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  1. #1

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    Anyone out there have any experience with William Leavitt's books? I've been practicing through William Leavitt's Modern Method For Guitar series for about two years now. I got through book one and am now only at the end of book two, because I've had various auditions and concerts to prepare my repertoire for, so I just review previous pages instead of trying to push ahead at the same time. But my question lies within the content of the book(s).

    First let me say that I know for sure that these books 1) teach/improve ability to sight read 2) are a great workout for your fingers 3) enlighten the player about some theory. However, I'm not certain whether or not certain exercises should be practiced to memorize/internalize or simply to run through every so often and not memorize so as to improve sight reading. To give a specific example, on page 72 of Book 2, Leavitt has written out a full page continuous eight note string of diatonic seventh arpeggios in various inversions in the key of G major in the 5th position (fingering type 1A) in 4/4 time. Each measure is dedicated to an arpeggio (four eighth notes going up and four going down). The way it's written on the page, it seems like it is an etude that should be practiced from start to finish at a constant tempo, and that's how I've been practicing these diatonic seventh arpeggio pages. To me, it seems as though you get nothing out of it that way but sight reading and finger exercises, which are both very good and useful things about this exercise. However, if you asked me to play a specific arp on on that page by memory, I could only play the basic ones I already knew before attempting that page; I haven't memorized them, though as soon as my eyes hit the page my fingers seem to know what to do for the most part.

    So, my question is, did Leavitt mean for the student to play them this way, or to memorize and get each arp under his fingers before moving on? I've asked my teacher the same thing and he tells me to just move through them like I have been because it's good for my hands and my reading. It just seems like a waste of valuable arps for the sake of sight reading. What do you think?
    Last edited by BillyC; 12-29-2009 at 09:50 PM.


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  3. #2

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    Sounds like you've been finished with the books for a while now.

  4. #3
    Haha, thanks, but there's still another beast before me. And the question still remains, how do I go about slaying it?

  5. #4

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    I don't have the book, but I think you're asking the right questions.

    That arp study you mentioned... (I'm assuming that's one 4 note arp going up and a different arp going down).

    Maybe you could take that idea and apply it over a song... Write your own etude using the same concept over a chord progression from an actual song (might have to be more than 4 note arps to fit or you might have to add chord substititutions to get the 4 note arps to fit).

    Perhaps that would help you bridge the gap from technical to practical.

  6. #5
    That definitely sounds more practical. I'll have to try that. And I find that to be the issue I have with this book series: a wealth of great information, yet little information on it's usage/practicality.

  7. #6

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    My guitar teacher had me write out a etude/solo for Autumn leaves. The assignment was to play the melody but add an arpeggio where the notes where held and to target the 3rd of the next chord.

    I'll attach a copy of what I came up with. I thought it was a great assignment and helped me realize how jazzy you can sound playing mostly arps.

  8. #7

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    Once you get the arps under your fingers, try applying them to various progressions. Consider a I-vi-ii-V - G major - G,B,D,F#, Emi - E,G,B,D, Ami - A,C,E,G and D7 -D,F#,A,C, when connecting the arps, consider notes that are shared or are a step apart - stay in one position and work the inversions. Start the arp on the root, then the third, the fifth and then the seventh. Then try moving up and down the neck. You will find out very quickly whether you "know" these arps or just playing the pattern or notes on the page.


  9. #8
    Thanks for the Autumn Leaves etude, fep. I'll definitely be playing/dissecting it.

    And at Tom:The other day I was trying what you explained, except just going up each arp diatonically in the scale, and my fingers seemed to know generally where they needed to go up until a certain point, and then I sort of lost it. So it was a bit unconscious, to describe it. Perhaps if I practice this and a I-IV-ii-V while engaging my mind more to make a mental picture, it might cement itself in my fingers easily.

    I think a big reason why I wouldn't be able to use these arps on the fly during improvisation despite the considerable amount of time I've been playing these pages in the book is the fact that my eyes never leave the page while I'm playing the page. And the way it's written, it's more of an etude or a piece of music than a list of arps, even though the content of this type of pages in the book is essentially that and nothing else (besides a few simple connecting lines between inversions.) But I really couldn't play the page without reading it. Is that what Leavitt intended, or do you think he intended to leave it up to the student to find a more practical way to employ them, like the examples you've all suggested? (Either way I'm still taking your advice, I'm more curious than anything.)
    Last edited by BillyC; 01-02-2010 at 03:12 AM.

  10. #9
    I know this thread is insanely old but am positing anyway because I basically just asked the same question today on theory forum. It occurred to that after working my through volume 1 and now halfway through volume 2 of Leavitt’s method, I haven’t really internalized a visual reference for the scale and arpeggio patterns Leavitt uses. However, as you say, since I’ve been playing them so much (while keeping my eyes on the page) I’ve come to almost intuitively be able to use them unconsciously without thinking about a particular shape on the fretboard grid. On the one hand I worry, like you did, that its kind of a waste of time other than as a sight reading & finger exercise, but have also been thinking perhaps the POINT is to unconsciously internalize these fingerings via repetition. It seems that if this were to work, one’s unconscious awareness of how to play these scale and arpeggios would make for good improvising. One wouldn’t have to unlearn the grids and patterns so much to play actual music. In all the years that past maybe you’ve got some wisdom on the topic you can share?

  11. #10

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    I'm not understanding your question regarding Leavitt's fingerings as compared to any other set. They are easy to visualize/memorize, but drawing them out on a piece of paper helps even more.

  12. #11

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    Leavitt writes a lot of great exercises using scales and arpeggios. I’m sure he hopes that these exercises help strengthen your facility with these scales and arps and if you play them thoroughly it definitely will. However, the student also needs to familiarize themselves with all these arpeggio patterns outside of these exercises. Therefore make sure you can play all your arpeggios within each of the 5 basic patterns he outlines in volume I.