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Approaching Classical Guitar


I don't know anything about classical guitar, or classical guitarists. I'm not afraid to admit it. I've owned a classical guitar for years, and play it every day, but playing "Sunshine of Your Love" on a classical guitar, I suspect, does not constitute being a classical guitarist. So, what better way, I figure, to learn about the artform, than to write a feature on it.

First things first - I've noticed that whenever I see classical guitarists play, they rest the guitar on their <i>left</i> leg, whereas most of us, when sitting, rest the guitar on our right. I've also noticed that classical guitarists use a strange sort of stool under their left foot when playing. And the angle of their guitar sort of points upwards. This is just about all I know about classical guitar technique; fortunately, Frank LaMonica knows more. His Total Classical Guitar Method web site explains the correct posture for the aspiring classical guitarist (there are some other great lessons on the site as well.)

Something else I've observed, when looking at classical guitar scores, is all of the funny little numbers and symbols around many of the notes. After a little digging, I found The Green Guitar Beginner's Page, which explains in detail what these little symbols mean, as well as covering some more in depth topics.

Fingernails are impotant to classical guitarists. You can tell, just by listening to a classical guitarist play, that they use the nail, as well as the "meat" of the fingertip to pluck the strings of their guitar. This creates a wonderful depth to their tone; a soft warmth created by the fingertip, combined with the slightly more piercing sound created by the nail. If you want to convincingly play classical guitar music, you'll have to grow your nails at least somewhat in your right hand. The Classical Guitar FAQ contains some informative details on fingernail grooming and care.

Now, on to the good stuff; the music. Fortunately for us, a lot of classical guitar music was written a long time ago, and has become "public domain", which means it is not copyrighted. This, in turn, means that it can be published on the web, without danger of lawsuits. The Classical Guitar Music on the Web site has compiled a list of dozens of web resources for downloading classical guitar scores. Many of the sites allow you to hear the score via midi, as well as read and print the free sheet music.

Generally, in order to play a style of music well, one must learn the history of the music, and listen to the innovators of the genre. On the excellent Classical Guitar History web site is a well laid-out document on the guitar as it pertains to classical music. The site includes the important classical guitarists and composers of guitar music.

I feel I can safely say I know a bit more now about classical guitar than I did before I started writing this week's feature, and I hope you all do too. Now, if I can only find a bit more time to practice it...

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