A different kind of obsession...

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by Oldschool59, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    Funny thing happened to me two weeks ago. I was listening to some Bach with my kids (they love Gould’s rendition of the Inventions) and I just felt like reaching out for my classical guitar. Now, I have played classical guitar for a few years about 10-15 years ago, and I still have two nice instruments, amongst my electrics.

    So I pulled out the transcriptions for the Bach pieces, and, in the same binder, I found other pieces I was working on: Albeniz, Giuliani, Sor, Barrios, etc… The usual suspects.

    It’s been two weeks, and I have not put my classical guitar down. It’s so much…simpler, for lack of a better word. Not the music, no, that’s more challenging, but the whole tweaking, and tone-chasing, and the gear obsession. I’m now down to a cedar-top, and six strings. No adjustments, no dials, no tubes, no effects, no reverb, nothing. Just the wood, the strings, and the fingers. The focus is on the precise rendition of the score, and how to convey emotion on an otherwise unchanged transcript. Action on a classical is 4mm at the 12th fret on the low E, and 3mm on the high E. No shredder guitars, these.

    And yet, strangely, I find this rather liberating. I now only have to open the case, tune the guitar, and have at it. My reading has consistently improved, and I look forward to simply practicing the difficult passages over and over until I get them right. (I still plug in now and then, only to hear the ROAR ;-))

    This has been a very good experience for me, and one that has made me realize that my electric guitar territory came with some peculiarities and cultural differences. Community-wise, classical guitarists have different types of discussions (yes, they will argue about the superior tone of cedar vs spruce as a sound top, and the ideal length of the right-hand nails), but the bulk of the exchanges are on how to succeed difficult passages, new challenging music, etc… A very different outlook.

    Now, this is not a «us vs them, this is better than that» sort of argument. I’m simply relating how going back to a simpler environment, one with less options and distractions, can arguably change one’s perspective, focus and, potentially, discipline.

    I understand this is TGP, and that a lot of the focus here is on gear. Again, my perspective should in no way be construed as demeaning the importance of all things material. Instead, please read this as one's experience in voluntarily reducing the gear requirements to their bare minimum, in the classical context.

    Cheers.
     
  2. richt

    richt Member

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    This is very nicely written and sums-up the state of your musical journey so nicely. Thanks for sharing!

    cheers,

    richt
     
  3. VTR

    VTR Member

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    I hear you, man do I hear you! My story is in the same vain. I did receive a BA in guitar performance (classical). I worked has a classical performer in a duo, flute and guitar and two guitars, and I taught privately. I got married, had two kids, needed a better job. Luckily I found it at a private prep school, been at it 25 years. Taught MS Band, US jazz Band and guitar class. Now it is all guitar class, the program grew and someone else took over the Bands.
    Could I get these kids interested in Classical, no! So I have been teaching popular styles and in short have kept my job. Recently got back into classical, bought a new instrument, and man am I enjoying myself. Last year I played at a school classical recital, nobody new this side of me (yes I am hoping to get a class started if possible). Everyone was quite surprised and taken back.
    Its something I will continue to do until I can not. It takes me to a different place. There is nothing like playing a composition by a real composer, ha, ha.
    It removes me from this time and place, and you ponder many things about the music, the fingerings, interpretation, etc.. I could go on and on, but your post was a nice read.
    p.s. Pretty sick of doing pop/indie/ charts for the class for 25 years. This has been a godsend.
     
  4. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    <

    I hear you. Not easy to get people interested in classical music. It is a relatively acquired taste, and, for most, it comes with some heavier investment, both in time and effort, like jazz. It is what it is.

    Having said this, classical guitar (along with its acoustic cousin) is unbeatable in terms of practicality. No need for additional things (amps, pedals, cables, etc...) It's just you, the guitar, and the composer, not necessarily in this order ;-)

    The way I see it, guitar covers such a vast territory, and classical guitar happens to be one of its many facets. Just like languages, the more you speak, the better you're off. The parallel with languages is quite relevant, as speakers of certain tongues have greater ease to learn other languages. And «speakers» of classical guitar may just have an easier time than most in learning the other languages. That is, if they dare to drop the transcriptions, and venture on their own just a little.

    Good luck, play on.
     
  5. Echoes

    Echoes Senior Member

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    I pickup the classical from time to time. My RH technique is awful because I don't take the time with it. But I can still play some Bach and a few Spanish composers using the 'claw' technique. I used to play and study under a teacher who was in Segovias master class (at UCLA I believe fuzzy as it was the early 80s) 'Smalley' was his last name....after a class he told me that I had to pick either the classical guitar or electric. If I didn't fully dedicate all my time to classical I couldn't be his student....I love electric....so, he dropped me as student...I still love to play the music however....it is an entirely different aporoach and feel compared to steel acoustic or electric guitar, another instrument entirely actually IMHO.
     
  6. boo radley

    boo radley Supporting Member

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    I admire that -- I've often thought, why make 'guitar' so hard?

    Why not take a break from the...work...aspect, and the grind of research and experimenting with gear and tone, and just learn to sight read various classical etudes, and play classical guitar? Why not make guitar mindless fun, again?

    But. Have to keep an eye on the end-game, and don't have time for such a relaxing diversion. There are coupon-codes to chase down, small 5e3 builders that can freakin' nail early Neil Young, and I really want to check out some YouTube demos of a Chinese pedal clone mfg'r.

    So sadly, I envy those that can sit down and rip out Partita for lute in C minor, on the porch with a beer, but...I have to keep working. Hell, eBay alone, is two 90 minute daily sessions. :(
     
  7. Skeet skeet!

    Skeet skeet! Member

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    I think its easy to imagine some tone seekers being people who want to enjoy playing the same things over and over again. Finding new melodies and harmonies can really be stimulating.
     
  8. harmonicator

    harmonicator Member

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    It's good to narrow in thy focus sometimes.
     
  9. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    That is a good story, liked it. But just remember too...one CAN drop the whole "chasing tone", dial in an acceptable tone (set EQ to noon, make some small adjustment after that to taste, maximum...one minute) and start playing.

    I've noticed too, when I started playing back in the 70's, I did pretty much that. and adjusted slightly on the way. No big deal about tone (and I've heard recordings and would say my tone is no better today than then) and just play.

    I never learned classical, but did quit playing in bands at some point in the early nineties, and concentrated after a while on fingerstyle acoustic guitar. I learned a lot, and it was a whole other style, and I also like going back to that (have missed a few steps but it comes back after a little) but still love playing in bands...but I have made a "concerted" (excuse the pun) effort to stop being SO picky about "tone". It's weird actually, for a while there I was being real finicky about pedal controls, EQ, but was just almost ignoring (or ball parking) my amp EQ and such. Luckily had an amp that was hard to get a bad sound out of. But now recently realized I didn't want to tweak it so much because it wasn't "fun" and I wasn't paying the right kind of attention.

    Basically, instead of trying for a certain tone, and only hearing what was missing, just tweak a little and hear what comes, and leave it at that.

    Anyway, enjoy!
     
  10. Der JD

    Der JD Member

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    I know the feeling...it can be liberating.

    I'm in a somewhat similar situation myself. I'm just coming off a 5-year tone chasing quest with electric guitar. While it was initially fun, eventually it became frustrating and draining. Just over the last few months I've been focused on bass guitar (home base for me) and acoustic guitar. Sure, many people obsess over gear with acoustic and bass as well but, for me, not so much. I know what I like so there's no "chase" involved.

    A lot of people wouldn't want to admit it but for many the gear IS the hobby. Playing the guitar is secondary and just sort of a needed prerequisite.
     
  11. Oldschool59

    Oldschool59 Member

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    Following up on my original post. I'm working out four pieces: Albeniz's Asturias, Barrios' La catedral, Villa-Lobos' Etude no.1 and Giuliani's Sonatine Op.71. All these pieces tell me I've been out of the game for too long. My RH is slow and unresponsive (especially the m-a combination), and my LH is not as nimble and light on the strings.

    Doesn't matter, it's been a long time since I've so eagerly looked forward to practice time. To answer a few posts above, yes, I agree with you, Der DJ, for a long time, the only fuel for passion was getting that extra pedal, etc... My last purchase was the ZVex FF7, a great fuzz, and after it came the realization that I do not NEED another fuzz, just as do not need another chorus, phaser, etc. As StompBoxBlues puts it, once you get down to the whatever works, concentrate on the music, and many good things will happen. Boo_radley, your suggestion is duly noted: The C min Partita for Lute will be on my «beer on the porch» list of things to play ;-)

    Last night, after the kids went to bed, I pulled out one of my electrics, and practiced the classical parts, unplugged. Best of both worlds ;-)
     
  12. jb's 52

    jb's 52 Member

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    Love me some Villa-Lobos. Good study in chromatics...hehe. I play my classical vs. electric roughly 40/60 nowadays.
     

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