Introduction to Classical Guitar Technique
When I first got involved with the guitar I was only 7 years old. At that time "playing" and the guitar were very much the same thing.
It was the Sixties, though and you just could not escape Segovia's gigantic figure and all that it stood for in terms of the way you "were supposed to hold the guitar", the way you "were supposed to pluck the strings", the way you "were supposed to file your nails", the way you "were supposed to play a musical phrase". Having been a Segovia student myself, the whole process of finding my way in the guitar world was rendered even more difficult.
We all need models when we are giving our first steps in any walk of life. Having a guitar teacher must be a priority... having a good guitar teacher must be a top priority.
It has taken me many years to realize that the best guitar teachers are those who guide us throughout our own natural, personal and unique way of playing. We must understand that when we try to copy a "guitarist model", all that we can dream of, is to be able to play as well or nearly as well as the model. I've never met any guitarist perfect enough who would say "The guitar must be played the way I play it". So, why do we keep imitating? The reason, once again, is that we have not had the good fortune of running across the sought after good teacher. It is understandable that at the beginning of our journey it is wise to walk in the footsteps of a teacher but it is also true that the teacher must allow us to diverge from the marked path whenever the road ahead requires that we diverge because ultimately, there are enough differences between all of us so as to allow for variations or adaptations to the peculiar needs of each one of us. The differences I refer to are physical, mental and spiritual.
When you look at the hands and the sitting positions of different world class players, you soon realize that there is very little in common among them. Some may adopt an attack (plucking) to the string that is perpendicular with respect to the strings. Another may have it slanted towards the right side and yet another may have it slanted towards the left side. Still, their playing is beautiful. At the same time, we all have our musical taste and preferences. I may love Segovia's playing but yes, I wish he didn't make so much noise with his left hand... or Parkening's but I wish he... or you name it.
I often think that the secret to all of these masters' playing is: do not take the guitar so "seriously"... yet, be a professional in your way of doing it. After all, it is not the Holy Bible we are dealing with. These Masters' voice is not the voice of God but their own. This is the greatest teaching: To find our own voice with the help of a teacher.
I have been living for over 3 decades in a country -Paraguay- where 90 per cent of the guitar players are self taught folk players. I am constantly amazed at seeing how these players find their way around the most bizarre musical phrases. I sometimes think that they represent -without wanting to- a part of ourselves that has been partially lost or neglected. We must come to realize that a big part of our own learning must consist in a discovery, a personal discovery. In these pages you will read about concepts like "creative technique" and "making your own exercises".
Technique is a Creative Process
In the Video above, Maestro Renato Bellucci Introduces Guitar Technique: A Creative Process: "Make your Own Exercise". Maestro Bellucci uses the opening phrase of his transcription of Ennio Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" to carry his point across.
When I think of guitar technique, I think not only of the mechanical way to achieve a given result but to a much broader concept. Remember that our technique is constantly changing or, to use a more modern word, upgrading. If we look at the traditional guitar methods, we will see how each one of them approaches technique in a static, distant, non-musical, self standing way. What is worse is that we do not even know what pieces from the guitar repertoire these exercises best apply to.
As a matter of fact, most of these guitar methods usually have a series of incredibly boring exercises attached to them as if the only way to acquire the given skill were to "swallow" the bitter pill. The times are constantly changing and for a contemporary guitarist to keep up to date with his every day life -which will most surely be shared by a "regular job"- it would be ridiculous to expect that the few hours we can dedicate to playing were dedicated to these ugly-sounding, anti-musical exercises.
If we think music, or the piece we'd love to play, then we are thinking more like 21st Century players. Since there is no method in the world which will cover all the possible technical difficulties, (let alone that we do not want to cover all the technical difficulties but the ones directly involved with the piece we are learning) let us focus on the sought after goal: The one piece we'd love to play. Now and as we are working on the piece, we'll be building our own musicianship and technique. Yes, building our own technique. Abel Carlevaro's "Guitar Masterclass" editions, are based on this concept. All the masterclass I teach mangore.com are based on Carlevaro's technical concepts and learning principles. As you find a technical challenge in a piece you want to learn, you create your own exercise to overcome it.
Remember that there is no such thing as a beginner, advanced or intermediate repertoire but only a "I like it... I don't like it repertoire". I have come to realize that the best motivator to learn a piece is not to focus on how hard or long it is but strive on how much we love the piece and how hard we dream to be able to play it.
I will show you how by teaching and learning many pieces online with you and showing you the process that I have been using for many decades (The Masterclass section of mangore.com takes you through the learning process of well over 65 guitar classics and many original transcriptions that I arranged and fingered for the classical guitar).
The most important thing for a musician must be the quality of his sound. I will never get tired of repeating this because most too often, what seems to be obvious often falls between the cracks and it is amazing how many players neglect this basic and essential aspect of guitar playing and guitar technique in general. Below, I show how to move the finger from the main knuckle in the right hand in order to produce a full, round, bell-like sound. You may consider this the basic guitar sound. It is without a doubt the sound you will be using most of the time and you ought to bild your right hand technique around it. The exact angle at which you will "attack" the strings, will really depend on your own peculiar and unque physical built. The shape and consistency of your fingernails and your body size. Use the video as a guide but remember that your main mission as a guitarist will be to find your base sound.
Below I show the 4 stages that produce the perfect guitar sound. It is often referred to as the attack to the string because it is done swiftly and very subtly. It is necessary to break down video footage in frames like I did below to see what really happens when a good guitar sound is produced.
The 4 stages are:
If you squeeze the tip of the fingers into the strings and then look at the groove that the string leaves behind, youwill see the place where PLANTING happens. Planting could be translated as feeling. What you do is feel the string with the tip of your fingers a fraction of a second before the nail makes contact with the string. If you master the technique of planting, you will be building your right hand technique on the most solid and reliable foundation possible. Guaranteed!
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