Video Lesson: Study a Klezmer Classic Arranged for Solo Fingerstyle Guitar

From the July/August 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Nick Millevoi In the late 19th century, Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Eastern Europe entered the United States, bringing with them rich cultural customs including a traditional form of music that came to be called klezmer. According to Joel E. Rubin’s New York Klezmer in the Early Twentieth Century, by 1915, New…

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From the July/August 2021 state of Acoustic Guitar | By Gash Millevoi

In the leisurely 19th century, Yiddish-talking immigrants from Eastern Europe entered the usa, bringing with them filthy rich cultural customs including a archaic originate of music that came to be referred to as klezmer. Basically based on Joel E. Rubin’s Unique York Klezmer in the Early Twentieth Century, by 1915, Unique York Metropolis “hosted the perfect single focus of Jews in historical past,” which made it “the fundamental heart of Yiddish tradition, including klezmer music.” And whereas you may perchance perchance hear klezmorim—klezmer musicians—taking half in at weddings and spiritual times at some stage in town, nary an acoustic guitar would be chanced on, because the instrument would stand no chance of rising above the tall quantity of clarinets, brass devices, strings, and percussion.

In the 1970s, klezmer became space for the revival that chanced on most groups the utilization of the instrumentation of their musical ancestors. As time went on, though, more musicians started experimenting with the originate and bringing in outside influences that created some field for guitarists to work their device into the klezmer scene. By the ’90s and 2000s, Marc Ribot, Tim Sparks, and Invoice Frisell established new strategies to device Jewish music on the guitar with the delivery of Masada Guitars, an album that featured each participant performing solo preparations of works from composer John Zorn’s Masada songbook. (Gape Sparks’ association of Zorn’s “Sippur” in the January 2017 state.)

While the guitar restful hasn’t risen to any insist prominence in klezmer, gamers equivalent to Jeff Warschauer and Yoshie Fruchter hold made a real case for the characteristic of the instrument in extra archaic settings whereas furthermore experimenting with its space in klezmer ensembles.

A Hora in Name Handiest

“Yiddishe Hora” is a allotment written in the early 20th century by composer, violinist, and bandleader Alexander Olshanetsky. Despite what the title suggests, this tune is no longer the truth is a hora. A hora is a form of klezmer song that aspects a dreary 3/8 tempo, generally main into a freylekh or bulgar, which is a important sooner allotment you may perchance perchance know from seeing folks perform a circle dance (furthermore is named a hora, which confused me for the longest time) whenever you happen to’ve ever been to a Jewish bridal ceremony or considered one on TV. “Yiddishe Hora” is de facto a terkisher, a form of midtempo 4/4 tune that comes from Greek music and aspects a 3+3+2 rhythm. 

My end friend and longtime musical collaborator Dan Blacksberg is a klezmer trombonist, composer, teacher, and the host of the Comely Others podcast. When recording Dan’s album of the same title, I discovered his association of “Yiddishe Hora,” by which I became given a solo electrical guitar intro. Impressed by what I discovered, I consulted Olshanetsky’s celebrated, to boot to a recording by the Bay Home trio Veretski Whisk, to create the solo acoustic model here.

For this association, I tune the fifth string down an complete step, from A to G, in give an explanation for to without problems sound a root present on the A bit’s G chord, whereas I play the melody in seventh design. As an introduction, I play the sphere matter from the A bit one time through with a rubato in actuality feel (as considered in the accompanying video nonetheless no longer shown in notation), the utilization of bass notes largely on the downbeat of each measure, whereas I play the melody with improvised gildings the utilization of trills, slides, and harmonics.

Intended for Dancing

In the first measure, bass notes on beat one, the and of two, and 4 establish the rhythmic spine of “Yiddishe Hora.” The music is meant for dancing, so the rhythmic in actuality feel is significant to the performance of any klezmer allotment. I alternate between a minute bit swung and straight eighth notes in give an explanation for to whisper each phrase. While taking half in this, I safe it’s price experimenting with rhythmic tips that are both refined and, esteem essentially the easiest dance music, a minute bit un-transcribable. 

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The B piece works its device properly above the 12th worry. It gets a minute bit trickier to play this as written on a 12-worry guitar, nonetheless it’s that you may perchance perchance imagine and cost the disaster. If it does in actuality feel forbidding, though, upright pass the double-stops from strings 2–3 to 1–2 and the entirety will restful sound excellent. Deliver, too, that for a commerce of texture, I strum the 16th-present triplets in bars 17–18 and 21–22 with my heart finger. 

My well-liked piece of this complete allotment is when the tonality modifications in measures 25–31 to E freygish, which is the title generally ragged in klezmer for the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, a.sufficient.a. Phrygian dominant or hijaz. It is probably going you'll furthermore imagine this present sequence because the Phrygian mode, nonetheless with a raised third—if the root present is E, it’s spelled E F G# A B C D. 

As you work your device through this association, you may perchance perchance safe it more straightforward at first save to lead clear of among the gildings. Here's a first rate device, and I’d aid you to no longer perfect add in what I’ve arranged here whenever you’re ready nonetheless, if you may perchance perchance be feeling chuffed, take into legend including some of your possess gildings to salvage it in actuality feel more deepest.


This article at first save appeared in the July/August 2021 state of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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