Write Now: For Some, Classical Guitar May Make Listening To Music More Enjoyable

Has there been a time you had listened to a song, and one instrument stood out and made your listening experience that much more enjoyable?

I have had of those experiences with different songs.

And the instrument that stood out was a nylon-stringed classical guitar.

The classical guitar is somewhat different than its brother the steel-stringed acoustic guitar. Both have frets and to make a sound, one must either use one’s fingers or a pick (plectrum) to make a string sound. Both are usually made of wood and both have a sound hole, frets, and tuning pegs.

The acoustic has a brighter sound while the classical has a warmer tone. One also plays the classical guitar differently as it is usually played resting on the players left knee. The player also uses a foot rest to elevate his left foot to obtain the proper playing angle.

I thought because I play bass, learning how to play classical-style guitar would not be that difficult. I already played the bass with my fingers, so that was a step in the right direction. I knew how to position my fingers on a fretboard to sound different notes.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

I took a class and SUNY Fredonia, and it was an eye-opener — in a positive way.

The class certainly helped my bass-playing skills, and it also made me think more about music. Basically I was at square one and it was fine because I was challenging myself to learn something new. I had to learn how to read treble clef, and learn how a classical guitarist notates his sheet music for correct fingerings of strings and notes.

But the reason I took the class is because I wanted to know more about the classical guitar.

To me, the classical guitar stands out on a recording because of its warm, elegant, fluid sound.

In rock music, some great guitarists incorporated classical guitar into songs for their bands.

While there may be more names and songs, here are a few.

Steve Howe of Yes — “Roundabout” and “Mood For A Day”

Alex Lifeson of Rush — “Broon’s Bane,” “The Trees,” “La Villa Strangiato,” and “A Farewell To Kings”

Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen — “Little Guitars (Intro)”

Rick Emmett of Triumph — “Fight The Good Fight,” and “Midsummer’s Daydream”

Kirk Hammett of Metallica — “The Unforgiven”

Mason Williams — “Classical Gas”

Recorded in 1968, Classical Gas is a song that made me take notice of the classical guitar. Every time I listen to that gem, I want to go back to learning classical guitar. I tried learning the first few bars of “Classical Gas” and while it may sound easy to play, it isn’t. For an experienced classical guitarist, yes, but for a novice like me, not quite so much. I even tried to learn “Mood for a Day,” but I ran into the same roadblock. I am a beginner classical guitarist, so I couldn’t get past the first couple measures. I did come away with some positives from those two songs: I learned how to move left hand fingers differently, and I transfer that skill when I play my bass.


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