by Ralph Paulsen-Bahnsen

Learning this piece is easy if approached in digestible stages. Almost as important as learning the piece, is learning how to learn a piece that a first glance seems almost unattainable. Reconquista consists of two sections, a driving rhythmic section that appears at the beginning and end of the piece and an emotionally constricted middle section almost blinking back tears.

In the first week, learn the basic rhythmic gesture that dominates the outside sections. Repeat the rhythmic pattern in the first two measures at a reserved speed until it falls easily out of the fingers. Then add the second pair of measures -- they're the same as the first two except for the last two notes. After the first four measures are automatic, move on to the next pair of measures -- they're the same as the first pair of measures one string higher. And again when these measures are secure, add the next pair of measures -- these differ from the previous pair of measures only by the last four notes.

Reconquista Week 1 PDF    Midi

In the next week, add measure 9 which features resonant eighth notes first on the open D string and then at the C on the G string with the second finger crossing over the third to reach the low note. After measure 9 is mastered, add measure 10. Measure 11 is identical to measure 9. Measure 12 is only slightly different from measure 10, watch out for the A flat. Measure 13 is similar to the by now familiar measure 1. Measure 14 on the other hand can be approached in several different ways. I suggest playing the measure on the D and A strings, either with glide strokes or cross picking. Once this measure has been mastered, the last two measures, fall into place easily. I generally ritard in measure 16 preparing for the 5/8 section which I play much slower to contrast with the energy in the outer sections.

Reconquista Week 2  PDF    Midi

In the third week, begin the approach to the middle section by building a gentle rhythm in measures 17 and 18 using down up down, down up picking. While the piece sounds okay when played with an eighth-eighth-eighth, dotted eighth-dotted eighth rhythm that would translate to a 6/8 meter. So watch the timing carefully to be sure not to lose the 5/8 rhythm intended by the composer.

After the 5/8 rhythm in measures 17 and 18 is mastered, practice measures 21 and 22 (skip 19 and 20 for the moment) with the same stroking pattern used in 17 and 18 adding a gentle arpeggio glide at the beginning of 21 (but not at the beginning of measure 22). Once 21 and 22 are flowing easily, add measure 19 (with a bar at the first fret). Then add measure 20 with a bar at the third fret. Measures 23 to 26 are the same as the previous four measures except that in measure 25 (and 26), bar the 5th fret with the first finger. In this section, I use a warm tone color (over the finger board) on the first repeat, contrasted with a bright tone color (close to the bridge) on the second repeat.

Reconquista Week 3   PDF    Midi

At this point only two measures remain for the fourth week. Measure 27 works best if the last two notes are played on the D string. In addition, playing these notes in third position prepares the hand for measure 28. Meaure 28 is written in the odd time signature of 11/8. Think of this measure as two measures of 5/8 and 6/8 and it's a lot easier to play. Repeat the measure endlessly with the fingering indicated, until the measure flows effortlessly out of the fingers. I like to ritard the last 6 notes and pause slightly before jumping back into the repeat of the first section.

Reconquista Week 4  PDF    Midi

And that's it. The piece will continue to improve weeks and months and as it matures acquire personal nuances. While I have suggested learning the piece in weekly segments, the time frame can be longer or shorter according to each individual's learning style.

Reconquista Complete  PDF    Midi