The value of an in-case humidifier

In August 2017 I wrote an article titled ‘Humidity and your classical guitar’, and ever since then, I have been recording local humidity levels. In a previous article, I explained the system and mix I use for in-case humidity control. In this article, I want to give some feedback on the readings I have taken.

I did not record humidity levels every day, but only when there was a meaningful movement from the norm. I live in the Johannesburg area of South Africa and the general average humidity here is 60%. The average highs are 70% for 3 months of the year, and the average lows are 45% for another 3 months. However, from time to time the conditions change dramatically to averages of more than 70% or less than 25% for a week or so at a time.

During the last 2 years, I have recorded 241 humidity readings and these reveal the following:

61 readings were 65% or more of which the highest was 81%. 48 readings were 25% or less and the lowest of these was 10%. However, and this is an important ‘however’, the highest in-case reading was 62% and the lowest was 41%. So, although the average in-case humidity of my guitars was 51% compared to an external average of 47%, my instruments were protected from protracted levels of over 65% or under 25%. When the external humidity was 81%, the in-case humidity was 62%, a 19% difference. When the external level was 10%, the in-case level was 41%, a massive 31% difference.

Another major benefit of in-case humidity control has been that the levels the guitars have to deal with change very slowly compared to sudden and drastic external changes. A sudden drop to 10% can cause a hand-made guitar to crack and a sustained level of 80% plus can loosen the seams and frets, change the fret-board inclination, and make the instrument sound soggy and buzzy.

So, there you have it. Even in a moderate climate such as Johannesburg, in-case humidification is definitely needed.

Tips for Better Classical Guitar Playing

Every week I search the internet for material that could instruct, inform or inspire intermediate level classical guitarist like myself.

It is getting harder and harder to find material that I haven’t already included in my site content at some time or another. My main sources have dried up considerably of late, but I guess that folk like Simon Powis and Bradford Werner are so well known that most amateur players subscribe directly to their sites and don’t need me to curate their material.

In my search this week I rediscovered classicalsuitar.org and although it appears to have been dormant since 2018, its content remains useful. In 2009 Christopher Davis wrote a post entitled 21 Tips for Better Guitar Playing. Most, if not all 21 ideas are covered, often in more detail, by other bloggers and teachers, but it is handy to have them all together in one concise form. So, it’s worth reading through his list at https://www.classicalguitar.org/2009/11/21-tips-for-better-guitar-playing/ and then spending some time viewing his other offerings. Thank you Chris.

 

VLOG

 

A Vlog is a fairly recent use of youtube and other video platforms. The word ‘vlog’ is an abbreviation of ‘video blog’ and it is really just the visual equivalent of a normal blog post.

Matthew McAllister  has been vlogging for a while now as part of his youtube channel .

The other day I came across a new classical guitar vlog by Merce Font  that looks promising – have a look and see if its helpful.

 

Spot Practice: A lesson by Dave Belcher on Classical Guitar Corner

Some time ago, I came across this article on Classical Guitar Corner on Spot Practice that I found very helpful. Dave describes Spot Practice as:

‘Spot practice is a lot like slow practice, but with one important difference: while slow practice reduces the tempo to give your fingers more time to make the movements they need to make and to identify problems you couldn’t notice when playing at faster tempos, spot practice removes tempo as a factor altogether.

Here’s how spot practice works: when you get to a tricky spot in a passage (something slow practice should have helped you identify as a trouble passage!) we want to STOP. Completely pause right at, say, that difficult left-hand shift. Then take it step by step, without the tempo: (1) Determine exactly the movements your fingers need to make to get from where they are to where they need to go; (2) Begin to prepare your fingers over the strings they are going to go; (3) Shift positions and carefully and in a relaxed manner place your fingers to land the shift; (4) Repeat. That’s it! The point here is to give your fingers the time they need to make that shift accurately’.

To read the full article on Spot Practice and view the video, just click HERE

Allan Mathews and Matthew McAllister on Barre Technique

Allan writes; ‘Bar chords are strenuous.  They take strength and endurance.  They are hard to get right and easy to get wrong. But there are ways to make them more likely to work.  If we use our bodies well, bar chords can be, if not comfortable, at least doable’.

It’s hard to execute Barre technique correctly and I have found them very difficult in certain positions. So, any help with this appreciated… Thanks, Allan and Matthew

 

Some current classical guitar compositions

 

Some time ago, I exchanged emails with Jim Giddings of Denton, Texas. Jim composes music for classical guitar, much of it with a decidedly Latin American flavour. The difficulty level of his pieces is mainly Intermediate with a few more suitable for the advanced beginner.

All his music is available free of charge and HIS SITE  is worth visiting to browse through his collections. To get an idea of what his compositions sound like, go HERE.

Yulong Guo a.echoes Classical Guitar

Yulong Guo Front

Of the four instruments I imported from China, I have sold two, given away one, and have the best of them all still for sale …at cost.

Yulong Guo recently won second place at the 2018 Festival Internacional de la Guitarra de Granada. He is China’s premier luthier and he designs and makes beautiful concert grade guitars. The A-Echoes Double Top Classic Guitar is a fine example of his art and craftsmanship.

I am making this guitar available at cost because I have decided that Classical Guitar SA will be a non-commercial service to the amateur guitar community.

Click HERE for full details of this beautiful guitar.

A pleasant discovery called ChordU

Thanks to an article in GuitarTalk I became aware of ChordU, a new site developed and managed by Bitan Sardar. In his words, it is a powerful engine that ‘automatically recognizes chords for any song using cutting edge technology.’

More specifically, ChordU ‘uses a complex music analysis algorithm which is mainly based on waveform analysis, beat tracking, spectrogram analysis and machine learning’.

In essence, ChordU consists of a powerful search engine that accesses the YouTube database, fetches the music video in question, and then accurately analyses the chords played. So, all one needs to do is enter the YouTube URL of a particular video, or search criteria such as title, composer, musician, and so on.

At first glance it looks like it is geared to pop or jazz music and the like, but it is just as good at taking classical guitar (CG) performances and analysing them in just a few seconds. Sometimes I need to work out the chords for a piece of CG music either because I don’t have access to the score or to TABS, or because it’s hard to determine what chords the composer has employed in the piece. Once I know what chords are in play then I can develop the melody, harmony and base lines. When I am working with a score, then a knowledge of the chords helps me to decide on fingering and the flow and movement of the piece. ChordU is very helpful in both these applications.

The site layout is simple and clean and the functionality largely intuitive, so the best way to learn about it is just to play with it. However, just as a brief introduction, here are some of the things you can do with ChordU:

Once you enter your search words or URL, the programme immediately presents a list of results. It either displays a line of the chords used, or a button designated ‘Extract Chords’ next to each entry on the list. Simply click on your choice and if the system already knows the chords then a new screen immediately appears . A confirmation popup appears if it needs to analyse the chords used for the first time. Within a few seconds, it’s done the job and the full screen presents.

On this main screen, you see the video playing, the chord chart diagrams (synced to the music), and a whole bunch of options. These options enable you to change the tempo, the key, the screen layout, whether you want to display simple or advanced chords, and a download facility (and other features to save, share, and so on).

I enjoy playing ‘Evocation’ so I typed ‘Jose Luis Merlin’ into the search box. Here are the first five results displayed.

I then clicked on the performance by Soren Madsen (5th on the list), clicked ‘Okay’ on the popup, and the main screen displayed. I selected the option (middle right) to change the layout and here is what I got:

I will leave the rest for you to discover, but I am delighted with it. Have fun!