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Laulima means working together, and this etude takes that idea to extremes. Notes are always played in pairs, and after one pair of strings has been played, the other is always played. So, every two quavers (1/8 notes), all four strings sound. The goal was to get dissonant chords to sound more gentle. Some of the chords in this etude, played with all four strings simultaneously, sound quite harsh. By breaking them in two, the dissonances are separated.

While working through some of John King's arrangements, I realised that you can play scales by alternately playing on the 1 & 4 string. For whatever reason, this intrigued me, and I decided to write a piece based on this effect, where notes are paired, 0-0, 4-3, 7-7. What you get are a series of seconds, dissonant pairs of notes.

By splitting them, I found that they sounded like some of the chords used in Impressionist music. The piece also began to form with a strong sense of harmony, but little in the way of melody, just seconds alternating back and forth. I had been reading about Ravel's description of Bolero as "orchestration without music", and wondered about the possibility of harmony without melody. I suspect I failed philosophically, but hopefully have succeeded musically.


I've always thought of this as the easiest of the etudes. It began as an exercise in the split stroke, where strumming with your index finger, you first strum 3 & 4, then on the up stroke, strum 1 & 2. But as I played it, I found I preferred a 2 texture approach. So, I play it with thumb strumming 3 & 4, then index and middle fingers pluck 1 & 2. This gives a slightly more varied tone.

The tricky bit is the middle section, which uses alternating, rather than adjacent strings. The chords are also more involved. The basic trick is to try to maintain finger to string relationships. Move as little as possible when sliding up and down from position to position. As with the other etudes, if your left hand looks too busy, there's probably a simpler solution.