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Improvising 'La Violetera' by Naudo

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

During my search for remarkeble Vintage Music I found a partition of the song 'La Violetera' with French lyrics of the famous Spanish composer and pianist José Padilla Sanchez (1889-1960). The song was used as the soundtrack of City Lights (1931), a silent romantic comedy, written, produced, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. José Padilla became famous in France as he also composed songs for the Moulin Rouge.

In my blog a 'General perspective on Covid-19 part 2', I explained the relationship between the pandemic in the year 1350 and the development of the 'conservatorio' in the early renaissance in Naples, Italy. Young children found an education in music, learned to play music with other musicians and made a career as a composer or teacher. The most important purpose in music was learning how to improvise.

As a guitar- and lute player I have a lot of respect for Naudo Rodrigues, a Brazilian guitarist. He started playing guitar at the age of five. He never attended a music school and taught himself to play guitar by playing together with other musicians. Naudo uses all kind of fascinating techniques in very different styles of music and he knows by nature what sounds the best. If I observe his playing, it reminds me of the way the old masters of the Neapolitan music tradition organised and taught music.

Naudo uses beautiful chord progressions and everything seems to fit with a maximization of effect.

I also noticed that he uses his bass in a very important and natural way like students in the early renaissance. Until the end of the 18th century these students were taught the 'Art of Partimento' to improvise and compose. In this video Naudo also uses his bass playing as a guideline for his improvisations.

Listen to his interpretation of La Violetera for his mother and family:

If you like to understand this beautiful piece of music, try to think in the tradition of the old school masters in Naples.

Giovanni Furno (1748-1837) was in his time known as the best teacher in Naples. He stood in a long tradition of teachers and composers like Scarlatti and many other famous musicians.

About the art of composing he made the following statement: 'Do it, and do it as I say, because this is what my master taught me. Why are you asking for reasons,when in the music the first, and strongest reason is effect? Listen, - he said to all his students - listen how beautiful this chord is on this bass! Do you need any other better reason other than the effect it makes?' (Sanguinetti, The Art of Partimento, page 84)

In the old Neapolitan tradition every composition starts with a bass melody. In a natural way and using certain rules, the chords will appear. To understand all of this, you must know the essence how chords are constructed all based on the 1(first), 3 (third), 5 (fifth) of the scale: the triads. If you have the melody of the bass, and the chords are constructed, you can add every melody or improvisation you like. Most of the jazz musicians are familiar to this way of thinking about music. If you play a solo instrument, you need for example a contrabass or the chords of a guitar for improvising the best you can.

José Padilla composed the piece as a Tango, but Naudo thinks in terms of a Bossa Nova. Listen to the bass melody of La Violetera:

The next step is, to use the rules by Giovanni Furno in the old days, translate it to modern music, and see the result. Notice that Naudo plays the song in D major and the bass melody starts with the 3rd note of the scale in the root.

D E F# G A B C# D

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

An example of Naudo's chord movements on guitar of the first part of the piece:

The original composition of La Violetera (1914) by José Padilla:

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