My apologies to experienced players, but I wrote this article for those just starting out as players or interested non-players.
In this article, I deal briefly with a range of aspects of guitar construction, playability, intonation, humidity, strings and so on. I have only built one classical guitar, but I am a passionate enthusiast and I have researched and experimented quite a bit.
In this, the 3rd and final post in the series, I am featuring 10 incredible players 35 years old or younger I have ordered them from youngest to oldest to maximise the impact. What wonderful talent in such young people!
Linda Bernert (10) plays Tango en skaï by Roland Dyens
Nina Bernert (12 now 14) plays Phantasia D major by David Kellner
Leonora Spangenberger (13 now 15 years old) plays 12 Etudes by Heitor Villa Lobos: Etude No 1
Julia Lange (19) plays Asturias by Isaac Albeniz
Stephanie Jones (24 years old) plays Recuerdos de la Alhambra by F. Tárrega
Anna Likhacheva (25 years old) plays Russian folk song “Ivushka”
Gabriel Bianco (29 years old) plays Variations on Venice Carnival
Su Meng (30 years old) plays Bach Prelude, Allegro – Presto
Kyuhee Park (33 years old) plays El Ultimo Tremelo by Augustin Barrios Mangore
Milos Karadaglic (35 years old) plays’Oriental’ by Enrique Granados
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As promised, here is a list of 10 top Generation-X classical guitarists aged between 40 and 55.
I have avoided using the word ‘best’ when referring to this list because of how different folk understand this ascription. Some comments to previous posts are; “there is no ‘best’, just opinions”, and “the best players are those who embrace the ‘new’ compositions”, and “No way! Eliot Fisk is the best because of his innovation and energy”. I guess we could have a shot at determining who the best players are by adopting a comprehensive set of criteria and an impartial assessment methodology, but what’s the point? Certainly, my reason for compiling these lists is to provide reference points, learning opportunities, and listening pleasure.
In the 3rd and final post in this series, I intend to feature another 10 fabulous players 35 years old and under.
My last post featured John Williams, and although many commented favourably, there were one or two critical of John’s virtuosity. When I searched the threads in the Delcamp forum, I soon realised that there are as many opinions on the ‘best’ living classical guitarist as there are on what constitutes ‘best’.
The criteria for judging ‘best’ appear to fall into four categories: musicality, technique, tone production, and emotional impact. However, what interested me more was the sheer number of CG players listed among the top three picks… 38 in total!
So, I have compiled a list of just the top 10 candidates. I have done this as a basis for further research, learning, and listening pleasure. I have arranged the list based on the number of different people identifying them as part of the top three living players. Of course, the list is not meant as any sort of definitive ranking, but rather as an inspiration for run-of-the-mill classical guitarists like me. Along with each name are links to their websites and a video of them playing.
Of the 10 maestros listed, seven are over 60 years of age, and so the fear for many is that the era of classical guitar greats is passing. Not so! In my next post, I intend to highlight 10 great players between 40 and 55 years old. Then in a 3rd post I intend to feature another 10 fabulous players 35 years old and under. The future of the classical guitar looks bright to me!
I am currently reading a biography of this great classical guitarist called, ‘Strings Attached: The Life and Music of John Williams’ by William Starling and published in 2013. So far I am finding it dry reading, so I decided to see what was available on the internet.
However, the overview of his various collaborations (particularly with Julian Bream) that I found the most enjoyable was the 2016 John Williams (Classical Guitar) at the BBC. This 58-minute production contains several full pieces played by the maestro.
John Williams is a champion of Greg Smallman guitars which, when he first tried one out were unknown but now sell new for around $36,000. Classical Guitar Review interviewed John in 2010 and in Part Three of their publication he gave the reasons for his switch from Fleta to Smallman guitars.
Serval years after first meeting Greg Smallman, John visited him in his workshop deep in the Australian wilds and here is a short video clip of that visit.
This site lists over 4,600 pieces in .pdf format. There is no real difficulty grading system but it does list 1,173 pieces as ‘easy’. Some of the pieces have a difficulty indicator when you click on the actual selection; for instance, Tarrega’s Lagrima is marked ‘Grade 4 Late Intermediate’.
The Petrucci Music Library contains a huge database of public domain music for all instruments. It is not easy to browse this collection, but the search facilities are adequate if you are looking for a composer or a particular piece. For instance, a search for ‘Tarrega’ yields 51 pieces and a search for ‘Largrima’ yields no less than 7 available transcriptions. Unfortunately, there are no indications of playing difficulty. However, you could use www.guitarburst.com in conjunction with this site for most free guitar scores.
This site has over 600 scores, with basic difficulty level indicators, and an online synthesised audio/visual playback facility. However, it only allows a few views/downloads per every 24 hours unless you take out a paid subscription to the site.
A reasonably good range of free music scores as well as methods and collections, but this is the site of the Guitar School of Iceland and so the commercial sections contain a lot more material that you will have to pay for.
This site is more than just a forum and contains sections of graded classical guitar music. The drawback is that you have to become an active member of the forum in order to access most of these collections. In addition, the choice of music tends more towards the Baroque than anything else.
I hope this is useful to you – have fun and enjoy learning new stuff.
I love the look of well made classical guitars. Here are three beautiful guitars worth show-casing.
‘Black Diamond’ by Rafał Turkowiak
Design features include: • Acoustic Tubes – special ‘holes’ placed in the neck that increase resonance and reduce neck mass. • WAVE type resonator – increases vibration through the soundboard; reduced bridge mass.
Top – Western Red Cedar
Back and Sides – Black and White Ebony
Neck – Flame Maple
Fretboard – Ebony
Head – Crafted with natural black diamonds and authentic Mother of Pearl
Bridge – Black and White Ebony with Mother of Pearl
Armrest – Bevelled
Tuners – Ebony, Aluminium, White Mother of Pearl with an 18:1 ratio
Fret markers – Mother of Pearl
Varnish – French polish
‘No. 22’ by Zebulon Turrentine
Top – Western Red Cedar
Back and Sides – African Mahogany
Fretboard – West African Ebony
Bridge – African Padauk
Bracing – Asymmetric lattice
French polish with shellac
Scale length – 650mm
Jumbo Gold EVO frets
Der Jung tuners
Grand Concert by Robert & Orville Milburn
Materials: Rare African blackwood sides and back, close straight grain European spruce soundboard with extensive cross grain silk, rare snakewood bindings, African Blackwood head veneers, black/white/black hairline purling, mammoth ivory saddle and bridge tie block decoration, perfectly executed side grain mosaic rosette, Rodgers tuning machine heads, impeccable French polish of finish.
Moving from one position to another, especially up the keyboard, is problematic for most average guitarists. In these three videos, Allan Mathews covers the most tricky aspects of shifting position on the classical guitar.