Interview with Canberran Classical Guitarist Extraordinaire Minh Le Hoang – Part 2

Today I have for you Part 2 of my interview with the wonderful Minh Le Hoang (and here’s a link to Part 1 in case you missed it). Here we chat about Guitar Trek’s upcoming recording, his thoughts on the recording process and some top tips for students of the guitar.

If you’re in Melbourne don’t forget to catch Minh live in action on 9th May. Details and tickets here on the Melbourne Guitar Foundation website.

And don’t forget to head back this time next week for the third and final instalment of the interview!


Minh Le Hoang

You say you’re going to record a new CD?

Yes, with Guitar Trek. It’s going to be our sixth one. This one is recorded with a new line up, or newish. It’s the last three or four years the latest guy has been with us. We want to record the CD so that we have this line up on a disc.

Since 1987 there have been a lot of changes in the members.

So yes, recording the new disc in late June or early July. In Studio 301 in Sydney and it’s a mixed programme of mostly transcriptions. It’s got some Brahms, Tchaikovsky, some ragtime, and lots of little pieces, attractive pieces.

Do you enjoy the recording process?

It can be good when all the takes turn out how we want it. It’s pretty difficult in the recording trying to get things right – you stop, you listen back, you thought you had it, but you never did!

So often you have to rehearse in the studio and of course you’re playing for yourself, there’s no audience, you cannot generate that performing vibe. It’s harder.

But it’s good. I’ve done quite a few now, so I have some rough idea of how to prepare for it. Basically come into the studio prepared!

Does it feel different doing a solo recording versus a group recording?

I guess so, yes. With your solo you know how you want it to sound and you can fix it as many times as you want.

With a group of course you prepare the work, you know what you want from it, but let’s say there’s four people and there’s only one take – your part may be a bit messy here and there, but the whole take is good, the flow of the music. You have to judge “ah I don’t sound so good there, but the others do”! So you have to decide.

So there’s more room for error with four players for sure. In the studio you may have a perfect take, and then one of the players just drops out, and then that’s it!

But there’s also fantastic energy, and more fun than solo!

As a teacher what would be your advice for someone looking to pick up the guitar for the first time, or again after not having played for a while?

With someone looking to pick up the guitar again I would say find the repertoire that stimulates you the most or whatever gets you to the guitar. I find at times I fall back to the very early Barrios pieces or there’s little Tarrega pieces, some of those Preludes, some Villa-Lobos or something.

Just play those pieces that got you into the guitar. Or listen to some of the old Segovia recordings. I think some of it is fantastic. The players nowadays they just play everything like machines. No colour, not much imagination, just dots. That’s what I hear. Competition players these days don’t do anything for me. You can’t respond to it. What’s missing? The music, you know. They don’t give you the world of sound like Julian Bream or Segovia or an old school South American player. They’re so good.

So just pick up you guitar and play your favourite tunes and work from there. Of course doing it on your own is very difficult. You need to find a good teacher, or one that’s at least inspiring. You can’t really do it on your own, it’s much harder. There’s the feedback. And of course with a teacher you have that weekly arrangement, you must prepare something, you can’t just slack off!

What advice would you give to more advanced students of the guitar that perhaps want to follow a career with the classical guitar?

With advance students, the degree students I’m working with at the moment, we still do our usual lessons but we do talk about other things beside guitar, like where you want to take it, rather than just straight soft/loud, or whatever. You talk about the future, about what they’re hoping to do.

More technically advanced students you start to guide them. They finish here, you may want to pick up something else with another teacher overseas. The last couple of years we’ve been sending them overseas. Germany, Italy, wherever they’re comfortable really. Experiencing the world more. We tend to give them the bigger picture, we don’t just keep them in town that limits their chances.

And of course input from other teachers is very important too. You not just doing the same things.

Of course there are some players that are not going to be at that performance level, or players that will have solo careers only. There are plenty of other things they can do. They can do chamber music, they can teach, they can give their contribution to the community by teaching, by organizing festivals or whatever activities that involve music. It doesn’t have to be full on “here’s my show!” It doesn’t work like that.


Is there a point in time you can recall where you thought “yes, I want to do this” in terms of performing and teaching classical guitar?

The teaching is not something I’ve thought about much in the past, but recently it’s part of what I do, a main source of income of course. The last four or five years I’ve been working with higher level students, so I think it helps me develop as a musician. You learn from the students, some of these advanced players.

Back in high school, when I picked up the guitar, I fell in love with it. So pretty much through high school I thought “This is it. This is what I want to do. I want to be a guitar player.” Back then you never really know if you’re going to be performing or anything, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and so pursued it.


One thought on “Interview with Canberran Classical Guitarist Extraordinaire Minh Le Hoang – Part 2

  1. “The players nowadays they just play everything like machines. No colour, not much imagination, just dots. That’s what I hear. ”
    Me, too…and on some level that’s fine because that’s what satisfies their ‘musical’ sensibilities, what bothers me more is the condescending attitude I’ve seen/heard when talking about the ‘greats’ such as Segovia.
    I heard it spoken by a hotshot player once after viewing a video of one of Segovia’s latter day concerts, “Geez, he should have just quit. What makes him so great, did you see all those notes he dropped?” That at age 80+ he was still performing at a level above most wouldn’t even achieve in a lifetime or that this guy revolutionized the role of the guitar as a ‘serious’ classical instrument, not to mention all those transcriptions he wrote out and/or inspired others to do…it all meant nothing because he couldn’t shred the strings on his guitar anymore…
    I’m no Segovia fanatic, in fact, I’ve had a hard time divorcing his lifestyle/attitudes towards women in the field, but the bottom line is that he was a great musician (not just a guitar player) and played with more passion that any “Machine” perfect playback of dots.

    Minh, your playing, teaching philosophy, musicianship and attitudes reflected here in these past two interviews have more than earned my respect. Thank you for being a ‘world class’ musician with integrity.

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