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.
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 provided you calibrate it and make the adjustments accordingly. There are few places in South Africa where the RH is extremely low or excessively high for long periods of time but anything above 70% or below 30% for more than a few days is problematic. However, if the change is slow then the guitar would probably handle these extremes reasonably well.
The simplest and cheapest way of controlling the RH is to keep your guitar in its case whenever you are not actually playing it. In addition to this, make a simply humidifier and place it in the guitar case just under the headstock right up against the small accessories compartment. Here is how you make the humidifier:
Take an empty plastic butter/Buttro container about 150mm x 100 x 50 and drill or cut a number of holes in its lid.
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.
Dampen the sponge well but not excessively with one part water and four parts propylene glycol. However, when you top up you usually need to only add water as the propylene glycol will remain in the sponge for quite some time. I have found that in typical South African conditions 80/20 propylene glycol to water works fine and keeps the RH at about 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 humidifier will release. You will have to experiment a little with just how much propylene glycol to use to get the stability point in your particular environment at around 45% to 50 % RH. If you live in South Africa you can order the propylene glycol from http://e-liquid-concentrates.co.za/ Propylene glycol is both an antibacterial and antifungal agent preventing mould from growing in the container.
With this simple humidifier, you should be able to keep your guitar all year round at a moderate RH level and avoid any of the nasty problems that could otherwise occur.
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.
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.