Classical

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It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars. Care to join me?

Classical

So do I mean “classical” in terms of music, or “classical” in terms of the type of guitar?  I suppose the answer to that is “yes.”

The classical guitar is typically a little bit smaller than what normally comes to mind when someone mentions “acoustic guitar.”  Typically, there is no need for a pick guard beneath the sound hole, as a classical guitar is normally played only with the fingers. The neck and fret board – the long, thin part of the guitar – is wider than that of a typical acoustic guitar. Why?  Physics, mostly.

The nylon strings of a classical guitar are under varying amounts of tension, which tends to twist and bow the neck, and that makes for bad music. A wider, more solid construction helps to counter that tendency to warp.  Some contemporary classical guitar luthiers will use graphite as a way to stabilize the guitar neck, but the construction materials as well as the neck design are more than adequate to compensate for the torque.

There are other reasons for the wide neck: Technique and volume.

The classical guitar was not intended to be a rhythm instrument. It was a solo instrument, and, as such, it needed to be able to cut through the musical texture of a chamber orchestra or other ensemble.  Classical playing technique developed to facilitate that need by allowing a more aggressive attack on the strings.  That meant the strings had to sit a little higher off the neck (what they call the “action” of the guitar) to keep the strings from bumping into each other. The higher action also allowed for more volume, since the strings have more room to vibrate, and, consequently, more energy.

Classical guitar is among my favourite instrumental music. From the “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Rodrigo, to the “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega, to the Brazilian influences of Heitor Villa-Lobos and from players like Sharon Isbin to John Williams, and the more contemporary stylings of the LA Guitar Quartet, both the instrument and the music composed for it continue to enthrall me at every turn.

Check these out. I think you’ll enjoy them.

Sharon Isbin (Vivaldi Concerto)
John Williams (Asturias)
LA Guitar Quartet
Andres Segovia (Tremolinos)

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