The Guitar

After three hundred years, the guitar now seems to be at the peak of its popularity. Within this generation, the instrument has taken on new aspects. Previously the guitar was considered as an instrument with the main purpose of backing singers and dancers. Many great musicians have been responsible for commissioning woks for both solo guitar, and guitar with orchestral accompaniment. Coupled with the fact that many works primarily composed for violins and lutes have been transcribed for the classic guitar, the instrument has now come into prominence. The two main styles of playing Classical and Flamenco, seem diagrammatically opposed The classical style represented by Segovia, is mathematical, played by reading music, and with no scope for improvisation. The Flamenco style is different in that it is based on a series of folk themes which are then improvised on by the individual performer. The greatest exponent of this form of playing is perhaps the Spanish gipsy Manitas de Plata.

The popularity of the instrument among the listening public is understandable considering the dexterity of the great performer. But the popularity of the instrument among would-be musicians is for a different reason. Few people can ever hope to reach the standard of the great musicians, but from a beginners viewpoint the instrument is easy to come to grips with and play to a sufficiently good standard to entertain self and friends.

Over its history the guitar has developed in different ways. Its soundbox has changed shape; steel strings and nylon strings are used for different effects. Even tuning varies, the six string guitar is tuned to fifths, but some guitarists tune the instrument to a chord, which makes fingering easier. Among folk singers the twelve string guitar is popular because of its suitability to strumming. But the Spanish classic guitarist Narciso Yepes, has recently given recitals on a specially constructed ten string guitar. Both these facts indicate that the days of experimenting with the guitar are not over, and perhaps a new instrument will be born out of the change.

D. Williams, U.6

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