Subject:  Classical Guitar FAQ
    Date:  13 Dec 1997
    From:  Joshua Weage 
Newsgroups:, rec.answers, news.answers

Archive-Name: music/classical/guitar/faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly Frequently Asked Questions

RMCG-FAQ Edition 5    7th November 1994

Edited by Joshua Weage (
Major contributions and many thanks go to Chris Goodwin
who was the prior maintainer of this FAQ. Stuart LeBlanc
who has contributed much to the playing technique section
of the FAQ.  Len Frazier who has in fact written about half
of this FAQ. Brian Egras compiled the list of music,
composers and personalities in the classical guitar world.
Other peoples contributions have come directly from the
news group letters.

To find the answer to a listed question, search forward with the
search parameter 'A*.*' where *.* refers to the number of the

A cross by a question number indicates that there is no answer for it.
If you feel you could write a good answer, please do and send it to me and
I'll add it. If you would like to add a question, tell me about it. It
won't appear if you don't tell me about it.
Any spelling mistakes, errors, and out-right fallacies you notice should be
brought to my attention please!  Anyone who would like to help compile
a more complete FAQ is welcome to, and if you have any comments
please tell me. The answers given are not written in granite, and if you
feel you can write a better answer, please do so and send it to me.

Here goes...

Section 1 - Beginners Corner

1.1   What distinguishes a classical guitar, and a classical guitarist?
1.2   I want to start playing and need a guitar. Which sort (Quick guide
        to buying a guitar)?
1.3   How do I start to learn (teacher or book)?
1.4   How do I find a teacher?
1.5   What are the good books?
1.6   Should I learn tab or 'proper' music notation?
1.7   What is a good sample of classical guitar music that someone who doesn't
        know much about it should listen to?
1.8   Where can I get sheet music, strings and other accessories?
1.9x  I'm new to classical guitar - what pieces can I play?
1.10  How do I tune my guitar?
1.11  Where can I find classical guitar music (TAB and notation) on the net?
1.12x What is the difference between an A-frame and a footstool?
1.13x Who is a good teacher in my area?

Section 2 - Strings and other problems

2.1  What are the best strings for me?
2.2  How do I take care of my nails?
2.3  How do I prevent my nails from breaking?
2.4  How do I repair my nails?
2.5  How can I quickly memorize a piece?
2.6  How much should I practice (Also: My fingers hurt!)?
2.7  How do I avoid RSI, carpel tunnel syndrome, etc?
2.8  You know that piece in the advert for ... , what is it?
2.9  I'm taking my guitar on an aeroplane, to the antartic, then to the
         Saraha desert, and then to the moon. How do I protect it?
2.10 Who are the composers and performers for the classical guitar?
2.11 What are the differences between classical guitar and flamenco guitar?
2.12 Can anyone recommend some flamenco music to listen to?
2.13 How do I learn to sight read?


    A1.1 What distinguishes a classical guitar and a classical guitarist?

A classical guitar has some specific features in its anatomy. It has six strings with the treble strings made of nylon and the bass strings made from nylon wrapped in brass wire. The body is symmetrical ie. no cut-outs at the higher frets and is made of wood. There are no electronics involved, so no pickups - volume comes from simple resonance in the guitar body. A classical guitarist is more than someone who simply plays a classical repetoire. The way the guitar is played is also important. Essentially, a classical guitarist plays by plucking the strings with his right hand fingers and thumb - strumming is a special effect, and no pick is ever used. There are other strong recommendations on the general posture of the entire body and guitar for classical guitarists that distinguish them from other guitarists.

    A1.2 I want to start playing the guitar and to buy one. Which guitar

should I buy? (A quick guide to buying a guitar)? If you are a complete beginner then I don't suggest you go out and buy a guitar worth hundreds or thousands, but I guess you don't need telling. On the other hand, some cheap guitars are really awful - so here is how to try and tell the difference between a bargain and a bad banjo. The price of a guitar is largely determined by the woods used in its construction - cheap guitar bodies are made from plywood or laminates. As the price increases woods such as rosewoods, cedar and spruce will be encountered. These latter woods will also age well, with the sound of the guitar improving with time, unlilke the cheaper variety which are at their best when new. As a beginner, there is little harm in buying a plywood guitar - as long as it fits some other criterion... In general, the guitar should be solid with no loose bits inside - giving the guitar a small shake will determine this. The guitar's neck should be straight. This can be checked by sighting along its length. Good fret work can also be checked at this time by running your fingers along the edge of each side of the neck. Each fret position will need checking to make sure that there is no buzzing of strings on poor frets. Do this simply by playing a note at every single fret position on the board, ensuring you place a your finger close behind each fret when you do so. The action of a guitar (the height of the strings above the fret board) is down to personal choice, but it is recommended that you pick a guitar with low action (strings near the fingerboard) as this will make fretting easier. Do not buy a steel string guitar and replace the strings with nylon ones. There are two main reasons for this. Classical guitars are less rigid than steel strung ones, allowing the strings to vibrate the wood more, producing better sound quality. Secondly, steel string guitars tend to have necks which vary in width. A classical guitar should be 2-1/8" across over its entire length - you'll need the width to correctly finger both the left and right hands. Japanese makes, such as Yamaha, Takamine and Rodriguez are cheap and quite cheerful, usually being perfectly adequate for beginners. It is only after some months/years practice that you may want to spend the money on an instrument where the tone is something very important to you. One overall guideline is this: take someone who is experienced in guitars with you. For example, a tutor (if you have one) or a friend who has been playing classical guitar for several years. Tutors may also be able to show you the good shops, good bargains, or offer you guitars from other students of theirs who are progressing onto a finer instrument. Cost: cheap and cheerful: 50-180 pounds sterling. expensive: 350 - thousands pounds sterling.

    A1.3 How do I start to learn (teacher or book)?

Undoubtedly it is better to have a teacher. A good teacher will be able to guide you correctly through the technical points of posture, hand position, etc. far better than photos or illustrations in texts. It is possible to learn through books, but it will take longer and you may develop poor habits that limit your abilities and are hard to break after months of playing. Of course, the down point about a teacher is that they cost about 17-20 pounds an hour ($15-$25 US) A very useful approach is to find a teacher that offers group classes with 4-6 students. The cost per lesson is usually much lower, and you'll learn both by direct instruction and observing your classmates approach problems. You can later schedule additional group or private classes as you desire. In addition, your teacher will be invaluable in terms of advice on beginner instruments, sources for music, strings, and other beginners in your area with whom you might practice. My advice is to get a teacher if you can, but if you can't, work closely with good, reliable texts.

    A1.4 Where can I find a teacher?

Look in your local papers, and also ask at your local library where they could well have a list of music tutors. In the UK, the monthly magazine "Classical Guitar" maintains a list of teachers who subscribe. Also, local music shops often have a list of teachers who offer either group or private lessons. A good source of information about teachers is your local guitar society, or any college level institution with a music program. In the U.S., you can also contact teachers through the Guitar Foundation of America. When you contact a prospective teacher, do not hesitate to ask about: o Qualifications. Is the teacher an active performer? Does he or she have a degree? Does he or she have a great deal of teaching experience, in years and numbers of students? Are his or her students satisfied with their lessons? Is their work primarily in classical guitar, or jazz/rock/whatever? Although these questions do not necessarily indicate a good or bad teacher, this is important information to use in your final decision. o Approach to study. Does the teacher emphasize the importance of information and the structured introduction and application of it? The teacher should be able to clearly articulate what you will learn from them. Students who really want to become better players quickly identify teachers who seem to spend most of the lesson providing vacuous entertainments, or who do nothing but point out wrong notes and assign new repertoire, or who offer little advice other than to "practice harder." Be particularly wary of those who do not take immediate and specific measures in response to any painful condition which may arise. In general, find a teacher whose competency you believe you can basically trust, and give them your best effort. As your studies progress, judge whether you are learning anything -- you're entitled to receive your money's worth.

    A1.5 What are the "good" books?

If you take classes from a teacher, you'll want to follow his/her recommendations for study guides, methods, etc. If you decide to study on your own, either as an added aspect to class instruction or for your primary learning, the following books have received good reports: "Solo Guitar Playing" two volumes, by Frederick Noad. Cost: 10 pounds ($16.95 US) per volume. This book will teach you good posture, teach you to sight read sheet music and includes about 30 pieces which have study notes (which I've found very useful). It will take you around two years to go through the first volume - it took me 2.5 years - making it extremely good value for money. It requires patience to begin with - learning to read the music part and getting acquainted with the basics takes time, but is necessary and worth it. Once this is past however, the pieces start coming thick and fast and many are extremely pleasant to play. "The John Mills Classical Guitar Tutor", John Mills. Cost: 10 pounds ($14.95 US). Mills' takes a different tack on teaching, at once less technical than the Noad method but also offering more in-depth discussion and guidance. Where Noad teaches notes in sequential order and arranges exercises to fit, Mills approaches the taks more by teaching key and offering music in the key last learned. Mills maintains a more informal tone through his book, and often discusses points of technique more fully. For the beginner, Mills offers an excellent page of advice on selecting a first instrument - the closest you'll come to having a friend with you in the shop. Both the Noad and Mills method books offer cassette tapes of the pieces included, as well as supplementary books of music, ie. Noad's, "100 Graded Classical Guitar Studies" and Mills' "Music from the Student Repertoire." "Learning the Classic Guitar," A. Shearer, three volumes: ($12.95-$18.95 US per volume). This method is most effective under the guidance of a teacher, who presumably has mastered the technical concepts contained in Volume 1; in this situation you will only need Volume 2 and a notebook. For self-study however, these books are still unsurpassed in their presentation of a comprehensive, accurate and organized body of information on all aspects of playing: technique, reading, interpretation, memorization and performance development. Technical concepts are introduced in a measured and coherent fashion, each one is applied in exercises and compositions specifically created for each point of progress. Additionally, the music is composed (by Alan Hirsh) in a clear and attractive neoclassical/neoromantic style which is ideally suited to developing the student's basic interpretive skills. Properly implemented, this method offers an integrated study of technique, music reading and music interpretation, which students consistently find fascinating from the first few lessons onward. -- Stuart LeBlanc ( There are many other tutors available, from modern works (the Parkening method books) to reprints of older works (Carcassi's "Classical Guitar Method.") And, of course, you need not limit yourself to a single method. You will find good advice in having both the Noad and Mills methods available, for example, especially if you are attempting to teach yourself. 1.6 Should I learn tab or 'proper' music notation? "Proper" music notation as we know it today is the result of several thousand years' attempts to place music on paper. "Tab" or tablature, while still used in historic reprints of music for the lute, etc. does not offer the best set of tools for conveying music. The great majority of music offered the classical guitarist is provided in formal music notation, ie. notes on staves. Any of the above mentioned tutors provides for learning the musical notes and staff along with the placement of those notes on the neck of the instrument. If your goal is to play anything beyond the simplest of folk songs, you will need to learn "proper" musical notation. In addition to the above tutors, there are several guitar note "spellers" available, workbooks to assist you in learning to read music and each note's place on the guitar. (Note: Classical guitar music is written on only the treble, or upper staff, and is pitched an octave off the written notation.)

    A 1.7 What a good sample of classical guitar CD's that someone who doesn't know much about them could listen to?

Some good selections are (in no particular order): Manuel Barrueco plays Albeniz & Turina (EMI cdc 7 54382 2) includes: Albeniz: Suite Espanola, op.47 Turina: Fandanguillo, op.36 Sevilla (Fantasia), op.29 Rafaga, op.53 Homenaje a Tarrega, op.69 Sonata, op.61 Manuel Barrueco plays '300 Years of Guitar Masterpieces (Vox Box CD3X 3007) includes: (1) Bach: Suite No. 4 in E Major Bach: Suite No. 2 in A Minor Albeniz: First Suite Espanola, op. 47 (2) Scarlatti: Sonatas Cimarosa: Sonatas Paganini: Sonata in A Major, op.3 no. 1 Giuliani: Variations sur les Folies d'Espagne, op. 45 Paganini: Sonata in E Minor, Op. 3 no. 6 Giuliani: Gran Sonata Eroica in A Major, Op. 150 Granados: Spanish Dances (3) Granados: Spanish Dances (continued) Villa-Lobos: Etudes for Guitar Guarnieri: Estudo No. 1 Chavez: 3 pieces for Guitar Villa-Lobos: Suite populaire bresilienne Andres Segovia plays 'The Segovia Collection Volume 7: Guitar Etudes' includes: Aguado: Eight Lessons for Guitar (1-8) Sor: Studies for the Guitar (10, 15, 19, 6, 3, 17, 5, 4) Segovia: Study Giuliani: Studies for the Guitar Coste: Studies Sor: Studies Tarrega: Study in the form of a Minuet John Williams (Sony SBK 48 168) includes: Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez Rodrigo: Fantasia para un gentilhombre Giuliani: Concerto in A major, op.30 Vivaldi: Concerto in D major, RV 93 John Williams "Spirit of the Guitar- music of the Americas" (CBS MK 44898) includes works by: Andrew York Augustin Barrios Mangore Astor Piazzolla Manuel Ponce Antonio Lauro Leo Brower Charlie Byrd Heitor Villa-Lobos Julio Sagreras Gomez Crespo Guitar Player presents Legends of the Guitar, Classical [Rhino R2 70563] 1) Sonata, K.336- Domenico Scarlatti, David Tanenbaum (gtr.) 2) Allegro (from English Suite No.3)- J.S. Bach, Ida Presti & Alexandre Lagoya (gtrs.) 3) Variations on the Russian Folk Song "Spinning Wheel"- Mikail Visotsky, Alexander Ivanov-Kramskoy (gtr.) 4) Introduction and Variations on a Theme of Mozart, op.9- Fernando Sor, Nigel North (gtr.) 5) Cappriccio No.5- Nicolo Paganini, Eliot Fisk (gtr.) 6) Danzas Espanolas, op.37 no.2 "Oriental", Pepe & Celin Romero (gtrs.) 7) Homenaje a Debussy- Manuel de Falla, Jose Rey de la Torre (gtr.) 8) Sueno en la Floresta- Agustin Barrios Mangore, John Williams (gtr.) 9) Etude no.7- Heitor Villa-Lobos, Eduardo Fernandez (gtr.) 10) Fandanguillo- Joaquin Turina, Andres Segovia (gtr.) 11) Cochichando- Alfredo Vianna (Pixinguinha), Sharon Isbin (gtr.) 12) El Polifemo de Oro- Reginald Smith-Brindle, Julian Bream (gtr.) 13) Brazilliance- Laurindo Almeida, The Falla Trio (gtrs.) 14) Micro Piezas- Leo Brouwer, Sergio & Adair Assad (gtrs.) 15) Gigue- Anthony Newman, Benjamin Verdery (gtr.) 16) Chase- Michael Starobin, David Starobin (gtr.) 17) Sunburst- Andrew York, Andrew York (gtr.) "Guitar and Flute Duets" by Peter Draper. Amsco Publications. Some cool stuff. Bach, Mozart etc.

    A 1.8 Where can I find music, strings, and other accessories for classical guitar?

To varying degrees, all music shops will be able to help a guitarist in need of equipment or music. However, there are specialized retailers, the major ones being Guitar Solo (California,USA), Orphee (Ohio,USA), Spanish Guitar Centre (Nottingham, UK) and Musician's friend (OR,USA). Guitar Solo 1411 Clement Street San Francisco, CA 94118, USA. Phone: Voice: 415/896-1144; FAX, 415/668-2816. Offers a frequently updated catalogue of thousands of pieces of guitar music (methods, study guides, books, solo, duet, ensemble, etc.) as well as cassettes and CDs featuring guitar, and a wide selection of strings and accessories. The current catalogue (15th edition, February 1994) is available at $4.00 US, $12.00 all other countries (payable in US dollars only, so credit cards may be easiest here). Hint: While Guitar Solo obviously tries to keep a large stock, they are often out of stock on titles or some supplies. If you elect to have them Back Order out-of-stock items, you'll pay shipping on each item as it is shipped. At times you may pay more in shipping charges than the item's actual cost. It may be best to ask for No Back Orders and simply order the items again at a later date. Editions Orph'ee, Inc. 407 North Grant Ave., Suite 400 Columbus, OH, 43215-2157 Phone: 614-224-4304 fax: 614-224-1009 Orph'ee provide a catalogue which is given out free on request, although does not attempt to provide the entire guitar repetoire like Guitar Solo. They also have a database of composers and performers available. These two items can be obtained either direct from Orph'ee or through other good retailers. They also stock a good range of equipment and accessories. Spanish Guitar Centre, 44 Nottingham Road, New Basford, Nottingham, NG7 7AE Tel.: 0115 9622709 (or from the US, 011-44-(0)115-9622709) Fax.: 0115 9625368 ( " 011-44-(0)115-9625368) The Spanish Guitar Centre has possibly the most comprehensive catalogue of all. They will do mail order, even to the US at competitive prices. That's all I know... Musician's Friend, PO Box 4520, Medford, OR 97501, USA. Phone: Voice: 503/772-5173. Primarily dedicated to electronic musicians (electric guitars, keyboards, amplifiers, effects), Musician's Friend offers excellent prices and good service on several items of interest to the classical guitarist. Their price on strings is one of the lowest available (D'Addario Pro Arte at $4.99 per set) and they have equally good pricing on tuners, music stands, etc. Six month subscriptions to catalogues are free. International orders are welcomed.

    A 1.10 How do I tune my guitar?

6th (fattest string) = E, 5th=A, 4th=D, 3rd=G, 2nd=B, 1st=E. (1st string is E above middle C.) There are several ways of doing this but all can be put into two classes. The first is to tune a single string and then tune all the other strings relative to this one, or otherwise to tune each string to another instrument. It is important to remember that guitar scoring is written an octave higher than it actually sounds. Middle C is at 256Hz. The 1st fret on the 2nd string also this frequency. This makes 5th fret 1st string (A) 440Hz, and the open 5th string 110Hz. Many guitarists now rely upon widely available electronic tuners. In my humble opinion I think it is important to learn to tune a guitar without the aid of electronics - one day you be caught with your battery flat. However, I started with such a tuner, but to my delight found that I developed a sense of pitch that enabled me to tune my guitar adequately and easily. But back to the electronics... Many of these incorporate a small microphone for tuning acoustic instruments, with excellent models available from Korg, Seiko, Sabine, Matrix, etc. Models for guitar usually include auto note selection, so the guitarist only strikes each string and either a meter or range of LEDs lights to show how far from tune the string is, flat or sharp, etc. A reliable example is the Korg GT-3, ($29.98 from Musician's Friend. see: Sources). Chromatic tuners, which offer all notes (guitar specific tuners provide for the six strings only) are also available, handy for those who explore alternate tunings or pieces that require a specific string be tuned down a step, etc.), such as the Matrix Automatic Chromatic Tuner ($54.95, Guitar Solo). Instead of electronics, you can use pitch pipes. These are cheap and provide a reference for each string. Just blow into the right pipe and tune the string until they are in tune (you know when your reaching the right pitch because you'll hear a kind of wavering, or beating, or the note. When you fine tune the string so that the beating goes away - your exactly in tune!) Instead of pipes, you can use another instrument, such as a piano or another guitar. If you plan to play with someone else, this is often the best way as long as the first instrument is known to be tuned correctly. OR, the other class, is to get a single reference point and tune your guitar from that. Ideal for this is an A=440Hz tuning fork. Tune the 5th string to this by striking the fork on a hard object like your knee and placing it on the sound board of your guitar to amplify it. Once the 5th string is in tune by this method, or in fact any other, follow these instructions: Tune the 6th string by fretting it at the 5th fret and comparing it with the open 5th string. Tune the 4th string 7th fret with either the open 5th or 5th string 12th fret harmonic. tune the 3rd string 2nd fret in the same way. tune the 2nd string 10th fret in the same way. tune the 1st string 5th fret in the same way. What you shouldn't do is tune the guitar by comparing the open string with the adjacent and lower pitched string fretted at the 5th position all the way through the strings (except of course for the 3rd and 2nd strings). This is because any errors you make in the tuning will be compounded by this method. The above described method elliminates this. Also, do not tune your guitar by comparing the 5th and 7th fret harmonics of adjacent strings. The reason for this is that your classical guitar is designed and built as a tempered instrument ie. it follows the tempered tuning, rather than the diatonic tuning. To use the 5th and 7th harmonics to tune your guitar will mean, strictly speaking, that your guitar will be out of tune.

    A 1.11 Where can I find classical guitar music (TAB and notation) on the net?

FTP Sites: For all of these ftp sites use the user name 'anonymous' and your e-mail address as the password. /user/pcc/PCMUSIC - contains music for PS printers /user/pcc/MACMUSIC - postscript files for the MAC "/GUITAR - concert studies and minuets /pub/guitar Web Sites: classical guitar home page: classical guitar faqs -- Personal Sites -- (music instruction software) -- Stores -- BPM Music Express

    A 2.1 What are the best strings for me?

There are at least a dozen primary string companies producing product for the classical guitar, and each company offers a selection of finish and tension. Where does one start to sort out the lot? While classical guitars were once fitted with gut (usually swine) strings, the introduction by Augustine of nylon strings in the 1940s has allowed for much more reliability in strings. All companies offer good quality control at all ranges. Nylon strings do not, usually, have a long life once installed on the guitar, so price will likely be a prime consideration. The beginner, while learning, might change strings every few months, while professional players might use a new set every day. Over time you'll begin to hear when strings go "dead" and need replacement. Among the more popular brands at present are Augustine, D'Addario, GHS, Chorus, Martin, Savarez, Hannabach and private label strings offered by Guitar Solo and other music shops. Many brands offer several "levels" of quality and type, as well as two or three tensions, ie. normal, hard, extra hard. Prices can vary from $5.00 US to $25.00 US (3 pounds to 9 pounds UK) for a full set of six strings. Your selection of string will be greatly influenced by how each feels and sounds on your guitar. A normal tension Augustine, for example, placed on a guitar with low "action" (less distance between the string and frets) may produce a lot of buzz and noise, while a normal tension GHS string (by GHS measure) offers a higher tension that reduces the noise. (Alternately, you may decide to use lower tension strings and have the nut and bridge of your guitar altered to a higher action, or to use higher tension strings and have the action lowered. Consult a good guitar technician/repair shop.) A suggested start for quality strings for the beginner would include D'Addario's "Pro Arte" series offered in Normal, Hard, and Extra Hard tensions, which have won wide acceptance among many classical guitarists. Souces for strings include local shops, though discounts are often meager for something you'll replace so often. In the US, Musician's Friend offers D'Addario (Pro Arte Normal and Hard Tension, $4.99) and Augustine strings at low prices. Guitar Solo offers a much wider range of strings, including single strings, at attractive, though somewhat higher, prices. (See: Sources for Music, Strings, etc. in this FAQ section).

    A 2.2 How do I take care of my nails?

Nail Maintenance ---------------- The length, shape and surface of your fingernails have a direct effect on your playing: how you care for your nails will affect your music as much as how you practice. A short, well-shaped, smooth-edged nail will facilitate fingerstroke and produce a clear tone; a neglected nail will interfere with right hand efficiency and will sound raspy. Differences between individual nails will disrupt right hand technique even further, particularly in alternation and arpeggios. For the developing student, this can cause a great deal of wasted practice and frustration. Finally, regular and proper care of your nails is the single, foremost way to prevent them from breaking and requiring repair. Although everyone has differences in the curvature, thickness, resiliency, texture and other qualities of their nails, observing the following can significantly improve your playing. You'll need a diamond file and 500 grade sandpaper (preferably open coat, not waterproof; a multigrade cosmetic nail buffer can also substitute for sandpaper): filing: Hold the file pointing toward your face (looking down its length), with the finer surface facing upward. Holding your finger at a ninety degree angle (perpendicular) to the file, place the nail on the surface. The vector of your finger should be around forty-five degrees to the plane of the file, so that the nail is being filed somewhat from beneath. File the nail by evenly drawing the file back and forth with the left hand, exerting even pressure and guiding it in place with the right thumb. length: Hold your hand with the palm facing you, fingers extended with the tips pointing upward. You should see the tips of the nails just peeking past the fingertips (1 to 2 mm past the fingertip is plenty). Excessive length causes the nail to drag along the string, causing wasted effort and disrupting the timing of alternation and arpeggios. Uneven lengths are also disruptive; make sure no nail is significantly longer or shorter than the others. Note that excessive length is common among players with little or no training; the extra length requires less precise nail placement during fingerstroke and can thus make playing seem easier. If you are significantly shortening your nails, you may initially find your fingerstroke is less accurate. If so, spend some time concentrating on placing on the exact same spot of the nail for every fingerstroke. shape: Hold your fingers pointing toward you, so you see only the edge of each nail; each edge will form a more straight or a more curved line. Now look at the entire nail, from above. If filed perpendicularly and from beneath, the straight- edged nails should have a more square shape, and the curve- edged nails should have a more elliptical shape. If the edge of the nail is straight but the shape is not very distinctly square, you've probably been filing the nail from its side and the nail will have to grow out a bit to develop more body on the corner. If the corners of the square shapes are sharply pointed, use the file to round them (but don't alter the basic shape). surface: After the nail is filed, its edge must be finely polished. Take a small portion of 500 grade open coat sandpaper and rub, with a back and forth motion, the same spot of sandpaper on the edge of the nail, particularly concentrating on the left side of the nail. The surface of the sandpaper will wear down as you rub, creating an increasingly smoother polishing surface. Keep rubbing until the edge is as smooth as a glass surface. After you're finished, visually inspect each nail for consistency in length and shape. Use the thumbnail edge to feel each fingernail edge for flaws in smoothness and shape. If your nails are properly shaped with the edges finely polished, there should be a distinct increase in ease of execution, and also in tone quality. --- Stuart LeBlanc

    A 2.3 How can I prevent my nails from breaking?

One policy that may help is to rub skincream or nail cream into the cuticles of the nail, twice a day. This will strengthen the nails in a general way and make them more resistant to damage. The following tips have also been successful for at least the author: 1. Avoid getting your nails wet. Use rubber gloves when you have to wash dishes, the car, etc. 2. Get into the habit of using your left hand for things such as opening doors/drawers, flicking switches, anything where you might catch the nails on something. 3. Let your left thumbnail grow a little long so you can use it for prying instead of the right one. 4. Keep the nail edge very smooth with a file and ultra fine sand paper (around 600 grit). This will prevent little snags which can catch on things and maybe rip off the nail tip. 5. Apply two or three layers of clear nail polish. Put polish on the overhanging underside of the nail too. 6. Don't let the nails get too long. They can hamper your playing and they may break easier.

    A 2.4 Can I repair a partially broken nail?

Yes, but it isn't altogether a good idea or stunningly easy. Prevention is better than cure (cf. A2.2). However, for some people, such as performers, a damaged or split nail must be repaired. Get some superglue and use this to put the nail back together and in place. Do I need to say be careful? Why not. BE CAREFUL. Alternatively, or in addition, buy a little pack which is designed for this purpose - I believe they sell them in pharmacies. They consist of little bits of tissue paper strengthened by fibers and a bottle of nail varnish. Follow the instructions on the box, but basically its a case of pre-wet the tissue with nail varnish, place it on the wounded nail and then apply several more coats of nail varnish. Leave to dry.

    A 2.5 How can I quickly memorize a piece?

There are many approaches to take, and it's probably a good idea to use as many of them as possible. First, try to learn what the large scale structure of the piece is. Is it binary? Ternary? Rondo? That way you are basically beginning by cutting it up into more manageable chunks. Second, look for phrasing and other types of musical structures. Try to learn it by ear (can you sing the piece all the way through without the music or the guitar?). This is easier for people who are more "aurally" orientated (like me). If you are more "visual" try to memorize the page to as great an extent as you can. The harp prof here gave a lecture about memory & learning techniques, and said that visual memory really was more stimulated by looking up (and to the left, I think) so if you can, try placing your music stand VERY high (for practice & learning) such that you are looking UP at the music. I knew many guitarists in Spain who memorized the solfege syllables - they could sing their pieces from start to finish (mi re mi fa mi re mi...) Try to memorize the piece starting at the back (This is a tip from David Russell) - we always go from front to back, often bogging down, so usually, the farther into a piece we go, the less familiar & comfortable it is. If you learn the LAST measure, then the next to last measure, etc. you are setting up a situation where the farther you go, the MORE familiar and comfortable things are. This also brings up the issue of learning single measures (apart from whatever musical context they might have). Jose Tomas used this technique as a way for his students to learn 30 minutes of *new* repertoire in 1 month: at the beginning, make a learning plan, in which you assing yourself X measures to learn each day, making sure that every day you learn some of every piece (instead of working on piece A, then later starting on piece B, etc.). Learning very short chunks helps you program your physical movements much better. This brings up the even more excruciating techniques suggested by Manuel Barrueco. Make sure you know your right and left hand fingerings so thoroughly that you can do either separately. For example, play the piece with the right hand only (i.e. all open strings, but using the *EXACT* right hand fingerings). Then, try playing the left hand alone. This is a bit harder, because it doesn't really necessarily function as well without the precision of the right hand. Barrueco's solution is to mis-tune the guitar to some random tuning (i.e. 6th to F, 5th to Ab, 3rd to G#, 1st to D#)...then play your piece, concentrating on plainingg the fingering perfectly. This is an excruciatingly difficult thing to do if you are primarily an "aural" type (I am) - but it's good, the totally "wrong-sounding" nature of this forces you to fight to not be distracted and concentrate on playing the fingering right. Do this *very* slowly to practice the fingering without relying on your

    A 2.6 How much should I practice (Also: My fingers hurt!)?

Practice as much as you can, but make sure that when you practice you practice properly, and don't just play around. Playing around is fun, but you will make much faster progress and have more fun in the end if you learn to distinguish it from serious practice (which is not really fun). A couple of other quick points: Don't over do the practise so that when you say to yourself 'Right, time to go and practise' you don't give an inner-groan and the prospect of more dull playing time. Don't do so much you get bored with it. You practise so you can play and have fun and enjoy it. Also, if either of your hands or fingers do begin to hurt - rest. Little to no benefit is gained by playing whilst in pain. You can build stamina by playing after resting!

    A 2.7 How do I avoid RSI, carpel tunnel syndrome, etc?

This is a letter that was put to the group once. NOTE: We are not doctors. ================================================== I have a pretty trashed right hand. I broke my wrist twice, and I have a classic boxing fracture (little finger meta-tarsle) that points my little finger knuckle down by ten degrees. When I got into Etude #1 by Villa Lobos, I started getting a burn in the tendon for my _a_ finger, on the back of my hand. By trial and error, I found a few things out. I was squeezing my guitar too hard with my right fore-arm. That was constricting the tendons in there. I had to adjust my posture to let the guitar stay in my lap without clenching it so hars. This was especially tough for barre chords, but I am learning to relax more every day. I like to use the tip of my thumb, rather than the side of it, to pluck. This causes me to elevate my wrist, and consequently bend it. I have always tried to keep the line of fore-arm to wrist straight on one axis (i.e. I avoid the "Segovia" bend that puts the fingers at right angles to the strings), but this is on another axis. I found that straightening the wrist on all axes really helps me. I do this by using the side of my thumb. I don't get it COMPLETELY flat, but it is very close. An added benefit is that the base knuckles for my i m a fingers are raised, so I can get more of my stroke from the base for those fingers. I understand this is preferred. All this, and the burning in the back of my hand has diminished significantly. No doctors, no steroids, and no knife. Mind you, I am more of a hobby player, averaging 14 hours a week (two hours a day) or less. I hope this helps... Chris Despopoulos ========================================================== If Chris Despopoulos minds this letter being in, please write to me.

    A 2.8 You know that piece in the the advert for ... , what is it?

Lexus ad - Asturias (aka Leyenda), from the Suite Espanola by Isaac Albeniz, performed by Manuel Barrueco. The CD is listed in section A1.7.

    A 2.9 I'm taking my guitar on an aeroplane, to the antartic, then to the Saraha desert, and then to the moon. How do I protect it?

Basically, get a hard case. A soft case will not adequately protect your guitar. Hard cases cost as much as a cheap guitar, but when the guitar is worth hundreds or maybe even thousands, its well worth it. Insurance may get you your money back, but some musical instruments are priceless. On airways, and perhaps in general, guitars are safe in the hold inside their hardcases if they have 'fragile' stickers clearly placed on them. According to many posts lately, most guitars can be carried on and put in the overhead compartments. If your going to a hot and humid place then it is a good idea to put a home-made dehumidifier in the case along with your guitar. This is made by getting a sponge and placing it in a plastic bag which has holes cut into it. Apparently, it works in Sunny South Africa :-)

    A 2.10 Who are the composers and performers for the classical guitar?

Here is a list of classical guitar performers and significant composers. I don't think the list is bad, but is not complete. It can't be. However, Orphee supply a data-base available from Orphee, Guitar Solo, Nottingham Spanish Guitar Centre, or any reputable music shop, which include 5,100 composers and 2,500 recording artists. Listed here, hopefully, are some of the most prominent and popular. The performer list includes only those performers who have recordings readily available. No sense was seen in including such outstanding performers as Tarrega of Giulliani. The composer list includes some who did not write specifically for the guitar but are none-the-less crucial to the guitar repertoire (e.g. Albeniz) Please make a note that the periods have no exact beginnings or endings. There is definite overlap. The composers are listed more by style rather than strictly by period. I'm sure people will disagree. That's fine. CLASSICAL GUITAR PERFORMERS: Individuals: Odair Assad Segio Assad Carlos Barbosa-Lima Manuel Barrueco Dusan Bogdanovic Liona Boyd David Brandon Julian Bream Eduardo Fernandez Eliot Fisk Nicola Hall Sharon Isbin William Kanengiser Alexandre Lagoya Christopher Parkening Ida Presti Jose Rey de la Torre Manuel Lopez Ramos Angel Romero Celedonio Romero Celin Romero Pepe Romero David Russel Andres Segovia David Starobin David Tanenbaum John Williams Narcisco Yepes Andrew York Ensembles: Andriaccio & Castellani The Amsterdam Guitar Trio The Buffalo Quartet The Falla Trio Hill & Wiltchinsky The L.A. Guitar Quartet The Omega Quartet Pearl & Gray il Trio Italiano COMPOSERS: KEY: REN = Renaisance BAR = Baroque CLA = Classical ROM = Romantic MOD = Modern CON = Contemperary Dioniso Aguado [CLA/ROM] Isaac Albeniz (never wrote for guitar but is heavily transcribed & played)[ROM] J.S. Bach (wrote Lute Suites transcribed for guitar;many other transcriptions)[BAR] Jan Bobrowicz [ROM] Reginald Smith Brindle [MOD] Leo Brouwer [MOD] Mateo Carcassi [CLA/ROM] Ferdinando Carulli [CLA/ROM] Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco [MOD] Napolean Coste [ROM] Anton Diabelli [CLA/ROM] John Dowland (wrote for the Lute) [REN] John Duarte [MOD] Manuel de Falla (wrote one work for guitar. Many other transcribed & played)[ROM/MOD] Jose Ferrer [ROM] Mauro Giuliani [CLA/ROM] Enrique Granados (never wrote for guitar but is heavily transcribed & played)[ROM] Antonio Lauro [ROM] Luigi Legnani [CLA/ROM] Agustin Barrios Mangore [ROM] Johann Kasper Mertz [ROM] Luis Milan (wrote for the vihuela) [?] Alonso Mudarra (wrote for the vihuela) [?] Luis de Navarez (wrote for the vihuela) [?] Niccolo Paganini [CLA/ROM] E. Pujol [ROM] Manuel Ponce [MOD] Guilio Regondi [ROM] Joaquin Rodrigo [ROM] Gaspar Sanz [?] Domenico Scarlatti (never wrote for guitar but is heavily transcribed & played)[BAR/CLA] Fernando Sor [ROM] T. Takemitsu [MOD] Alexandre Tansman [MOD] Francisco Tarrega [ROM] Federico Moreno Torroba [ROM] Joaquin Turina [ROM/MOD] Heitor Villa-Lobos [ROM] Robert de Visee (wrote for the baroque guitar) [BAR] Antonio Vivaldi (lute & mandolin works, among others, transcribed for guitar)[BAR] William Walton [MOD] Leopold Silvus Weiss (wrote for lute, transcribed for guitar) [BAR] Yukihiro Yoko [MOD] Andrew York [CON]

    A 2.11 What is the difference between flamenco guitar and classical guitar?

(See the Flamenco FAQ) Flamenco has various techniques that are not used either at all, or not as much in classical guitar. Some say that the techniques of rasgeo and tremolo make up 90% of a flamencoists playing time. he basic rasgeo is eami (e=little finger). To keep it continuous most flamencos do a eamiiami type pattern where the two i's indicate an up down sweep of the i finger. This produces a wonderful strumming sound in some ways similar to the sound of a 12-string guitar. Tremolo is as described in the Playing Guide 1.5, except that instead of the order pami, the sequence piami is generally used. There is another technique which produces a similar effect, called picado. Here, just i-m are used to produce a very fast run of notes with speeds at sometimes shattering speeds of MM@160, 16 notes a beat. Picado can be played on either a single note, string or on a series of notes to make a fast scale. Capos are used by flamencoists to. Partially for the sake of an accompanying singer or other instrument, it is also used to bring the strings closer to the fret board. However, it does have the disadvantage of reducing the size of the fret board. The book by Juan Martin on flamenco guitaring is highly recommended for further information.

    A 2.12 Can anyone recommend some flamenco music to listen to?

(See the Flamenco FAQ 1.5) Here is a list of flamenco music available. It came initially from a letter to the group by one Michael P. Burns. Thanks Michael! Most of the popular "flamenco" guitarists are not really playing flamenco but rather "flamenco inspired" music. The Gypsy Kings are real Gypsies but all their recordings focus only on one form, the Rhumba, one of the least important flamenco forms. I have posted a short list of flamenco recordings and am reposting it now for those of you who are interested: Here's a revised version of the Flamenco recordings list with some additional notes and comments. TITLE ARTIST(S) LABEL & No. Azahara Paco Pen~a Nimbus NI5116 Guitar solos and duets (with Tito Losada) by one of the three virtuoso Pacos Music of R Montoya Paco Pen~a Nimbus NI5093 & N Ricardo Guitar solos of transcriptions of music by Ramon Montoya and Nin~o Ricardo, two of the most influential guitarists of the middle third of the 20th century. (Ramon was Carlos Montoya's uncle and teacher) Cante Gitano Various artists Nimbus NI5168 Recorded live at private Flamenco juerga in Moron de la Frontera Singers: Maria Solea, Maria la Burra, Jose de la Tomasa Guitars: Paco del Gastor, Juan del Gastor Paco del Gastor is the third of the three virtuoso Pacos (i.e, Paco Pen~a, Paco de Lucia and Paco del Gastor). Cante Flamenco Various artists Nimbus NI5251 Recorded live at private Flamenco juerga in Moron dela Frontera Singers: Gaspar de Utrera, Chano Lobato, Manuel de Paola,Miguel Funi, El Cabrero Guitars: Paco del Gastor, Juan del Gastor Flamenco Paco Pen~a Phillips 826 904-2 Guitar solos, very good introduction to the main Flamenco styles Cante Gitana OCORA C558642 Recorded live in concert in Paris and in studio. 2 CDs Singers: Fernanda and Bernarda de Utrera Guitar: Paco del Gastor Fernanda and Bernarda are sisters of Gaspar (see above) Los Malaguen~os Harmonia Mundi HMA 190965 Singers: Conchita and Nena Cano Guitars: El Malaguen~o, Marino Cano Several guitar solos and duets, three cuts with singers. Includes a great rumba Flamenca and features some innovative harmonies This would be a good sampler of Flamenco for a beginning listener. Music of R Montoya Manuel Cano Hispavox (no. ?) Guitar solos. Most of the same pieces as on Paco Pen~a's CD with a more restrained performance. Guitarra Gitana Melchor de Marchena Hispavox 7304032584 Another of the greats of the previous generation in a rare solo performance. Melchor was of the school that believed that the role of the Flamenco guitar was an accompanist to the singer and he did it better than anybody. Flamenco Highlights from Spain Laserlight 79036 Contains some good examples of Sevillianas interspersed with guitar solos by Sabicas, one of the greatest Flamenco guitarists ever. Zyryab Paco de Lucia Verve World 314 510 805-2 Sirocco Paco de Lucia Mercury (no. ?) The two recordings by Paco de Lucia are a good taste of the most avant garde Flamenco. Paco de Lucia is arguably the greatest living virtuoso of Flamenco guitar. In these recordings, especially "Zyryab", he admittedly goes beyond the bounds of Flamenco into jazz, "world music" or call it what you will. Anyway it's great music. Le Chant du Monde: Grandes Figures du Flamenco Series distributed by Harmonia Mundi The "Grandes Figures du Flamenco" series is a treasure trove of Flamenco tradition. These are re-masters of old recordings on which the engineers have worked their magic to increase the fidelity and remove hiss, pops, etc. I have nos. 6, 9 and 10 and the quality is very good, both technically and artistically. 1) Pepe de la Matrona LDX 274 829 2) El Nin~o de Almaden LDX 274 830 3) La Nin~a de los Peines LDX 274 859 4) Terremoto de Jerez LDX 274 860 5) Ramon Montoya LDX 274 879 6) Carmen Amaya LDX 274 880 Flamenco song and dance, some selections feature Sabicas as accompanist. Fantastic! 7) Manolo Caracol LDX 274 899 8) Manuel el Agujeta LDX 274 900 9) Antonio Mairena LDX 274 911 with Melchor de Marchena accompanying. It doesn't get any better than this. 10) Pepe Marchena LDX 274 912 A singer in a style that was popular in the 1920's, softer and more subtle. Paquito Simon and Ramon Montoya accompanying. -- Michael P. Burns

    A 2.13 How can I learn to sight read? (by John Rice,

I got these techniques from Randy Tucker, my current teacher. I studied with two other teachers for a total of 3 years and made zero progress on sight reading. After applying these techniques, my sight reading is much improved, and continues to improve. You can develop an understanding of the fretboard in couple of months. More importantly, this understanding is self-nuturing. Meaning, it makes it easier to learn more music, which reinforces your understanding of the instrument, which makes it easier to learn more music.... I was convinced to begin studies with my current teacher when he gave me the following quiz over the phone: He asked me my phone number. Of course, I knew it instantly. Then he asked me the names of the notes of the open strings. I knew those, but not as quickly. The he asked me the names of the notes at the 2nd fret. I was basically stumped, I couldn't do it without a bunch of mental gyrations. The obvious implication was how could you expect to play the instrument without such understanding. He said I needed to know all the notes on the guitar like I knew my phone number. By the way, Randy is the best sight reader I've seen. These are some of the techniques he used to help himself. The best way to learn the fretboard away from the guitar. Learning the fretboard away from the guitar opens up tons of other opportunities to practice (like in the shower....) and helps you visualize the guitar. The basic strategy behind all these ideas is the break the problem down into small, managable chunks. Learn your fretboard vertically and horizontally. 1. Take some 3x5 index cards and make some flash cards. You will need 12 cards, one for each fret. Put a fret number on 1 side of the card and names of the notes at the fret on the other side. When you're through you should have the following: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 bottom (string 6) F F# G G# A B~ B C C# D D# E~ E B~ B C C# D E~ E F F# G G# A~ A E~ E F F# G A~ A B~ B C C# D~ D A~ A B~ B C D~ D E~ E F F# G~ G C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B~ B F F# G G# A B~ B C C# D D# E~ E top (string 1) Learn the notes on the frets in this order. 1. Frets 12, 5, 10 (frets with no sharps or flats) 2. When you have those memorized add frets 7, 3 (1 sharp, 1 flat) 3. When you have that memorized add frets 8, 2 (2 sharps, 2 flats) 4. When you have that memorized add frets 9, 1 (3 sharps, 3 flats) 5. When you have that memorized add frets 4, 6 (4 sharps, 4 flats) 6. When you have that memorized add fret 11 (5 sharps, 5 flats) Take your time in doing this (you'll spend a lifetime learning the guitar). Add the next set of frets when you have the others down cold. If it takes two weeks or more, that's fine. You'll find many opportunities throughout the day to practice this. As you do this exercise, you may find that the first frets you tackled will be much stronger than the frets you add later. You can prevent this problem by reciting the notes in the reverse order you them. That is, name the notes on the newest frets first, the oldest frets last. When you're able to recite all 12 frets in 30 seconds, starting at fret 1 and working to 12 AND starting at fret 12 and working to 1, then move on to the next exercise. 2. Make another set of 12 flash cards. Number each card 1 through 12 as above. On the other side put one of the notes C, C#, D, D#(E~), E, F, F#, G, G#, A, B~, B. There is no correlation between the number on one side and the note on the other. They are used for two different exercises. Do this exercise at least once a day.Shuffle the cards and flip them number side up. Name the notes at the fret indicated for each card. 3. Start learning the notes horizontally. Meaning, where the notes are on each string. Learn the notes in this order: C G D A E B F# C# G# D#(E~) B~ F. For example, you can find C at frets 8,3,10,5,1, and 8. Learn them a note at a time, only adding a new note when you've got the last one cold. Remember, this is an additive process, recite positions for C, then G and C, then D,G, and C.... Here's a tip: Given the starting position, the next position can be found by subtracting 5 for all strings other than 3. If the position is on string 3 subtract 4. If the position is less than 5, then the next position will be the current position +7, unless you're on string 3 then it's +8. For example string: 6 5 4 3 2 1 C = 8 (-5) 3 (+7) 10 (-5) 5 (-4) 1 (+7) 8 4. Reading: do this in parallel with your other exercises. Read all the material you can. Read simple stuff. Start with the simplest material you can find. Tunes like Mary Had A Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle are not too simple. You want to practice sight reading on material that is well below your ability to play. Play them at different fret positions eg. 3,5,7,9, dont' stick to the first position. In fact, if you are already familiar with the first position, try and avoid using it to some extent to avoid memorizing the tunes. Method books for other instruments (clarinet, flute...) are good sources, song books of folk music from the library are good sources too. When you read, do not stop when you make a mistake. Keep going and try to keep the rythm. Play as slowly as necessary to play and keep a steady rythm. When you finish a tune, go on to the next. Go through all the tunes you have, until you run out time or until you utterly fail, then start over. The importance of keeping going when you make a mistake can't be overemphasized. You don't want to memorize the piece. Also, keeping the beat is critical. Drop the odd note if you have to , but keep going in time with the rythm. The ear will quickly forget a flubbed note if you're able to keep the beat. 5. Rythm Studies: do this in parallel with your other exercises. Many people (me especially...) have trouble site reading not because they don't recognize the notes, but because they don't recognize the rythm. Using your simple songs, clap the rythms. Meaning, put your guitar down, and instead of plucking the notes, clap the notes. An execellent book to do this with is Leavit's "Melodic Rythms For Guitar". It systematically breaks rythms down and presents exercises. Don't play the exercises, clap the notes. You can read the exercises later when your sight reading skills become stronger. 6. For this excersize you will need someones help. Prepare to play whilst reading some music. Then get someone with a piece of card to cover up the note(s) you are about to play by moving the card along the score. As you get better, they should be able to cover up notes further and further ahead of the ones you are playing. If you can read more than two bars ahead of what you are playing, I reckon you're pretty much there! But this excercise is not easy, either for you or the person with the card. The person with the card must be able to read music to some extent, so it may well end up being your tutor. 7. Tip: Don't burn yourself out on studying reading. Do some everday, by structuring your practice to include sight reading. This is something you'll always do in different ways and with different material as you advance, so don't wear yourself out on it. Do a litle every day, and the benefits will accumulate over time.

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