Segovia's Sor Studies

Segovia's edition of the Sor Studies
Andres Segovia's edition of the Sor Studies

I look at the Segovia edition and at what the some of studies were possibly intended to convey.

Many classical guitar students get their first exposure to Fernando Sor via the Segovia edition of Sor Studies, edited with many fingerings by Segovia and a few note changes. For beginners there is at least a fingering roadmap to follow and for more advanced players, possibly a window is opened into Segovia's expressive approach to the guitar.

Personally I prefer to play from the editions by Brian Jeffrey which reproduce Sor's original editions in all their clarity. They are not cluttered with fingerings, and if combined with a study of the classical era style, are excellent examples of how to create on the guitar the textures of accompaniment and melody of the era.

The best version I have heard of these studies was on a long out of print Westminster LP by John Williams.

Fernando Sor
Fernando Sor

A facsimile of Sor's original edition of Op.6 No.1, as published by Brian Jeffrey:
A facsimile of Sor's original edition of Op.6 No.1, published by Brian Jeffrey

As you can see, Sor assumes you can recognise the chordal structure:

  • bar 1: TONIC - D major
  • bar2: SUB-DOMINANT G6
  • bar 3: DOMINANT - A
  • bar 4 : TONIC - D major

This knowledge leaves you very few options with which to sensibly finger the piece. Sor also assumes you know the notes in first position.

No. 16 in G from the Segovia edition of Sor Studies:
No. 16 in G from the Segovia edition of Sor Studies

Some of the Sor studies are excerpted devices from his sonatas, for example No. 16 in G from the Segovia edition of Sor Studies which contains the same chord shapes, with the texture altered, as the difficult barring passage from Sor's Op.22 Sonata for Solo Guitar, First movement.

Andres Segovia
Andres Segovia

The Sonata requires you to hold a G major chord on the 3rd fret with a 6 string barre, then leap up to B on the 1st string with the 4th finger - while still holding the barre. Then it gets worse! The chord changes to C/G in the 3rd position, and leaps to C at the 8th fret !!!!

This study will certainly go a long way to taking the fear out of that passage - IF - you employ the essential barre chord techniques:

  • Expanding Posture
  • Mixed Presentations of the Left Hand
  • "transmission of the gesture of expansion"

When played well it sounds dead simple, as it should, being a very simple riff based on TONIC to SUBDOMINANT chords. And this is part of the guitar player's craft - delivering the message to the listener without drawing attention to the technical difficulties of the instrument.