music theory, music cognition, affordances, embodied performance, fretboard transformations, Leo Brouwer


Playing the guitar develops physical skills but also ways of listening and thinking about music. For example, guitarists often conceptualize chords as two-dimensional shapes—an approach that is foreign to pianists. What does it mean, then, to think like a guitarist? This article approaches “guitar thinking” through music theory and cognitive science. Psychological experiments help to reveal auditory, visual, and tactile aspects of guitar playing and to show how guitarists respond to the instrument’s affordances (i.e., its possibilities for action). Additionally, recent research in music theory models fretboard space and examines patterns of body-instrument interaction. To demonstrate this mode of analysis, the article discusses Leo Brouwer’s Estudios sencillos, nos. 1 and 7. Ultimately, this investigation suggests that the guitar is not only a tool for producing musical sound; it also produces musical knowledge.



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