented with the breadth of chamber
music supported by a continuo part now feasible with guitar. Additionally the technique
portion of the manual will use previous exercises from earlier chapters and harmonic
progressions coupled with varying right-hand arpeggio patterns and fingerings. The
combination of these skills allows the student to combine technical and theoretical
practice into a highly efficient and goal oriented practice routine.


Many of the didactic tools commonly used by young guitarists are pattern
oriented. That is to say the student can memorize a particular left hand fingering for a
scale and move the pattern up and down the fingerboard to play in different keys. This
bodes well for developing certain aspects of coordination between the hands but
unfortunately does not require a conscious understanding of the theory behind the
exercises. A systematic approach to Figured-Bass realization on the guitar will provide
the student with several essential skills: An understanding of functional harmony not
only in theory but on the guitar, the ability to read figured bass notation, and basic
accompanimental practices associated with continuo playing.
Traditionally piano is the required secondary instrument used to supplement
undergraduate music theory instruction. This is a logical choice for most music students
since the piano is a common instrument and students can execute harmonic studies with
little or no prior experience. Guitar students however can perform similar exercises that
teach the same skills on their own instrument. When taking into account the problems
encountered by guitarists who are required to take piano courses as part of their
undergraduate degree it seems like a logical move to allow guitar students to learn the
same skills on the guitar. The physical demands of piano technique even at a basic level
are problematic for classical guitarists because of the required growth of fingernails on
the right hand for proper sound production on the guitar. Accepted piano technique
requires that the nails on both hands be kept short so as to not interfere with fingertip
placement on the keys. The fingernails on the right hand of guitarists prevent them from
utilizing correct hand positioning while playing piano which can cause excess unwanted
stress to the muscles and tendons in the right arm. In some cases this will cause injury to
the right hand, in my case it was tendonitis.
A logical solution to this problem is to allow students of the classical guitar to
learn the skills from class piano on their own instrument. The figured bass method for
classical guitar is an excellent substitution for the harmonic practices learned in class
piano courses but also teaches a skill that is not traditionally taught in standard curriculae
figured bass. The continuo section of the method is especially significant as it crosses
some boundaries by substituting the guitar not only for the lute and theorbo, but keyboard
instruments as well. While this modern instrumentation as applied to an antiquated
methodology may not set well with informed historical performance practitioners it no
less provides opportunities and skills otherwise not enjoyed by guitarists.
There is an abundance of resources for figured bass accompaniment in baroque
music including treatises and methods by various composers. There are few period
resources that show evidence of lute or theorbo pedagogy from this era, probably due to
the rising popularity of keyboard instruments and the lower social status of the lute.
Keyboard continuo methods on the other hand were more abundant and these methods
have the end goal of teaching the art of harmonic improvisation over a given bass-line. A
common message one will find in some continuo method books is that the freedom one
has in varying their accompaniments will increase as they become more versed in the
practice. This method proves significant to guitar pedagogy in several ways. Figured
bass realization is now a very specialized skill that was once standardized common
practice. The basic structures and rules of western harmony coincide in parallel with
continuo playing. It seems that before the modern language of tonal harmony as we
know it today had developed, theoreticians and performers alike would have thought in
terms of intervals above a bass rather than using roman numerals. A new method aimed at
figured bass realization on the guitar will provide the student with several essential skills:
An understanding of functional harmony, the ability to read figured bass notation, basic
accompanimental practices associated with continuo playing and a variety of technical
exercises resulting from the marriage of harmonic progressions with varied right hand
technical practice.

Survey of Literature
The resources focusing on keyboard harmony practices in western music are many.
Composers such as Handel, Gasparini, and Rameau each have left us with their own
insights to the art of accompaniment and figured-bass realization. One period source by
Handel is a compilation of exercises compiled by David Ledbetter, Continuo Playing
according to Handel. The exercises in this method will be useful in constructing similar
exercises on the guitar. In most cases some alteration of the exercise by means of
transposition or reduction will be necessary but the voice-leading will of course remain in
accordance to the common practice of the time.
In addition to keyboard harmony resources there are some methods for plucked
instrumental accompaniment such as Continuo Playing on the Lute, Archlute, and
Theorbo, by the English lutenist, theorbist and guitarist, Nigel North. North provides a
thorough explanation of not only the execution involved in continuo playing, but also the
dynamic roll of the accompanist and the necessary stylistic intricacies required for
tasteful accompaniment. These works are paramount to this method as they will be more
readily applicable to the guitar than a keyboard continuo treatise.
There is a considerable amount of Baroque music that contains Italian music
symbols whether it was composed in Italy or not. Giulia Nutis The Performance of
Italian Basso Continuo offers an explanation to some less common notation that might be
unfamiliar to most non-experts. As this fret-board harmony method will encourage the
use of the guitar as a continuo instrument, it is logical to include explanations of symbols
that one will inevitably encounter in continuo music. Nutis book provides clarification
on some of the vague symbols and notation in Italian continuo parts. It will be useful to
provide the student with a wide knowledge of symbols used in continuo so as to broaden
the sight-reading capabilities of the player. The book provides information on common
instrument groupings and performance practice for continuo, with a section on guitar
Perhaps one of the most influential resources to this method will be Rameaus
Treatise on Harmony. This is book lays the groundwork for any studies in western
harmony. The principles of part-writing, counter-point and voice-leading as codified by
Rameau became the benchmark for composers. The ability to provide an improvised
accompaniment without breaking the rules of conventional voice-leading is one of the
most valuable skills offered by this method, and this section will rely on the principles set
in place by Rameau.
Since this method offers another option for the guitar in chamber music settings, it
should also provide historical information on the role of the guitar in the seventeenth
century. Donald Gill wrote an article for the Early Music journal entitled The de Gallot
Guitar Books which explains the particular role of the guitar in chamber music from this
era. Such insights are always important when trying to find new venues for exploration.
In order to convincingly provide an accompaniment in a manner that does not obscure the
original intention of the piece one must combine elements of historical performance
practice with modern technique. As with any musical forms or practices from any era
there is a particular language and set of guidelines put in place to help support that

The goal of this book is to adapt an older, somewhat out of practice skill for the
guitar. This will require a logical and organic approach utilizing progressive studies to
ensure a thorough understanding by the student. The progression is not only geared
towards the development of one idea at a time, but gradually combines several aspects of
technical and harmonic study. The method will be divided into seven chapters, the first
two being mostly textual providing historical information on the role of the guitar in the
seventeenth century, as well as a discussion of the common applications for a lute and
theorbo. Chapter two will compare the role of these plucked instruments with the
standard continuo instruments, the harpsichord, and organ. This will include information
from period treatises and issues of performance practice.
The third chapter introduces the first exercises to be played on the guitar. Most
guitarists have little experience reading bass clef so this chapter will focus on improving
sight reading skills using actual bass lines from continuo excerpts that will be revisited
and fully realized in future chapters. At first the examples will be simple monophonic
lines which progressively develop into more rapid movement with various key signatures
and tempi.
The next section introduces a second voice to be harmonized against the bass.
This section will also introduce figured bass symbols used to determine the interval of the
second note. Separate exercises will employ different intervals above the bass.
Repetition is essential to this section as note recognition in the bass clef as well as on the
spot interpretation of a single figured bass symbol is necessary. This is a skill that is
important to learn early on so that a delayed recognition of intervals does not impede the
students ability to realize figures at tempo. After the realization of a second voice above
the bass is secure the student will progress to the three and four voice exercises. The
voice-leading principles of Rameau will be strictly adhered to in this section to ensure
good voicings.
The fifth chapter will introduce suspensions and other passing and non-chord
tones. While this aspect of continuo playing allows for a greater deal of color and
expression in the accompaniment, it is perhaps the more difficult section of the method.
Without getting too complicated, common suspensions and passing tones will be
observed and implemented. This is also typically the apex of the difficulty level in
keyboard continuo manuals as long strings of figures can begin to pile up below the bass
notes. Upon completion of this chapter the student has gradually learned figured bass
realization and should be able to provide a simple accompaniment at a reasonable tempo
using only a figured bass line.
The last section of the method will present technique drills that use the harmonic
material from previous chapters combined with different right hand(plucking hand)
combinations. These exercises, in comparison with the 120 right hand studies by Mauro
Giuliani, will be much more rewarding for the student since they are combining harmonic
studies with technical drills. The aforementioned studies by Giuliani are excellent for
right-hand development, yet his harmonies for these exercises are limited to tonic-
dominant alternation in the key of C major.
A large part of this method will deal with cross-pollinating modern technical
exercises with the harmonic progressions provided in the first half of the method. Now
instead of separating ear-training practice, harmonic studies and technique practice, the
student can achieve all three simultaneously. In addition, after completing the method the
student will have a working knowledge of figured bass realization on the guitar, fretboard
harmony, and technique/ear-training exercises that will essentially benefit their overall
understanding of any music they encounter in their careers.

Chapter Headings
I. The Guitar in 1700
II. Baroque Continuo: the role of the harpsichord

Continuo on the Guitar
III. a. Playing the Bass
b. Figured bass symbols and realization with one upper voice
IV. Figured Bass realization with three and four voices
V. Suspensions and seventh chords
VI. Sight-reading and transposing
VII. Merging Harmony and Ear Training with Technique practice

Annotated Bibliography

Christensen, Thomas. The Spanish Baroque Guitar and Seventeenth-Century Triadic
Theory. Journal of Music Theory, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Spring, 1992), pp. 1-42
Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of the Yale University Department
of Music.

This article offers insight to baroque guitar voicings used in seventeenth-century Spanish
music. Since the physical make-up of the baroque guitar is similar to the modern guitar
minus one string in most cases, this information will be useful when creating harmonic
exercises for the modern guitar.

Christensen, Thomas. The "Rgle de l'Octave" in Thorough-Bass Theory and Practice.
Acta Musicologica, Vol. 64, Fasc. 2 (Jul. - Dec., 1992), pp. 91-117
Published by: International Musicological Society.

This article contains exercises in figured bass for harmonizing scales in all major and
minor keys. This will serve as the skeletal model for introductory figured bass realization
in the method. Harmonization of scales will be very helpful to gaining an understanding
of diatonic chords and their qualities.

Gasparini, Francesco. The Practical Harmonist at the Harpsichord. Translated by Frank
S. Stillings. Yale School of Music, New Haven Connecticut, 1963.

Gasparinis method includes similar information as other methods, but he focuses a good
amount of attention on tempo and beat placement as a training tool for the student. This
is particularly useful as the student typically emphasizes each beat and loses the overall
flow of the phrases.

Gill, Donald. The de Gallot Guitar Books. Early Music, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Jan., 1978), pp.
79-87. Published by: Oxford University Press.

This article provides background information on the role of the guitar in the seventeenth-
century. Inclusion of this material will be essential in providing a brief history of the role
of the guitar, and how that can help with an understanding of how the guitar can be used

Keller, Hermann. Thoroughbass Method. Translated by Carl Parrish. W.W. Norton
& company Inc. New York, 1965.

This book contains useful experpts from the theoretical works of Praetorius, Niedt,
Telemann, Matheson, Heinichen, J.S. and C.P.E. Bach, Quantz, and Padre Mattei, and
numberous examples from the literature of the 17
and 18
centuries. It is limited as
only a few of the examples will be applicable to guitar accompaniment.

Lunde, Nanette Gomory. Sources for Basso Continuo Instruction in Facsimile.
Early Music Facsimiles, Columbus, Ohio, 1988.

Facsimilis of various basso continuo instruction will provide examples of varying
notation, principles and common practices.

Ledbetter, David. Continuo Playing According to Handel. Oxford University Press
New York, 1990.

This book is a collection of Handels own continuo exercises with a commentary which
suggests the best way to use the exercises. These exercises will be used in transcription/
adaptation for the guitar. The commentary is useful, but limited and the source of the
original exercises is not clear.

Monsieur de Saint Lambert. A New Treatise on Accompaniment. Translated by John S.
Powell. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indiana, 1991.

This book provides useful information on the French style of accompaniment, as well as
tips for interpreting unfigured bass-lines and departing from the usually rules for
accompanying, and concludes his treatise by attempting to define the elusive component
of good taste in accompanying. This source will be limited in its application, but provide
some insight to stylistic variations in accompaniment.

North, Nigel. Continuo Playing on the Lute, Archlute and Theorbo. Thetford Press,
Great Britain, 1987.

Norths method contains thorough instructional information on the practice of
accompaniment on the above mentioned instruments in the period style. The author is
one of highest authorities on the subject. These techniques can be adapted to the modern
guitar, so the information in this book is essential for continuo accompaniment on the

Nuti, Giulia. The Performance of Italian Basso Continuo. Ashgate Publishing Company,
Burlington, Vermont, 2007.

This book provides clarification on some of the vague symbols and notation in Italian
continuo parts. It will be useful to provide the reader with wide knowledge of symbols
used in continuo so as to broaden the sight-reading capabilities of the player. The book
also talks about performance practice and various instrumentation for continuo playing,
with a section on guitar accompaniment.

Rameau, Jean- Philippe. Treatise on Harmony. Translated by Phillip Gosset.
Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1971.

Rameaus treatise is the backbone to western harmony. It is a large work, though only
parts of it will be used. It will be used to provide quotations, musical examples and
harmonic progressions. Much of the information is similar to the lessons learned in an
applied theory course, so they will have to be streamlined to suit my purpose.

Williams, Peter. Figured Bass Accompaniment. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh,
Scotland, 1970.

Williams combines information on basic continuo accompaniment with a superstructure
of historical knowledge, harmonic and stylistic sensitivity, and awareness of the players
proper role in differing contexts in this well rounded, thorough method. The first chapter
is basic chords in continuo, the second addresses some common problems the continuo
player will run in to. Although it is aimed at harpsichord, the overall principles of
accompaniment will be useful to the guitarist/accompanist as well.