Review: RCM Classical Guitar Series 2018 Edition

Classical Guitar Series 2018 Edition
The Royal Conservatory of Music Toronto 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 I’d say maybe 15-20% of the series is new pieces including some Dyens and other mainstays. There is some reorganizing of levels but not too much. Technique book looks very similar.

Check back soon. I’ll be doing a full review of each book over the next few weeks.

Buy the Books via Amazon

Here’s their promo blurb:

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

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. That said, my main issue with this book 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. I like to teach my students clear concepts rather than mix it up constantly. Overall I don’t love the scale fingerings but that just a personal preference.

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. 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? The right hand fingering is generally good but a little different to how I teach at this level. Some pieces could be reduced to a simply i, m fingering the entire time with only one two awkward string crossings (just as scales have). Instead, a few of the pieces are bogged down with overly complex i, m, a combinations that are very difficult for beginners to accomplish. Nevertheless, the right hand fingerings do work very well so I can’t argue much on this point. I will use this book but will be grumpy at times because of the left hand fingering.

Upper Levels (individual book reviews coming) – 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? If this was by choice it is a glaring omission of one of the most important composers for the instrument and a go-to for my students in levels 6-8.

Videos for the RCM Classical Guitar Series 2018 (more coming soon)

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