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.

Prelude no. 1 by Villa-Lobos

 

Heitor Villa-Lobos was a Brazilian composer of more than 2,000 works. He dedicated his five Preludes, composed in 1940, to Arminda Neves dÁlmeida, his companion for the last 23 years of his life.

Irene Gomez is a pioneer of the classical guitar in her homeland, Colombia. Here she plays the lyrical Prelude No. 1 in E minor.

Cleaning and polishing your classical guitar

Dr. Peppler close up

There are many different brands of guitar cleaning and polishing liquids, creams, and sprays but what the manufacturers do not usually disclose is that:
1. If you keep your guitar in good condition then all you usually have to do is simply wipe it down with a cloth after each practice or performance session.
2. Different types of guitar finish can react to cleaning and polishing formulations and so you need to be know something about this.
3. If you use a furniture polish that contains silicone, you will get a great shine but any future repairs to dents and scratches will be problematic.

Cleaning

A quick wipe down with a micro cloth or soft cleaning cloth is usually enough to keep a well finished guitar looking good. The strings will also need to be wiped down to remove accumulated dirt, oil and skin cells as these will affect both the tone and the life-span of the strings.

Polishing

It is a good idea to polish your guitar occasionally because the Carnauba wax in the polish will form a thin protective sheen and will usually add to the lustre of the guitar finish. However, take note of the fact that guitars finished with Nitrocellulose can react with some types of polish resulting in a cloudy appearance that is hard to remove. If you are going to use a polish, then ensure that it has been tested on your type of guitar finish. I use Musicnomad Guitar One for polishing and Detailer after practices because my skin is very acidy and my guitar is finished with Nitrocellulose which reacts chemically to acid sweat. Also take note of the fact that if your guitar has a satin (semi-gloss) or matt finish, then regular polishing will eventually change the finish from mat to semi-gloss and from satin to gloss.

The cheapest way to clean and polish your guitar is by using a household spray-on furniture polish. This results in a high gloss effect because of the silicone contained in the product. The drawback is that if you have to repair or refinish the guitar because of dings and scratches and so on, then whoever does the job will have a hard time removing the silicone before he can apply either a lacquer or a varnish finish. The silicone penetrates most finishes and prevents any new application of lacquer or varnish from adhering properly.

Fret board maintenance

There are a number of products on the market for cleaning fret boards. Most, if not all of them contain Lemon Oil, which is really all you need. When you change strings then use a little Lemon Oil on a rag, rub down the spaces between each fret and then dry it off with a clean cloth. This will keep the fretboard clean and sufficiently oiled.

String cleaning

Here again there are products on the market that come in handy applicators but all you really need to do is to wipe the strings down with a damp cloth from time to time. Run the cloth both over and under the strings and then use a clean cloth to repeat the process. The easiest way to do this to use a thin cloth which you slip under the strings and then fold back over them. If you want to make the strings feel more slippery and less squeaky then mix up a 50/50 solution of alcohol and baby oil and use this instead of water.

Machine heads

Use whatever guitar polish you have to shine up the metal. Use Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) applied in small quantities to the gears using an ear-bud to keep the mechanism moving freely.

Nut slots

All you need to do to prevent friction from impeding the movement of strings through the nut slots is a graphite pencil. When you change the strings, rub the tip of the pencil into each nut slot to deposit a thin coating of Graphite.