Classical guitar is often regarded as being the more difficult end of the guitar spectrum, and because of the intricate techniques and traditional music reading involved many players simply disregard this genre completely as being ‘not relevant’ or ‘too complex’. Whilst studying classical guitar can be complex and, if you are used to playing with a plectrum or on an electric will be a struggle at first , there are some fundamental elements of classical guitar that can be applied to any genre and can enhance the sound and feel of your playing and your compositions.
Here are 5 ways studying classical guitar will make your music better.
1. Finger Technique - Classical finger technique (with regard to your picking hand) is by no means a walk in the park for the contemporary player. It can be highly frustrating if this is your first foray into fingerpicking, but the endless possibilities that come with being able to correctly fingerpick and become your own accompaniment will open your playing and compositions to a whole new world of possibilities.
2. Dynamics – Dynamics are an intrinsic element of classical music as a whole. A player that has a good feel for dynamics and knowledge of when and how to apply them, can take the most mundane melody and turn it into something beautiful. Studying classical guitar with its strict direction of when to use dynamics in your playing will help you develop a much better sense of composition to use in your own music.
3. Reading – One of the reasons many guitarists tend to shy away from studying classical music is the use of traditional music score over TAB. Whilst there are now many books by some great arrangers that have tabbed versions of classical guitar music. It cannot be denied that working on your staff reading will only serve to make you a better musician. It offers you a clear understanding of the theory involved in each piece and gives you clear direction with regards to technique, dynamics and tempo that tablature simply does not.
4. Writing – Writers often use a technique called ‘breaking the cycle’ to help them come up with new ideas and think outside the box. This idea is based on the theory that changing the way you regularly go about the writing process will enable you to enhance your ability to think creatively. Classical music composition is radically different to that of say folk music but, the idea of melody, rhythm and harmony is still there. Learning how classical music works, particularly from a guitar point of view can give you valuable insight, inspiration and ideas to apply to your own chosen genre of music.
5. Instrumentation – Looking at how classical music is structured with regards to instrumentation and, understanding the inner workings of how that relates to the guitar will give you invaluable insight into another way of approaching your music. Perhaps you would like to mimic something from a classical piece in a modern piece of music? You may want to utilize some of the more unique feels and time signatures heard in classical music or the use of multiple tunings.
For me, learning classical guitar helped me to think of compositions as being less about the layers (rhythm, chords, melody etc) but more about the overall feel of a piece of music. Studying classical techniques allowed me to think of the guitar as much more of a solo instrument with particular attention to using the bass strings to play counter or submissive melodies to compliment the main melody. It aided my understanding of music theory which in turn helped my composition work and gave me a reason to improve on my reading skills.