Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
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twang
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by twang » Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:27 am

I generally hear the word 'classical' applied to three things: music, playing style/technique, and guitars.

The overall sense I get from common usage is that finger-style is a broad term meaning to play with the fingers as opposed to playing with a pick. Under the category of finger-style there is a spectrum. On one end is something akin to simply arpeggiating chords with fixed RH patterns (I've heard this called finger-picking). The other end we label classical-technique and include the full palate of techniques required to play the music we call classical.

In my own experiments using classical technique on steel string guitars, I find the steel strings less sensitive to technical nuances than my classical guitars; or conversely, my classical guitars are much more sensitive to subtle technical details. I hypothesize this difference has something to do with why we commonly see the two types of guitars used on the different ends of the finger-style spectrum.
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Don W
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Don W » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:16 pm

This is interesting as many of my friends call anything without a pick "finger style". When I play with friends on my steel string acoustic I will hear "Don this is a good song for your fingerstyle while we sing and strum". I explain that fingerstyle is not "pattern picking" it is more of a solo guitar style that covers bass, rhythm, and melody. It is not as a rule classical music but is similar in technique to classical solo guitar playing. I heard Tony McManus play classical pieces on his steel string guitar...beautiful. I have come to the understanding that I will never convince my friends that travis picking, although wonderful, is not finger style. Finger style has introcuced me to classical guitar. I am a beginner at that and am loving it.

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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Dave Stott » Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:50 pm

The reality is that you can call it whatever you want. Does it really matter what others classify it as?
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sxedio
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by sxedio » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:47 pm

2lost2find wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:53 am
That said, there is no real evidence of a direct-line path from 19th century classical guitar pedagogy to what those guys were doing on the guitar. Their technique overall was far more primitive (that is not to say it was necessarily easy to play), and stylistically much more heavily dependent on idiomatic cliches. Bear in mind as well many of these guys didn't have conventional literacy, much less the ability to read music! Texas and Delta guitarists leaned heavily on boogie patterns (copied from pianists) and the alternating bass of the so-called west coast players was derived not from 19th century European alberti bass, but from ragtime pianists like Scott Joplin.
There is the direct link of the parlor guitar repertoire, and specifically pieces like Spanish Fandango, along with the associated open tunings, which were passed (how?) from the classicaly educated sheet music reading guitarists of the 19th century to the later bluesmen.
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Grasshopper » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:37 am

twang wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:27 am
In my own experiments using classical technique on steel string guitars, I find the steel strings less sensitive to technical nuances than my classical guitars; or conversely, my classical guitars are much more sensitive to subtle technical details.
Yes, that's dead right. Somehow the steel strings don't seem to respond to subtle changes in right hand technique the way that nylon ones do, which is probably why you don't see steel string players using apoyando - it doesn't make enough difference to be worth bothering with. The stiffer strings must be more reluctant to adopting different vibration patterns, or something like that.

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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Alan Carruth » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:13 pm

grasshopper wrote ('way back):
"With the self-taught finger-pickers they mostly seem to use the free stroke - which is limiting with an acoustic instrument, where you can't just adjust the tone control. ",
and twang wrote:
"...I find the steel strings less sensitive to technical nuances than my classical guitars..."

Precisely.

Practically all of differences between what we call 'classical' (nylon/gut string) and 'acoustic' (steel string) guitars stem from the differences in the strings. The major one has to do with 'damping': how quickly the energy is dissipated as the string vibrates, which has a lot to do with the basic timbre of the string. As a material, steel has much lower damping than nylon; a plate of steel can ring on for some time when it's been struck, while a similar piece of nylon just goes 'thud'. Steel is also much denser than nylon, so for a given tension a steel string is much thinner. This means that it doesn't have to move as much air as it vibrates. That sort of movement doesn't produce sound because the string is too thin to create a bulk pressure wave in the air. It's more like trying to run in knee-deep water; you don't so much produce a current as just get tired out.

One of the ways damping is measured is to look at the amplitude of the vibrating object over time. Basically, you count how many cycles of vibration it takes to cut the amplitude down by a certain amount; the fewer the cycles the faster the energy is being dissipated. If you think about it, what this says is that with high damping you tend to lose the high frequencies first: if the energy drops by half in, say, 100 cycles, it will take about a second for that to happen at G on the low E string, but only 1/10 second at the top C, 8th fret on the high E .The same holds true for all the overtones. If you record plucks of steel and nylon strings and analyze the energy at different frequencies, you'll find that a steel string can retain a lot of high frequency for several seconds, while a nylon string will have very little energy above, say, 4000 Hz after a second or so.

This has ramifications both for players and builders. One player I know, John Bigelow, put it very cogently: " The problem with trying to play classical music on a steel string guitar is that it's like listening to Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music': there's no darkness!" Much of the effort of learning both to build and to play nylon/gut strung guitars has to do with getting as much as you can from the small amount of high frequency energy there is in the strings. When you know how to do that, it gives you a wide palette of tones to work with, from the sort of default 'dark' fundamental tone of the strings to something nearly as 'bright' with overtones as a steel string guitar can get. Steel strings are 'bright' by definition, and much of the luthier's effort in making a good steel string is to get enough bass to balance that. That's one reason why steel strings tend to be bigger boxes. All of that high-end energy in the steel strings helps with things like 'projection', but works against the wide palette of tone colors that a good classical player uses. No matter how hard a player works at it, no steel string guitar can match that.

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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Grasshopper » Sat Feb 09, 2019 3:18 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:13 pm
Much of the effort of learning both to build and to play nylon/gut strung guitars has to do with getting as much as you can from the small amount of high frequency energy there is in the strings. When you know how to do that, it gives you a wide palette of tones to work with, from the sort of default 'dark' fundamental tone of the strings to something nearly as 'bright' with overtones as a steel string guitar can get.
Yes, the longer "sustain" of steel strings is probably one reason why people don't use the classical right hand tremolo on steel string guitars - that and the fact that's very difficult. :)

The point about the tonality of the two types of string is interesting. When a string vibrates it vibrates in very complex patterns producing various "partials" - like the fundamental (when the whole string vibrates as one standing wave), the second partial (when the string vibrates as if it is stationary in the middle - one octave above the fundamental), the third partial (when the string vibrates as if divided into 3 equal lengths - a perfect 5th and an octave above the fundamental) et cetera.

I read a study of a violin string that analysed the amount of energy that each partial contributes to the sound. The unexpected thing was that the fundamental contributed 0.1% of the sound energy - i.e. virtually not there at all. The second partial (the octave) contributed 26% of the energy, the third partial (the perfect fifth) contributed a whopping 45% of the energy and the fourth partial (major third) contributed 10%. After that the energy levels declined rapidly. The interesting thing is that, if the fundamental note of the string is C, most of the energy goes into various octaves of the triad notes C (about 34%), E (about 10%) and G (about 50%) - which probably explains why our harmonies are based around this.

It would be interesting to see a similar analysis done on a nylon and steel strung guitar - I'm sure it would reveal big differences as you say which probably account for a lot of things. There's also, of course, the difference between an electrically amplified guitar (where the pickup "sees" only one part of the string) and an acoustic where the sound is generated by the interaction between the whole string and the soundboard. It always makes me smile when people talk about the effect of different woods on an electric solid's sound.

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Tony Hyman
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Tony Hyman » Sat Feb 09, 2019 3:52 pm

Zazz player Joe Pass believed finger style was the only real way to play the guitar. He says in his "VIRTUOSO #3,Mel Bay,p3) " On playing these transcriptions-Allof the pieces were played fingerstyle-the best way to play the guitar, I think."Of course, he also did cg when starting out under Harry Volpe in New York, if my memory serves me well. So there we find cg rudiments finding its way into other guitar styles when it boils down to making a living.

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Rick Beauregard
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Rick Beauregard » Sat Feb 09, 2019 4:11 pm

Yes call it classical. Most people I find don’t know the difference anyway, as in “I play classical guitar, you know, fingerstyle.”
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Alan Carruth
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Alan Carruth » Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:54 pm

That violin study must have been looking at the lowest notes on the G string.

The recipe of overtones that an instrument puts out only starts with the string, and varies depending on where you pluck it. In general, the closer to the center of it's length you pluck the more of the fundamental there is in the tone. Plucking at some exact fraction of the string length will suppress that partial; so plucking 1/3 of the way up the string gives a sound that lacks the 3d, 6th, and 9th partials and so on. In order to make those sounds the string has to be stationary at those points, as it is when you pluck it and then touch it at the 7th fret, at ~1/3 of it's length. Plucking at the 7th fret is telling the string it has to move there.

As the string vibrates it pushes on the top. The top has it's own complicated set of resonances; pitches where it's easy to move, so it's better at producing some frequencies than others. At low frequencies the whole lower bout of the top moves like a loudspeaker, which is pretty effective at making sound. As you go up in pitch it tends to break up into smaller vibrating areas that move counter to each other and cancel out, so the effectiveness drops off. Something like that can also be said of the back and the air in the box, which grab some energy from the top and turn it into sound too.

This all gets really complicated in a hurry; it does not take long for it to get to the point where even a pretty powerful computer can't tell you what to expect. All of this contributes to the 'color' of the tone, and is what gives a player with a good instrument the wide tonal palette that is characteristic of the guitar. And, yes, that complexity is deliberate: there are design features, such as the outline, that tend to make it more complicated and help to produce the 'characteristic' sound of a guitar.

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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Dirck Nagy » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:13 pm

Thomas wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 4:53 pm
I wonder if I can call a finger style semi-classical :)
...
Sure, why not? Call it anything you like.

If your style becomes popular, the term will enter the vocabulary. This is how languages evolve!

cheers!
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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by Bill » Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:01 pm

You can, but I wish you wouldn't.

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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by dmozell » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:04 pm

The terminology that sticks in the music world is often confusing. "Fingerstyle" clearly describes a technique, in order to distinguish it from "pick-style" or "flatpicking" or "plectrum style." "Classical" implies a kind of music but guitarists may be referring to the kind of technique they use to play Classical music. But plenty of "Fingerstyle" players are really using "Classical" technique on steel string guitars to play whatever music they choose. So that confuses the issue further. Whatever terminology you use is likely to be misunderstood by people who aren't truly familiar with how guitars are played in different genres. I personally recommend using the term "Classical" only for actual Classical music or for music arranged in a style that's adopted from the Classical guitar repertoire.

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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by musicbyandy » Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:07 pm

crazyrach97 wrote:
Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:18 am
Almost everybody here is skirting around the main issue. The term classical refers to European art music. What we think of as fingerstyle has nothing to do with that.
After 43 posts I'm uncertain as to what is the main issue here. The original post asked, "Do you know what I mean?", in regards to wondering about calling a something.

I wonder if the original poster's question has been addressed in a way that the original poster sought to have addressed.

I believe that what I think of as fingerstyle has something to do with European art music.

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Re: Can I call finger style semi- classical?

Post by MarkInLA » Mon Feb 18, 2019 11:57 pm

It's redundant to refer to the music played on a gut or nylon strung guitar going back to as far as the 16th century Europe, as 'finger style'..It's always been called 'classical guitar' once the modern jazz era (1920s-on) took over the western world... "Hey man ! Do you play any Kid Ory tunes or any of the New Orleans stuff on your guit-fiddle ? How about any Billy Holiday ?" "No. I play the early European pieces by Sor, Bach, Tarrega and similar composers. You know, all the classic works before the modern era stuff..We call it classical guitar..Yadda yadda..."
Enter folk, bluegrass, country style and jazz guitar. When these music genre are played on a steel string or nylon string, but via the fingers instead of a plectrum to activate the instrument, and to distinguish it from 'classical guitar', we call it 'finger style'...
Simply put, Classical Guitar is not referred to as 'finger style' as it's a given that it has always employed the fingers..And thus would be redundant to do so.
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