The MLP Classical Guitar Thread - Covering all finger style from 1500 - to now!

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by Cpt Matt Sparrow, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    Dear friends

    Pt 1

    The aim of this thread is for those interested in classical guitar to have a section of MLP, where people can post clips, ask advice and discuss this true ancestor of the Les Paul! A very big thank you to moderator Led Zep fan who has stickied this :thumb:

    To start the thread off - and for those who may not know the origins of the classical guitar, here is a bit to read.

    The Lute is the guitar's direct ancestor. Composers such as John Dowland and Robert Johnson (not the one who made a deal with a devil in the 20th century :naughty:) wrote extensively for the instrument and today as well as being played on period instruments, the music is also transcribed for the classical guitar.

    The earliest instrument that bares a resemblance in both look and sound to what we know as 'the guitar' (in all it's incarnations) is the Baroque guitar which had five courses of strings. The Baroque period is largely agreed to be around 1685 - 1750 (also the date of birth and death of the German composer Johan Sebastian Bach.)

    [​IMG]

    The Baroque guitar replaced the Lute as the instrument of choice for the home and in the classical period (c.1730 - 1820) the guitar now with six strings caught the imagination of the public, with composers such as Fernando Sor, Matteo Carcassi writing new music that stretched the use of the guitar and as observed by composers such as Beethoven, who said the guitar really was like an orchestra.

    Not much was written for the guitar in the romantic period -the guitar we know today as a 'classical guitar' thanks to the 19th century Spanish Luthier Antonio Torres. Torres' guitars were played by many notable Spanish composers including Francesco Tarrega, who remains a prominent figure of the late romantic/early modern period of composition.

    Here is a video of a real mid 19th century guitar being put through the rounds...

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvLzQgD2oAU]Grisha Goryachev experiences a real 1890 Torres guitar - YouTube[/ame]
     
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  2. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    Pt 2

    This is courtesy of an article by EGTA (European Guitar Teacher Association)

    It takes us to the 20 th century and how a very single minded, in many ways stubborn, but also highly individual and musical man called 'Segovia' put the classical guitar firmly back in the public consciousness...

    Segovia Mission Statement

    FIRSTLY, it is interesting to observe the order in which Segovia makes his points; this suggests a curiously weighted agenda. It is evident that the lowbrow, popular culture image of the guitar troubled Segovia greatly; more, it would seem, than its lack of repertoire or its unfamiliarity as a recital instrument. The use of the wordsmindless and entertainment are particularly telling; one might infer snobbishness or even an inferiority complexhardly surprising considering the hostility he faced and describes in his autobiography. It is clear, however, that for Segovia the guitar should be an instrument of high culture.

    Segovia second point begs much discussion. What does he mean by intrinsic musical valuerepertoire of high quality to be part of the mainstream musical performing canon? The implication is clear; guitar music should be written by professional composers and not by guitarists who are amateur composers. He goes on to mention academic transcriptions of works for lute and vihuela; this is where the nature of the guitar musical canon makes a sudden change of direction. Segovia is claiming a whole new area of repertoire for the guitar; he is inventing a new history, an imaginary line of progression stretching from the Renaissance to the present day, an artifice. It is this re-invented history of the guitar that forms the basis of the contemporary canon, which permeates not only recital programmes but also seeps down through college and grade examination syllabuses to the earliest stages of learning the instrument.

    Composers such as Dowland, Bach, Weiss, Scarlatti, and Granados are at the very heart of the guitarist modern repertory. Astonishingly none of them wrote a single note of guitar music. In the case of the Dowland, Bach and Weiss, this might seem like splitting hairs, given the perceived close kinship between guitar and lute. But the jewel in the crown, Bach so-called lute works, is based on a near fallacy. Not even the two works designated for lute by Bach BWV 995 and 998 are comparable to the solo violin or cello music, where Bach rethinks his and the instruments idiom to create something utterly specific. The works are of course masterpieces, but they are not literally playable on the lute as Bach wrote them, doubling as keyboard works with only minimal adaptation to the lute idiom.

    Segovia commissioned much new work, although his anti-modernist taste dictated a preference for selecting more conservative, Romantic composers rather than composers at the cutting edge of contemporary music. Some of these composers were fairly mainstream (Turina, Roussel, Ibert, Torroba, Villa-Lobos), but the majority were minor figures.

    The Performing Canon after Segovia

    Largely due to the efforts of Julian Bream, Segovia’s vision of a repertoire of new music of quality integrated into the musical mainstream was at least partially realised in the 1970s and 1980s. For a few years it seemed that most important living composers had written for the guitar; the list included: Britten, Tippett, Walton, Berio, Takemitsu, Henze, Reich, Maxwell Davies, Elliott Carter, Babbitt and Ginastera. Paradoxically, this brief flowering coincided with a widespread public hostility to new music (see Weber chart above,) and much of this fecund repertoire received, and still receives, tragically few performances. Players find these pieces unidiomatic and audiences find them difficult.

    More recently, there has been an increase in the number of performances of new works composed by guitarists. Is this because the idiomatic comfort and familiarity, and therefore ease of execution, of these pieces is seducing guitarists? Or is it simply the case that the guitar world is becoming increasingly ghettoised guitarists travelling the world, playing music written by guitarists to audiences made up of guitarists?



    IV Escaping the tyranny of the museum of musical masterpieces:
    the changing curriculum & the new musicology

    IN today climate of postmodernism and pluralism, the supremacy of Western art-music and its canon is being challenged. If modernism dealt with the refined and idealised, the scientific, the exclusive; then postmodernism deals with the spontaneous and contradictory, the intuitive, the inclusive. In the words of Robert Fink it is hopeless to insist that music reflect, not the heterotopia in which we live, but some one of the many utopias in which we no longer believe. (Fink, 1999, 132)

    New music no longer has to measure up to its past. The clear line between high art and low art, that worried Segovia so much, is being eaten away. As Nicholas Cook puts it:

    perhaps the most telling contrast between today musical world and the ways of thinking about it that we have inherited from the nineteenth century concerns high and low art. The very terms seem suspect today, and even if you wanted to use them it would be hard to be confident about what is high art and what is low art Writers about music in the academic tradition had no such qualms. High art, or music, meant the notation-based traditions of the leisured classes, and above all the great repertory of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Low art meant everything else, that is to say the limitless variety of popular and mainly non-notated and hence historically irretrievable musical traditions.
    (Cook, 1998: 43)

    Cook largely attributes this change to the ready availability of other musical styles through recordings. Notation ceases to become a necessity when digital recordings can provide a definitive, authentic text.

    music becomes an element in the definition of personal lifestyle, alongside the choice of car, clothes, or perfume. Deciding whether to listen to Beethoven, or Bowie, or Balinese music becomes the same kind of choice as deciding whether to eat Italian, Thai, or Cajun tonight.
    (Ibid: 41)

    The diversity of influences available to today composers generates a multiplicity of stylistic possibilities. Paul Griffiths defines postmodern music as

    music which is no longer arrowed to the future but timeless in its survey of as much human culture as its composer can encompass.
    (Griffiths, 1986: 122)

    The resultant broadening out of musical perspective implied by Griffiths has been reflected in radical changes in music education and in musicology. In 1988, the new GCSE music exam was introduced; an exam which gave the same weight to world music and popular music as it did to classical music. This radical shift in emphasis has now filtered up through the whole higher education system. In most universities, as part of a music degree, there are undergraduate modules in such diverse fields as progressive rock, jazz studies and music from other cultures. It is now possible to read for a BA in popular music, music technology, commercial music and ethno-musicology. In the academic fraternity, specialists in popular music, film music, and other non-classical disciplines are in high demand. Popular music composition is being recognised as a research equivalent activity. The new musicology is challenging the way in which we view old music, questioning the musical canon and tackling issues such as gender, ethnicity and contextuality.

    For the first time general music students are studying guitar music. Paradoxically, the long sought academic acceptance of the guitar into the musical mainstream has come not with the classical guitar, but with the electric guitar; Jimmy Hendrix and Van Halen, not Fernando Sor and Segovia, Jerry Garcia not Gerald Garcia.

    The cross fertilisation of musical styles has led to several high profile art-music commissions for electric guitar, including: Steve Reich Electric Counterpoint (1987) for Pat Metheny and Mark-Anthony Turnage Blood on the Floor (1997) for John Scofield. Arguably, the word Ëœguitar has come to mean anything but Ëœclassical guitar.

    The cultural importance and iconoclastic power of the electric guitar has almost totally eclipsed the insular, impotent world of the classical guitar. Perhaps the time has come to shed the fragile pretensions of Segovia high-art performance canon and re-embrace the mindless folklore type of entertainment. It is possible that the notion of a respectable, adult repertoire has been a chimera, while didactic methodology has remained in its infancy.

    So we are left not with answers, but with questions: How can the classical guitarist and guitar teacher react to this paradigmatic shift in the musical aesthetic? Is there a place for the classical guitar in this brave new world, or is it condemned to a bleak future in the musical wilderness? How does the new status quo affect teaching at grass roots level? How relevant is current didactic material to the new emerging canon? How many students understand the concept classical guitar when they enrol for lessons; and how does this influence the teaching of music through the guitar?

    The canonisation of the guitar repertory that took place in the twentieth century was driven by a desire for acceptance into the serious musical mainstream. It was assumed that this acceptance could only come about if the musical quality of the performing canon was sufficiently high. The resultant, obsessive lust for great music led guitarists to colonise the lute and vihuela repertories and to invade the musical territory of the keyboard player.

    In the development of the guitar student, the very idea of a privileged repertory the performing canon is a belated one in the setting of the concert hall. As we have seen, such discrimination is more relevant at an earlier stage, in the classroom the canon. Indeed, it is the quality of this autonomous didactic canon which will give rise to the more flexible, less hidebound performing repertory argued for here.
     
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  3. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    It's interesting to note, that despite all that Segovia did - (and he did a lot!) the classical guitar in the 1950's, still wasn't regarded as a proper instrument as far as music conservatoires were concerned. The great Julian Bream didn't even have the option of studying the classical guitar at The Royal College of music, so had to instead study the Cello.

    Julian Bream, probably along with Segovia, was responsible for the next wave of promoting the guitar. Up until Bream, although Segovia had encouraged new works to be written, they had been quite obviously Spanish influenced, with harmonies and techniques that borrowed it's relative the flamenco guitar's techniques. Bream had his own mission, to encourage also non guitarist to write for the instrument, to bring it into the modern period.

    Bream worked with composers including: Malcolm Arnold, Richard Rodney Bennett, Benjamin Britten, Leo Brouwer, Tōru Takemitsu, Michael Tippett and William Walton. On the DVD 'My Life In Music' some of his colleagues described how he pretty much stalked some of these guys! He turned up where they were staying on tour and pleaded the case for the composer contributing to the guitar canon.

    Many including me, regard the turning point being Manuel de Fallas's Homage To Debussy. Yes, it was by a Spanish composer and still clung to the older tradition in the respect, but also was very definitely modern in it's harminic content. So much so, that when the English composer heard Julian Bream performing this piece, after the concert he enthused he could write an entire work out of this, which he did, writing 'Nocturnal - Reflections on Dowland's Come Heavy Sleep' (a set of reverse variations) being dedicated to Bream and ensuring the classical guitar was now at the attention of the 20th (and 21st) century's most well regarded composers.

    If you are used to major minor, even modal melodies, this may seem very strange at first. It isn't actually atonal, but is ambigous harmonically - but I promise, if you listen to it several times - your ear does adjust!

    Here is Bream performing The Passacaglia from Britten's Nocturnal

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4IzcWZiVh8[/ame]
     
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  4. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    I have tried to sumarise as much as possible in the above. It is of course a subject (the history of the classical guitar) that could go on longer than even the onehippie thread :) but now that is out the way, we can talk playing and techniques.

    A big part of classical guitar is the volume or dynamics of each string and developing a control in the right hand.

    This is a quick demo on tone change and how the right hand can bring out parts. Of course there will be more later, but this is just to kick things off...

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2jAs-H41x8]Discussing Tone Changes - iPhone Recording - YouTube[/ame]

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3v8p16vvVU[/ame]
     
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  5. Plug

    Plug Senior Member

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    Wow thanks so much for doing this thread Matt. Keep the posts coming. :thumb:
     
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  6. LenPaul

    LenPaul Premium Member

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    I haven't read everything yet , couldn't wait to give the thumbs up! it's a great topic to get a sticky.:thumb:
     
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  7. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    Classical guitar (and fingerstyle in general) is experiencing a resurgence of popularity. It rises and falls a little, but it is now here to stay. With so many composers to draw from now, it's a great time.

    Leo Brouwer, Andrew York, Antonia Carlos Jobim, Luis Bonfa, Emilio Pujol, Maximo Deigo Pujol, Pierre Bensusan, Sergio Assad, Hektor Villalobos, Laurido Almeida, George Yeatman, Joao Pernambuco, etc have produced brilliant and beautiful pieces.... and that is the short list :cool:

    While the USA was caught up in rock and steel string, the nylon guitar was always the instrument of choice in Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, etc. That's where the action was.


    Added on edit: Almost forgot, you can play this music on 12 strings and electrics too. I do sometimes.

    [ame]www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2a_yfT84KQ[/ame]

    It took a while to learn this next, but now it's a real pleasure to play... it just flows so good.

    [ame]www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWq5dyc0KHw[/ame]

    This last piece was my choice for my student recital song last spring.

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJj-wwjLE3g[/ame]
     
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  8. Plug

    Plug Senior Member

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    Now I don't feel so bad that I'm learning this on my electric :thumb:
     
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  9. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    There was a Bach CD released several years back recorded on a steel string that was controversial in the same way having a blonde James Bond announced in 2005 was, but similarly caused quite a stir because it sounded rather good!

    I think because also that Bach's 'Lute Suites' were not actually written for the Lute, this allows for a bit of leeway :naughty:

    [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Nascent-Johann-Sebastian-Bach/dp/B000A3DG4E]Amazon.com: Nascent: Music[/ame]
     
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  10. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    This is a little piece from an article about Segovia...

    "The discussion between Segovia, Domingo Prat and Regino Sainz de la Maza, centred on the metal strings that Barrios was using. Sainz de la Maza was the only one who did not reject steel strings, provided it was Barrios who played on them. Segovia commented: ‘Well as far as I am concerned I would not know what to do with that wire fence.’ Segovia’s analogy of a wire fence suggests more than one strand of wire, but as this was well before Segovia met Barrios, we can be fairly sure that he had never seen the Paraguayan’s instrument."

    He also called the electric guitar "an abomination" :laugh2:

    But to stick up for him, at this time, the classical guitar needed a personality that was this forceful - and he succeeded in bringing the classical guitar back too :thumb:
     
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  11. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    I own a lot of Bream. Good stuff.
     
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  12. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    If it's good enough for Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel ... :dude:
     
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  13. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    My pleasure - there is definitely more of us guys lurking in the shadows too!


    Matt
     
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  14. Cpt Matt Sparrow

    Cpt Matt Sparrow Senior Member

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    Elliot Carter's 'Changes' - This is a fantastic piece and shows how violent the often thought of 'soft classical guitar' can be

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5RI752K0C0]Elliott Carter : Changes. Pablo Márquez, guitar - YouTube[/ame]
     
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  15. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Available in the UK, too:

    [ame]http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nascent-Bert-Lams/dp/B000A3DG4E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390470623&sr=8-1&keywords=bert+lams+nascent[/ame]
     
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  16. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrNX5ojzhvk]Rare Guitar Video: Andreas Segovia plays Guardame Las Vacas by Luis de Narvaez - YouTube[/ame]
     
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  17. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95GRPdaYxx4[/ame]
     
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  18. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP81xw98hy8]Andrew York - Sunday Morning Overcast - YouTube[/ame]
     
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  19. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g97zPoMG_pI]2/10 Andrew York - Linus and Lucy (Vince Gauraldi) - YouTube[/ame]
     
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  20. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq9KMdDfcwI]Suite del Plata II-Tango - YouTube[/ame]
     
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