Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
Lawler
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Lawler » Mon Oct 10, 2016 4:42 pm

What I like about this thread is that I can imagine Sor and Aguado having a beer and venting about some of the same things.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Alan Carruth » Mon Oct 10, 2016 5:41 pm

Aside from he lack of original repertoire from the 'names' of the Classical music world, I think the Classical guitar suffers from being inherently a chamber instrument. As has been pointed out, there is simply no way you can push the sort of power from a Classical guitar that you can from a violin or piano in a purely acoustic setting. It's a simple matter of physics.

Add to this that much of the appeal of the guitar lies in the broad range of tone color that an adept player can produce from a good instrument. This tonal palette is a direct result of the complexity of the way the guitar produces sound. A student, who at one point wrote synth software, told me that it was axiomatic in the industry that the hardest instrument to get right was the Classical guitar, because there is no way that a keyboard can afford the number of degrees of control that a guitar has over the tone in real time.

This complexity is, I'm convinced, one reason that players resist the use of amplification. Pickups, of whatever sort, are looking at one part of the sound of the instrument, but every part of the guitar makes sound at some frequency. Pickups are getting better, but I have to wonder if they will ever really be totally satisfactory for what we want.

All of this presents a huge problem for players and audiences. Players understandably want to spend some time at home rather than on the road, so they would like to play in larger halls. If they do they either need to use some sort of 'sound reinforcement', which risks sacrificing some of the tone color that is so important to the sound, push the instrument very hard, which tends to produce a bad sound, or get a rally loud guitar, which tends to have a timbre that is not very much like the traditional instrument that the repertoire was written for.

All of this has, IMO, somewhat changed (or 'distorted', if you will) the direction in which the guitar is developing. I was very disappointed in hearing the young players at at the last CG festival I attended. Everybody seemed to be intent on playing more notes more loudly, with very little effort at making use of the variety of color that is, to me, the distinguishing characteristic of the guitar. But I digress.

We must keep in mind, too, the general plight of 'serious' music. Despite the large number of orchestras out there these days, I doubt if any of them are actually making money. Most survive on grants and foundation money, and struggle to fill halls.

I have heard that when most people listen to music they concentrate first on rhythm, second on melody, third on harmony, and last on timbre. We seem to go at it almost backwards by that criteria, so maybe it's no wonder we have a hard time. There could be some truth in the humorous post about what we do being too far above the tastes of the herd. I don't think Classical music is really 'beyond' anybody, but it certainly seems to be the case that too few have had enough exposure to it to 'get it'. Once they do, most folks don't want to give it up.

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Mon Oct 10, 2016 6:53 pm

But what is "Classical guitar" ?
Is it instrument of certain characteristics with nylon strings?
Or is it certain repertoire?
Or style of playing?
Or all those things together?
If it is instrument - then it is very widely known... - everybody knows what is guitar and more people play it than violin or piano etc.
Problem of volume or dynamics?
- none anymore. 21 st century now - one could have as much volume as he/she wishes ..
Dynamics? - depend from payer.
Repertoire? Here we may have some problem - yes if it is repertoire then yes in some ways it is very limited instrument... - concert after concert performers play the same pieces... and very often it is..boring.. sorry..
Maybe that is the main reason why classical guitar is "unknown" - it may seems to many as very limited - because in some ways our community often limits itself by very small (played) repertoire and certain customs how it should be performed :)
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

Alan Carruth
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Alan Carruth » Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:53 am

Andrei Krylov wrote:
"Problem of volume or dynamics?
- none anymore. 21 st century now - one could have as much volume as he/she wishes .."

Not without amplification.

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Wed Oct 12, 2016 1:03 am

Alan Carruth wrote:Andrei Krylov wrote:
"Problem of volume or dynamics?
- none anymore. 21 st century now - one could have as much volume as he/she wishes .."

Not without amplification.
Sure.
Myself I would rarely use it just for specific venues.
I also like guitar a lot and prefer it to violin and piano.
Because we play with our flesh with personal touch and they use special devices to play ...
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

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Sharon Vizcaino
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Sharon Vizcaino » Wed Oct 12, 2016 1:54 am

Jim Davidson wrote:I might get some heat for this, but I don't think it's all that unknown. Nevermind the fact that the guitar as a whole is one of the most popular and cosmopolitan instruments in history, even the classical guitar is well known by the public. Segovia and John Williams are well known names. Many pieces from the repertoire like Asturias, Myers' Cavatina, the Concerto De Aranjuez, and even the hook from Tarrega's Gran Vals (thanks to Nokia) are commonly recognizable throughout the western world.

I think that we have to distinguish between those who are informally familiar with classical guitar, and those who are passionate followers of it.

Why more people aren't passionately following it and playing it is the real question.
Addressing the first point... Well, you'd think it's well-known... My experience has been that most people in Mexico are familiar with it, and coming to the US I realized that most adults know, but most college kids don't. I've gotten a lot of amazed responses to my playing or videos of professionals because they're just not aware it's an instrument! Doesn't help that most schools, my own included, only ever organize recitals/concerts for orchestra, singers, piano, or violin.

I think part of the problem is that without Segovia, there isn't a single name the average person can associate with classical guitar. Generally, when I mention classical guitar and someone looks confused I say "Like Segovia" (or rather, I wish...), and that's enough for most people to remember that, oh, of course, classical guitar's an instrument too. But younger kids have just never heard of him (or any other CG player, for that matter), which is a problem when you think about the future of the instrument...
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Whiteagle
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Whiteagle » Wed Oct 12, 2016 11:07 am

The first time I ever saw a classical guitar performed was when I was about 40 years old and that was in a play. Had seen lots of fingerstyle players prior to this and some flamenco/south american. If I ask people do they know anyone famous that plays classical guitar it would be rare they could come up with a name.

hoppy
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by hoppy » Wed Oct 12, 2016 1:26 pm

Big question with obviously a lot of answers - partly because 'classical guitar' is an instrument not a genre. The way I look at this is:
- how many current solo classical violinists, piano, cello and flute players do I know?
- how many of their albums do I own?
- What would the general public's response be to these two questions?
As mentioned there is lack of popular interest in classical music (as broadly defined). CG has some unique aspects but I think most people want to hear multi-instrumental music, even when it is classical, because listening to one instrument without vocals can be monotonous without knowledge of the instrument and repertoire. Unfortunately CG is best played solo or duo - it usually sounds awkward with other classical instruments.

I agree that repertoire is limited but that many perpetuate this (whether under pressure from promoters?) by playing the same programme. The last three performances I have attended have included the Nocturnal...now taking on new meaning for me.

On the other hand, there are huge communities of players and resources than were ever around before so it is an amazing time to be an amateur player.

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Wed Oct 12, 2016 5:57 pm

hoppy wrote:Big question with obviously a lot of answers - partly because 'classical guitar' is an instrument not a genre. The way I look at this is:
- how many current solo classical violinists, piano, cello and flute players do I know?
- how many of their albums do I own?
- What would the general public's response be to these two questions?
As mentioned there is lack of popular interest in classical music (as broadly defined). CG has some unique aspects but I think most people want to hear multi-instrumental music, even when it is classical, because listening to one instrument without vocals can be monotonous without knowledge of the instrument and repertoire. Unfortunately CG is best played solo or duo - it usually sounds awkward with other classical instruments.

I agree that repertoire is limited but that many perpetuate this (whether under pressure from promoters?) by playing the same programme. The last three performances I have attended have included the Nocturnal...now taking on new meaning for me.

On the other hand, there are huge communities of players and resources than were ever around before so it is an amazing time to be an amateur player.
I disagree. Repertoire for classical guitar (even without transcriptions) is very large, yet it is true what you wrote - performers manage to play same pieces again and again...
There is a kind of "classical guitar culture" in which, almost by definition, one have to play the same repertoire... Myself I composed many many pieces for guitar and they available as audio recordings, but I decide that it is useless to write scores - because people are interested only in certain programme/repertoire... :)
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:02 pm

Sharon Vizcaino wrote:
Jim Davidson wrote:I might get some heat for this, but I don't think it's all that unknown. Nevermind the fact that the guitar as a whole is one of the most popular and cosmopolitan instruments in history, even the classical guitar is well known by the public. Segovia and John Williams are well known names. Many pieces from the repertoire like Asturias, Myers' Cavatina, the Concerto De Aranjuez, and even the hook from Tarrega's Gran Vals (thanks to Nokia) are commonly recognizable throughout the western world.

I think that we have to distinguish between those who are informally familiar with classical guitar, and those who are passionate followers of it.

Why more people aren't passionately following it and playing it is the real question.
Addressing the first point... Well, you'd think it's well-known... My experience has been that most people in Mexico are familiar with it, and coming to the US I realized that most adults know, but most college kids don't. I've gotten a lot of amazed responses to my playing or videos of professionals because they're just not aware it's an instrument! Doesn't help that most schools, my own included, only ever organize recitals/concerts for orchestra, singers, piano, or violin.

I think part of the problem is that without Segovia, there isn't a single name the average person can associate with classical guitar. Generally, when I mention classical guitar and someone looks confused I say "Like Segovia" (or rather, I wish...), and that's enough for most people to remember that, oh, of course, classical guitar's an instrument too. But younger kids have just never heard of him (or any other CG player, for that matter), which is a problem when you think about the future of the instrument...
I do not think that Segovia (if been here today) will solve this problem. Times have changed...and even in circle of classical guitarists not everyone is the fan of Segovia. He certainly a monumental figure in classical guitar history, but... many do not like his music interpretations and would rather listen the same but played by someone else ...
And yes -Mexico is a great guitar country! With (classical) guitar is far more popular than in USA and is essential part of everyday life. Mariachi musicians play mostly on classical guitars (as instruments) not by pick, but by fingers, and they everywhere :)
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

Adam
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Adam » Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:36 pm

Another point to consider is what instruments kids play in school. My kids play flute and viola. There are no classical guitars in band/orchestra.

And the kids who want to do the rock/country/pop thing are going to go steel string, which obviously is very huge.

The loss of Randy Rhoads was a blow to the instrument for a generation of because I can remember when I was growing up a lot of the rockers bought classical guitars because it was known that Randy's true love was the classical guitar and people respected him and wanted to be like him.

There doesn't seem to be a Rhoads-like figure out there today to draw the "common man" to the classical guitar.

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Sharon Vizcaino
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Sharon Vizcaino » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:07 pm

AndreiKrylov wrote: I do not think that Segovia (if been here today) will solve this problem. Times have changed...and even in circle of classical guitarists not everyone is the fan of Segovia. He certainly a monumental figure in classical guitar history, but... many do not like his music interpretations and would rather listen the same but played by someone else ...
And yes -Mexico is a great guitar country! With (classical) guitar is far more popular than in USA and is essential part of everyday life. Mariachi musicians play mostly on classical guitars (as instruments) not by pick, but by fingers, and they everywhere :)
I didn't mean that Segovia was the solution, what I meant is simply that no one knows any classical guitar players, not even Segovia who's by far the most famous. Not knowing famous musicians isn't a problem for other instruments because kids have a lot more exposure to them and a lot of people play in their childhood, either because they want to or are forced by their parents. In either case, it's overwhelmingly likely the kid will pick up an orchestra instrument or the piano. Sadly, not a guitar...

Actually, most Mariachi musicians play with thumbpicks! Or even a pick. Mariachi wouldn't really work with fingers, I don't think. But yes, it's definitely essential there. This is changing nowadays, but it's common to hire a Mariachi band for celebrations such as weddings.
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AndreiKrylov
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:24 pm

Sharon Vizcaino wrote:
AndreiKrylov wrote: I do not think that Segovia (if been here today) will solve this problem. Times have changed...and even in circle of classical guitarists not everyone is the fan of Segovia. He certainly a monumental figure in classical guitar history, but... many do not like his music interpretations and would rather listen the same but played by someone else ...
And yes -Mexico is a great guitar country! With (classical) guitar is far more popular than in USA and is essential part of everyday life. Mariachi musicians play mostly on classical guitars (as instruments) not by pick, but by fingers, and they everywhere :)
I didn't mean that Segovia was the solution, what I meant is simply that no one knows any classical guitar players, not even Segovia who's by far the most famous. Not knowing famous musicians isn't a problem for other instruments because kids have a lot more exposure to them and a lot of people play in their childhood, either because they want to or are forced by their parents. In either case, it's overwhelmingly likely the kid will pick up an orchestra instrument or the piano. Sadly, not a guitar...

Actually, most Mariachi musicians play with thumbpicks! Or even a pick. Mariachi wouldn't really work with fingers, I don't think. But yes, it's definitely essential there. This is changing nowadays, but it's common to hire a Mariachi band for celebrations such as weddings.
Kids would not pick a guitar? I disagree again... sorry :) they do pick a guitar, but more likely acoustic or electric, less likely classical. Orchestra instruments? Just because parents or school will tell them so...
Acoustic or electric guitar seems more attractive for kids - because they are more popular seen everywhere and... probably because they could have more "freedom" - one will pick electric guitar to play with band and to make new songs., but one who would take "classical" will have to ply "classical" music, therefore will not create his/her own music.
That could be a main "problem" of classical guitar... in some way it could seems to people like some kind of a sport discipline where people compete with each other who will play better very narrow repertoire...at least it could look like that from outside :)
I lived in Mexico 4 winters (5-6 months each) and met and personally know many many "mariachi" who played by fingers, but some play with picks too - you are right.
I'd better speak by music...Please listen Andrei Krylov at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Prime etc. Thanks!

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Sharon Vizcaino
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Sharon Vizcaino » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:37 pm

AndreiKrylov wrote: Kids would not pick a guitar? I disagree again... sorry :) they do pick a guitar, but more likely acoustic or electric, less likely classical. Orchestra instruments? Just because parents or school will tell them so...
Acoustic or electric guitar seems more attractive for kids - because they are more popular seen everywhere and... probably because they could have more "freedom" - one will pick electric guitar to play with band and to make new songs., but one who would take "classical" will have to ply "classical" music, therefore will not create his/her own music.
That could be a main "problem" of classical guitar... in some way it could seems to people like some kind of a sport discipline where people compete with each other who will play better very narrow repertoire...at least it could look like that from outside :)
I lived in Mexico 4 winters (5-6 months each) and met and personally know many many "mariachi" who played by fingers, but some play with picks too - you are right.
I guess I need to learn to express what I'm saying better through the internet... For the sake of this discussion, assume that whenever I say guitar I mean classical, haha.

Yeah, that might be it. Honestly, I think more people would like it if they simply knew it existed. But ah, well, we obviously can't compete with the likes of [insert latest Pop sensation here].

Oh, for sure. But in my experience (born and raised there, I'm in college as an international student, actually!), most will play with picks, though it depends on the specific song they're playing. It's also common to see musicians in restaurants, and since they're usually singing too, what they play is mostly accompaniment with some "requinto" here and there, so a pick's much better suited to that. That said, I feel like most of them can probably play at least some classical guitar. It's also common for schools to offer guitar as an elective. My high school's "music" class was basically us getting the school guitars and playing whatever we wanted for an hour. Good times... Surely more kids would play guitar elsewhere if it were an option. Though perhaps less would be interested because it's not as culturally significant.
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Sharon Vizcaino
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Re: Why is Classical Guitar so Unknown?

Post by Sharon Vizcaino » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:38 pm

Sharon Vizcaino wrote:
AndreiKrylov wrote: Kids would not pick a guitar? I disagree again... sorry :) they do pick a guitar, but more likely acoustic or electric, less likely classical. Orchestra instruments? Just because parents or school will tell them so...
Acoustic or electric guitar seems more attractive for kids - because they are more popular seen everywhere and... probably because they could have more "freedom" - one will pick electric guitar to play with band and to make new songs., but one who would take "classical" will have to ply "classical" music, therefore will not create his/her own music.
That could be a main "problem" of classical guitar... in some way it could seems to people like some kind of a sport discipline where people compete with each other who will play better very narrow repertoire...at least it could look like that from outside :)
I lived in Mexico 4 winters (5-6 months each) and met and personally know many many "mariachi" who played by fingers, but some play with picks too - you are right.
I guess I need to learn to express what I'm saying better through the internet... For the sake of this discussion, assume that whenever I say guitar I mean classical, haha.

Yeah, that might be it. Honestly, I think more people would like it if they simply knew it existed. But ah, well, we obviously can't compete with the likes of [insert latest Pop sensation here].

Oh, for sure. But in my experience (born and raised there, came to the US at 18. I'm in college as an international student, actually!), most will play with picks, though it depends on the specific song they're playing. It's also common to see musicians in restaurants, and since they're usually singing too, what they play is mostly accompaniment with some "requinto" here and there, so a pick's much better suited to that. That said, I feel like most of them can probably play at least some classical guitar. It's also common for schools to offer guitar as an elective. My high school's "music" class was basically us getting the school guitars and playing whatever we wanted for an hour. Good times... Surely more kids would play guitar elsewhere if it were an option. Though perhaps less would be interested because it's not as culturally significant.
Joseph Redman 2016 European Spruce/Cocobolo Rosewood
Córdoba C7 CD

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