Drew Henderson plays Zapateado

Joaquin Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Valencia, and lost his sight at the age of three. Despite this, he began to study piano and violin at the age of eight. Many credit him with raising the Spanish guitar to dignity as a universal concert instrument and he is best known for his guitar music. However, he never mastered the instrument himself.

Drew Henderson is a virtuoso classical guitarist often cited as one Canada’s best young classical guitarists. Here he plays the final movement of Tres Piezas Españolas by Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999)

Asturias (Leyenda) by Isaac Albeniz

Here South Korean brother and sister (Soojin  and Seongjun Lee) play Asturias (Leyenda) Op. 47 by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909). This well-known classical guitar piece, although usually played as a solo performance, was originally written for piano, so a duo arrangement probably comes closer to the composer’s original intent.

Prelude in A Min Op 59 by Matteo Carcassi

I have added a subsection ‘Additional material for Level 1B’ at the end of Basic Level Players/Musical Scores/Level 1B. The first entry in this subsection is Prelude in A Min from Matteo Carcassi’s Guitar Method Vol 1 (Op 59).

Matteo Carcassi (1792 – 1853) was a  guitar virtuoso  and composer who lived most of his adult life in Paris.  His most famous works are collected in his 25 Etudes op.60 where he blended technical skills with good ‘romantic’ music.

Humidity and your classical guitar

Too little moisture in the air for too long and your guitar could crack; too much moisture and it can swell and become hard to play. The measure of the moisture in the air relative to temperature is called Relative Humidity (RH) and this is expressed as a percentage of the airs ability to hold water.

The best way to control your guitars environment is to purchase a hygrometer that has an external gauge and display plus a wireless secondary instrument that you can insert into your guitar case. I have been using one by Acurite for over a year now and I have found it reliable enough for the purpose. There are few places in SouthA frica where the RH is extreamly low or excessively high for long periods of time but anything above 70% or below 30% for more than a few days is problamatic. However, if the change is slow then the guitar would probably handle these extremes reasonably well.

The simpist and cheepest way of controling the RH is to keep your guitar in its case whenver you are not actually palying it. In addition to this, make a simply humidifyer and place it in the guitar case just under the headstock right up against the small accessories compartment. Here is how you make the humdiifyer:

1. Take an empty plastic butter/buttro container about 150mm x 100 x 50 and drill or cut a number of holes in its lid.
2. Cut a piece of sponge to size (the type you use for washing your car is ideal) and place it inside the container, ensuring that there is a gap of about 10mm between the sponge and the lid.
3. Dampen the sponge well but not excessively with one water and one part propylene glycol. However, when you top up you usualy need to only add water as the propylene glycol will remain in the sponge for quite some time. I have forund that in typical South African conditions 50/50 propylene glycol to water works fine and keeps the RH at about 45-50%.

As the RH drops the sponge will release moisture into the air within the guitar case. However, what is not often mentioned, is that it will also remove excess moisture when the RH is high. By mixing propylene glycol to the water you can control the maximum amount of moisture the humidifyer will release. You will have to experiment a little with just how much propylene glycol to use to get the stabilty point at arround 45% to 50 % RH. You can order the propylene glycol from http://e-liquid-concentrates.co.za/ Propylene glycol is both an antibacterial and antifungal agent preventing mold from growing in the container.

With this simple humidifyer you should be able to keep your guitar all year round at a RH level it is happy with and avoid any of the nasty problems that could otherwise occur.

La Catedral

Ana Vidovic plays La Catedral by Augustine Barrios, one of the hardest classical guitar pieces  to play.

Ana is of Croatian origin and started playing the classical guitar at five years of age. She started performing at the age of eight and is now 37 years of age (as at 2017) and is an internationally recognised performing and recording artist. She plays classical guitars designed and built by the Australian luthier Jim Redgate.

I have featured another piece written by Barrios in my previous post.

Alms for the love of God

David Russell performs “Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios” (Alms for the love of God). The last piece by Paraguayan classical guitarist and composer, Agustín Pío Barrios a Paraguayan virtuoso and composer, regarded as one of the greatest performers and most prolific composers for the classical guitar. His music remained undiscovered for over three decades after his death.

Performance anxiety

Stage fright, or performance anxiety as some call it, is sometimes a problem for even professional guitarists. I only play before small groups of people yet I tend to mess up the simplist pieces. As these easy tunes are the first I play in my repertoire, the rest of the performance is an anxious time for me and my audience.

Reading through a post on this subject on the Delcamp guitar forum I picked up this invaluable piece of advice which I paraphrase as, ‘Do not stop or even pause when you make a mistake. Smile and keep on playing even if you have to doddle around just a little before you can pick up the line of music again.” The person giving this advice then went on to point out that few people in the audience are likely to know the piece you are playing, and even fewer will pick up the fact that you made a mistake.

I tried this out the other day when performing for a group of about twenty people in a very casual and supportive environment. Sure enough, I made a major boo-boo in the opening set of three very simple pieces. Instead of pausing I simply added a few bars of improvisation in the same key and then picked the tune up again at the start of the section where I bombed. The result was that my confidence rose immediately and I was able to play even the hardest pieces without major problems. After the performance, I asked someone in the audience if she had noticed anything odd in the piece in question and she said that she had not and had enjoyed it.

Here is a video demonstration by Laura Oltman and Michael Newman on the Strings by Mail’s lessons section that makes the same point.

Laminated versus solid wood in classical guitars

Most luthiers and experienced players agree that classical guitar tops should be constructed with high-quality solid wood instead of a laminated wood. A solid top generally has superior vibratory qualities to a laminated top and also improves in sound quality as it ages. However, laminated woods are by no means inferior when it comes to back and side construction. Many classical guitar enthusiasts look down their noses at instruments made with laminated wood sides and back, yet such guitars are often more robust and have bigger ‘voices’.

This article compares laminated and solid wood classical guitars.

Leo Brouwer Un Dia de Noviembre by Tatyana Ryzhkova

A wonderfully lyrical and somewhat wistful composition by the Cuban composer and classical guitarist Leo Brouwer. Some people find this kind of music a little too sombre, but I think that it is ideally suited to the classical guitar. Tatyana is an accomplished player and both good to listen to and to look at 🙂