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I have just started playing a song named Leyenda on the classical guitar but have encountered a problem.

The first bar goes (as shown on picture) E B B B C B etc.

I started playing e open, b open, b open so on...

However, when I listened to a recording of this song (and when I looked at the tabs) it suggested to play e on A string, b on D etc.

I understand that when you are playing a chord you need to sometimes play the same notes on another string, but in this song there aren't any chords in the first part.

So to sum up, why should I play different notes in that way, and how would I know to play in that way, or is there no way of telling.

Thanksenter image description here

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    If you actually try to play this at the tempo intended by the original composer, you'll find it's much harder to play all the Bs on the B string. It's actually easier to play closely spaced Bs on two different strings, and it's much easier to play the melody and the chords that come later if you are playing the melody higher up the neck. – Todd Wilcox Apr 8 '16 at 12:29
  • This is not a song, please get in the habit of not calling every piece of music a song, Only very very few really are. – user1803551 Apr 8 '16 at 16:42
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So to sum up, why should I play different notes in that way, and how would I know to play in that way, or is there no way of telling.

That's an excellent question with more than one answer.

The guitar is different from say a piano in that there are usually several different strings where you can play the exact same note at the exact same pitch. There are many reasons a composer or guitarist will choose certain positions for a particular note in a piece.

First let's throw out the obvious fact that if the music calls for a note in a different octave (E3 vs E4 for example) it will be necessary to play the note on a fatter or thinner string or higher up the neck to get the higher or lower pitched version of the given note.

So let's look at different reasons to choose different places to play the exact same note at the same pitch.

In the piece you sited as an example, one of the primary reasons I see for the choice of where to play the various identical notes is because of the picking pattern. When playing classical guitar you will most likely be finger picking with a certain picking pattern or patterns. The more rhythmic and easier to maintain finger picking patterns involve alternating between bass notes picked with the thumb and treble notes picked with fingers. It's just a very natural movement. In your example it might not be bass notes but there is an obvious intent to establish a thumb finger alternating picking pattern.

It's much easier to play rapid repetitions of the same note with an alternating thumb finger pattern than it is by repeatedly picking the same string. Also, the thumb-finger picking pattern is used throughout the piece and helps establish a rhythm.

Other reasons to choose to play a given pitched noted at one place verses another would include the tone you are looking for and what you want the note to do after you play it. For example play your open high e string. Then play that same note on the 9th fret of the 3rd string. You will notice that it has a different timbre - a different quality. Maybe a little fuller and less tinny. So the sound you want could influence where you choose to play a note.

But also consider that if you wanted the note to sustain (continue to ring out) after you played it while you play other notes, it might be easier to do that with an open string. To allow a note to sustain on a fretted string requires you to keep your fretting finger locked in place and limits where else you can play. Of course there are only 6 notes that can be played open on a 6 string guitar but there may be instances where one of those notes is intended to continue to ring while other notes are played. Alternatively if you intend to mute a particular note after or while it is played, it might be easier to play a fretted version of that note (even though it may be one of the open string notes), particularly if palm muting would tend to mute other strings that you did not want to mute.

Another consideration is where are you going next with your melody or harmony. Certain positions of playing a series of notes may put your fingers in a better position to play a particular chord that comes up in the piece. Or certain melodies might be mixed in with a series of chords intended to be played with a specific voicing. So the location of where you play a given series of melody notes could impact how easy it is to move back and forth from the individual notes to the indicated chord shapes.

Finally - sometimes where to play a note is nothing more than individual choice. In classical music with finger picking patterns and alternating bass lines or even counterpoint being played alternately between thumb and fingers, the choice of where to play a given series of notes is less flexible (from a practical point of view). But if you are playing a lead run, or some melodic fills with a pick, there may be several places on the fretboard where the desired note run can be executed and often it boils down to what feels right to the guitarist.

In a case of a lead solo that is not part of a classical repertoire, many guitarist will use the tab to find the basic notes but then may choose personally to play those same notes in a different position on the neck.

There are probably some other reasons to choose a particular position to play a particular note that I have not though of (muting adjacent strings perhaps being one?). But I think you can see that there is often (not always) a valid reason to choose one versus another. As you gain experience you will find your own reasons.

In the meantime, particularly with music written for classical guitar, your best bet is to start with the suggested positions and finger picking patterns. If after you get a feel for what the composer intended the piece to sound like - you find an easier way to play it, feel free to experiment.

Have fun learning!

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It's not directly apparent from the dots that some of the B notes need to be played on open B, while others are played on the D string. It's rather like the tune stays on the D string, with an accompaniment of open Bs in between each of the notes. Listen carefully and you'll hear a difference in tone between the first few B notes. You will also be able to put vibrato on the fretted notes, but obviously not on the open Bs.It's not easy to discern that this is the way to play it, but there is a clue in the stems' direction. Sometimes tab can be helpful, as here!

  • Yes, the B is a pedal tone and most of the melody is below the pedal tone. In the original piano version, the pedal tones (which are on D - the piece was transposed when transcribed for guitar to make it possible to play without being too low) are played with the right hand and the melody tones, even the ones that are the same as the pedal tone, are played with the left. – Todd Wilcox Apr 8 '16 at 12:26
  • @ToddWilcox - sounds weird calling it a pedal tone up there! It's almost like a banjo or country playing technique, same note repeated on another string. – Tim Apr 8 '16 at 13:55
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Yes, use the seventh position (VII), which may be inferred from the TAB shown. The difference between the open E and the E as indicated is that they are an octave apart. You want to be in this position because of the bass B which shows up in the ninth measure. Eventually (in measure 17) you will double these E notes for a fuller bass. You will discover that an E-chord lives in this seventh position; it is like an A (or Am) barred and transposed. These relationships make this position quite popular for guitar (in the standard tuning).

Leyenda is an enjoyable song. The theme is straightforward, and the right-hand development will be challenging. Have fun!

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Kirk and Tim's answers are good. I'd like to add that your guitar's tone will sound different when you play the same pitch on different strings. One way of playing notes can sound totally different on different strings and positions (in regard to tone, and feel). The tab that you show allows for the open B string to ring, while also playing the same B pitch on the 4th string, which provides a nice contrast in tone between those B notes.

You also asked, 'how would I know to play in that way[?]'. Well, that in my opinion is a great question. It's something that requires trying different things, and eventually experience will pay off. It can take a lot of experience to really know the guitar and which strings to choose for given notes.

  • I mentioned tone difference, didn't I? – Tim Apr 8 '16 at 16:51
  • Yes. :) I wanted to expand on it a bit if that's ok. – Mark Apr 8 '16 at 17:51

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