RCM Classical Guitar Series 2018 Edition

Classical Guitar Series 2018 Edition – The Royal Conservatory of Music Toronto (RCM) has a new series of graded books for classical guitar to replace the 2011 Bridges Guitar Series. Click here to see the book sampler (PDF). At first glance maybe 15-20% of the series are new pieces compared to the previous Bridges Series including some Dyens and other mainstays. There is some reorganizing of levels but not too much. Technique book looks similar.

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Publisher’s Promotional Text:

Drawing upon its reputation of excellence, the fifth edition of The Royal Conservatory’s acclaimed guitar series presents a fresh and exciting selection of material to engage classical guitar students at all levels. Each progressive Repertoire and Etudes book explores a wide range of historical periods and styles, featuring pieces compiled from more than 500 years’ worth of guitar and other plucked-string music. With this series, teachers and students will embark on an innovative learning path designed to foster well-rounded musical development and an enduring passion for their instrument.

The nine books in this one-of-a-kind series include carefully chosen repertoire and etudes that introduce students to both classic favorites and new, exploratory pieces. Featuring updated repertoire from modern composers such as Sérgio Assad, Dušan Bogdanović, and Roland Dyens, and an increased presence of South American music, this progressive series provides an excellent balance of styles suitable for students of all ages and learning styles.

My Comments and Reviews

The best thing about these books – An affordable way for students to get a variety of music at their general level. Music from each time period or varied styles and the studies give students access to a source of music that will give them a balanced spectrum of content. The value is amazing and there are not other series very similar to it.

My Biggest Complaint – Before I ramble, keep in mind that these are not method books, they are anthologies for a graded exam system. That said, I wish the RCM would assign one editor to finger the music consistently throughout the series, or at least at the lower levels (prep to level 3). Sometimes they use the 3rd finger on D and G on the top strings and other times the 4th finger. They also have varied approaches to right hand fingering. This is confusing for the student and a pain for the teacher. Every time I cross a fingering out either the book loses cred or I do. They should make it consistent, even if I didn’t agree with the choices I would rather be able to tell students to follow the fingering exactly. At the moment it feels like they either had multiple editors do whatever they wanted or they just lifted the fingering from the editor that they licensed the music from. This is a major concern. For example, on page 6 Petit Poney uses 3rd finger on D while the next few pieces use 4th finger and this happens throughout. I’m not against students learning a variety of fingerings (or different fingerings needed for cross-string legato) but at this stage in their development students need consistency so teachers can enforce learning concepts. It’s as if a different editor fingered each piece. I realize this is an anthology of works and not a method but did no one oversee the entire project?

RCM Technique Book – The good thing about this book is that students get a manageable amount of technique practice at their appropriate level. I can’t really think of anything more useful to teachers and students. Plus, throughout the grades students get exposed to a wide variety of scales, arpeggios, slur scales, 3rds, 6ths, tremolando scales, right hand fingering requirements, tempo markings for each item, and more. My main issue is the left hand scale fingerings. It’s not that they are bad fingerings but that they seem inconsistent. Sometimes scales use guide fingers, other times shift randomly with a stretch. Sometimes there are squeeze-shift position changes, other times not. It’s as if each scale was fingered by a different teacher. Maybe they are trying to show various approaches over the different grades but the result is confusing. I like to teach my students clear concepts rather than mix it up constantly.

RCM Prep Level Book – Overall this is an improvement with new pieces by McFadden, Eikelboom and more. The new pieces make this entry level book a bit more accessible to the post-method book student. The left hand fingering is a bit inconsistent.

Upper Levels – The inclusion of more from Roland Dyens, Sergio Assad, Dusan Bogdanovic, Barrios, as well some new early music selections from editors such as Frank Koonce are all very welcome additions to the series. However, a very unfortunate exclusion of Villa-Lobos has occurred despite his works being in the previous Bridges series. Did they loose copyright permission?

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