Massachusetts and New Jersey

VGO MEA 2021/22

Guide Video augustine-foundation augustine-sm2

Made possible by The Augustine Foundation

1. Download and print out your assigned part

William Kanengiser: Mbira

Print out the assigned score and start practing your part with the Guide Video below:

Part 1 Score Part 2 Score Part 3 Score Part 4 Score

Click tracks with single parts:

Part 1 Click Track Part 2 Click Track Part 3 Click Track Part 4 Click Track

Performance notes

Download Performance Notes

Mbira is a work for guitar ensemble inspired by traditional African music, and attempts to evoke the sound of the mbira, a thumb-piano related to the kalimba. This effect is achieved primarily through a “prepared guitar” technique, wherein staples are affixed to adjacent treble strings to produce an idiophonic “clanging” tone (see instructions below). It also explores the idea of polyrhythm, in this case with various iterations of hemiola in a triple meter matrix. Mbira was written for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet as part of their “African Suite” on the eponymous Sony Classical CD (along with Andrew York’s “Djembe”).  The arrangement has undergone a number of incarnations, one using a guitar in drop D tuning with capo, one with 7-string guitar, one with fretless electric bass and five standard guitars, etc.  This current version is for four standard classical guitars in standard tuning, with the option of using a 7-string guitar on Part IV. 

Performance notes:

To achieve the intended sonic effect, adjacent treble strings are “coupled” with a common household staple.  This is accomplished by bending the sides of the staple at a 45º angle and connecting two adjacent strings with the staple, approximately 1/4 inch from the bridge. Simply squeeze the two strings together, place the bent staple over them, and release the strings.  The staple should fit snugly over the two strings. Guitars I and IV should place one staple between the first and second strings. On Guitars II and III, two staples should be positioned, one between the 1st  and 2nd  strings, and one between the 2nd  and 3rd.  Be sure that the staples are slightly offset and do not touch each other. 

Take care when fingering and plucking to avoid damping the adjacent string, thereby maximizing the sonic effect.  Do not use rest stroke, and allow strings (especially open strings) to resonate as much as possible

The fourth guitar part can be played on a 7-string guitar, with the lowest string tuned to A. If using a 7-string, observe the 8vb indications.

The indication “reverse pluck” involves fretting in the normal way, but plucking the portion of the string in between the fretted note and the nut. Find the indicated fret locations with the left hand, taking care to not damp the target string over the fretboard.  Reach over with the right hand to pluck the strings over the fingerboard. Some bending of the strings may be required to approximate standard pitch.  

To produce the indicated pitches, the following instructions should be followed:  

Guitar I at m. 90, depress the 8th fret of the 5th string with the second finger to produce the E, and the 12th fret of the 3rd string with the fourth finger to produce the G#.  In m. 92, the F# is produced by placing the first finger on the 7th fret of the 5th string.  

Guitar II at m. 89, find the pitches on the 12th  fret of the 3rd string, and the 13th  frets of the 1st and 2nd strings, using fingers 2, 3 and 4 respectively.  us.  In m. 90, add the 1st finger to the 11th fret of the 3rd string. In m. 92, fret 14th fret of the 3rd string, the 13th fret of the 2nd string, and the 14th fret of the 1st string.

2. Record your submission

Before recording please visit the link below with easy-to-follow tutorials for every possible scenario. Use whatever equipment you have, even just a mobile phone, but these tips will help you capture the best possible sound and image.

How-to tutorials


  • Please make sure to use headphones to listen to the guide video  so the MIDI will not be audible on your video.
  • Please tune your guitar to A=440Hz before every single take!
  • Video should clearly show your face (no cutting the top of the head off), hands and the instrument. Use an eye level shot rather than low camera angle. Shoot video while there is plenty of natural light and don’t use window as a backlight, position yourself so that the window is in front of you or at a max. 45 degree angle. Use any background you like.
  • Relax and enjoy the music while playing. Try to imagine you are playing in a concert hall with all of your friends present. We would love to see as many smiling faces as possible to create an awesome virtual orchestra video!

Use the same above guide video to record your part.

3. Upload your video

Upload your submission video using the button below. Thank you!

IMPORTANT: Please keep your submission video under 500MB if possible.


Need help?

Please contact your mentor if you have any questions. They will forward your message to us and we’ll make sure to respond asap!