How to get Started with Spanish Classical Guitar
Spanish Classical Guitar
You may have already been caught by the bug. I certainly have.
I was enraptured by wonderful enchanting pieces of beautiful Spanish Classical Guitar music, even before I relocated to Spain, many years ago.
I have been playing Spanish Classical guitar for about 10 years now...and am still learning!
Amazingly enough, I have been able to perform, here in Spain, at events organised by my local Town Hall, so it's been worth the hours of practice that are required.
Which one to choose?
I had always wanted to play the guitar but never found the time
As we all know, there is nothing easy in life, well, at least not in my life, so you will have to gird your loins and prepare for a little sacrifice.
Learning to play the guitar, or any musical instrument, takes time and it can’t be rushed.
Make sure you have enough time in your daily routine to be able to include guitar practice, otherwise you will see little progress for your efforts- something which will then lead to boredom and finally you will probably give in and abandon the whole idea.
How many of us acquired a guitar in the enthusiasm of adolescence, only for it to end up as a uncomfortable reminder of lost youth in some dusty corner of the attic, annoyingly reminding us of our great intentions in the past?
Yet how many of us actually make the decision to get rid of a guitar? We know it holds beauty untold and hours of enjoyment but we just can’t seem to get at it.
Spanish Classical Guitar
Not to be confused with acoustic guitars which have narrow necks and steel strings, the Spanish Classical has a wider neck and nylon strings.
Which one you are able to get depends on the price you can afford. With guitars, generally price goes hand in hand with quality unfortunately.
I would recommend a beginner to start off with an investment of around 200$ to begin with. (You can always sell it on, second-hand, if you want to progress to a better quality instrument).
Protection: A guitar case
You should buy, together with your guitar, a suitable guitar case. A soft one is adequate if you are just starting out and much cheaper than the hard travelling cases. However, a hard case is a must for your trip to your next concert at the Royal Albert Hall. You can’t put it in the hand-luggage and you can’t expect the luggage handlers at Heathrow to be too careful. Often guitars are sold with a case included in the deal, but if not, you must make sure your guitar will actually fit into any new case before you buy it.
How to keep your guitar safe: A guitar stand
A guitar is an expensive item, even if you go for the lower-priced ones, and you will be picking it up and putting it down several times a day as you spend every spare moment you can with your beloved instrument, (if only) so it is very important to have a guitar stand.
If you do not have a guitar stand, your precious item will end up sliding off the settee/chair/bed/sun lounger onto the floor very easily or will get bashed as you wander around wondering where to put it down carefully and safely. Even if all that is not enough to persuade you, then just think materialistically. If you DO end up selling it because you find you do not have the time to practise, no one will want to buy a damaged instrument.
Extra comfort: Music stand and foot rest
For greater comfort while you play, you will need a music stand.
Of course, you can always prop your music up against a photograph of Andrés Segovia, considered the first great promoter of the Spanish Classical guitar as a concert instrument and one of the greatest maestros of our time…, but it won’t work. You will find yourself realigning the book constantly and retrieving lost pages as they flutter to the floor like autumn leaves just when you were getting settled. Very frustrating.
5) Also for comfort, you might consider getting a foot rest as this helps posture and goes towards avoiding back pain. Remember, you will need to spend some time in the same position and you may become uncomfortable.
A guitar tuner
A guitar tuner is a must for a beginner and even for more experienced players. Can there be anything more crushing to budding talent and self-esteem than hearing oneself playing out of tune, when the solution is so easy to acquire? (My tuner cost about 20€. I wouldn’t dare play even guitar scales without tuning up first! )
Guitars can fall out of tune very easily. Even just getting them into or out of the case can affect them. They must also be protected from the sun as this can affect both the wood and the strings.
You will have to remember that fact the next time you want to take your guitar down to the beach to liven up a gathering of friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Find a shady spot.
Paco de Lucía, one of the greatest Spanish guitarists
Now that you are set to go...
Now that you are all set, you need to choose a method for learning.
There are many ‘teach-yourself’ methods available.
Some teachers advise a guitar student to learn using ‘sheet music’, using a five line staff or stave and a treble clef as this is a traditional and more pure method. Learning to read and understand music notation is like learning another language and will take a little time, but your guitar playing will benefit immensely and your interpretation will be better able to render the nuances of Spanish Classical guitar pieces, so important in playing this type of music.
An example of 'tablature'
However ‘Tablature’ is becoming more and more common for learning the guitar, although some experts believe it is not as precise and pure a way of playing.
Tablature is a graphic approach to notes showing a ‘picture’ of the 6 strings horizontally drawn, Numbers on these lines or ‘strings’ indicate which finger of the left hand (of right-handed players) should play on each string at a given moment.
If you love guitar music, especially the Spanish Classical Guitar music, you will get tremendous pleasure from being able to pluck out your favourite piece and from even just being able to recognise…it a little! Perhaps your favourite piece is ‘El Concierto de Aranjuez’ played by John Williams.
This piece was written by Joaquín Rodrigo in 1939 inspired by the Aranjuez Gardens near Madrid, Spain. Or perhaps it is ‘Granada’ by Isaac Albéniz also played by John Williams.
© 2009 Marie Ryan