It took me a few years of playing before I started appreciating classical music, and what it could do for my ears (theory) and fingers (technique). Generally speaking, it’s better to be able to do two things at once, as long as you can do them well, right? Classical pieces enable you to learn and apply two fairly difficult concepts simultaneously. Not only is that a great thing, but it saves you tons of time.
If you’re familiarizing yourself with the canonical figures of classical music, and want to look past the Big Three of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, you might want to give Franz Josef Haydn a shot. Haydn was a friend of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven, and did more to innovate the then-young symphonic form than anyone up to that time. Certainly Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies represent the apex of the form, but Haydn’s 104 (some catalogues say 108) symphonies are full of melodic invention and development, and most are shorter and more accessible than many other examples of the style.
One of Haydn’s more enduring pieces is the final movement of his Symphony #88 in G Major. It’s a brisk, melodic finale to that composition, and one well worth learning and incorporating into your repertoire. We’re going to take a look at some of the really cool techniques contained in that piece. Paul Gilbert recorded his take on the Finale for his Get Out of My Yard album, and there are also YouTube videos of him playing the piece live to a backing track.
The piece is organized somewhat similarly to a modern rock song, just as an instrumental — verse, chorus, verse, chorus, breakdown, climax, end. Once you hear and learn the individual parts, and get how they fit together, it’s just a matter of working on those individual parts.
Here’s my tab for the entire piece, as well as the original score (both in PDF format):
I highly encourage you to go through the entire tab (as well as transcribing the score for the rest of that symphony, if you’re feeling ambitious) and see the great melodic shapes and ideas available there. Let’s take a look at the main theme (“verse”):
This is trickier than it might appear at first, and that’s primarily because of the shifts between 8th and 16th notes. Once you get a handle on the rhythm and the positions used, it will fall into place.
Let’s take a look at the melodic figure that comes after the “verse-chorus” recap:
That string-skipped form in bar 35 can also be played as a straight or sweep-picked triad, where the D note (G string, 19th fret) is played on the B string, 15th fret. Try them both, play what feels more comfortable to you. It’s a great way to work on both techniques.
What should be a bigger challenge — and thus more productive for your technique — is executing the position shifts of bars 40-45. It’s a quick scalar run down for the first three bars. with a climb back up in the next three, alternating between a brief piece of the G major (E minor) scale for the first half of each bar and an octave figure in the second half. Note that bar 45 is the same as bar 43, just an octave higher.
Continuing with the melodic figure:
More of the same here, just in a higher octave. Really try to keep the continuity of the melody here.
The last part of this extended melodic figure should really test your technical abilities:
This is a really nice mixture of straight alternate-picked scale sequences, as well as sweep-picked triads, ending in string-skipped octaves.
The extended slowdown section is not too difficult to play, so we won’t cover it here. Check the tab and the music, and it should be fine. The ripping cadenza at the end is what we’re after now:
Should be straight alternate picking there, though you may want to throw in some economy picking moves as you see fit. Again, the melody is the main thing. The next part of it, leading into the grand finale, could easily incorporate some sweep picking:
Don’t worry about using a metronome until you have the scale sequences and melodic shapes dialed in. At that point, use it to work on keeping any technical ideas (such as sweep picking the triads) locked into the beat. In addition to tracking your progress, the metronome will help you ensure that you play the parts cleanly and with precision.
Listen to the music, check out the video, and make sure that your efforts sound musical above all else. Play hard and have fun!