Melbourne Classical Guitar Gigs in September and October

Aside from the super-talented Xuefei Yang visiting our shores in the not-too-distant future, we’re also in for a treat with some serious homegrown talent (homegrown in Melbourne, Australia that is) coming up this week and into October.

If you’re looking for some mid-week guitar action  I highly recommend heading along to the Melbourne Recital Centre to catch the third and last gig in the Melbourne Guitar Quartet’s 2014 series at the the MRC.

 

The Melbourne Guitar Quartet will perform a retrospective of the works of two of Australia’s most respected composers: Nigel Westlake and Robert Davidson.

Both have contributed superb works to guitar literature and this program celebrates their music with a selection of unique arrangements and original settings. Ambience, stillness and rhythmic drive feature heavily, using many different guitars (including steel string and dobro), percussion and Ron Murray on didgeridoo.

The gig commences in the Salon of the MRC at 6pm on Tuesday 16th September, and lasts for around 1 hour. You can have fantastic top-of-the-tree classical guitar action and still be home in time for tea!

In all seriousness though I highly recommend checking these guys out if you can – their musicality and tight sense of group musicianship is inspiring.

Tix can be purchased here: https://e.melbournerecital.com.au/booking/production/bestavailable/6289?performance=

 

So, there’s the Melbourne Guitar Quartet for you this week, and then there’s Xuefei Yang in a couple of weeks time, but what’s after that?!, I hear you say.

Well, fret no further, the wonderful Grigoryan Brothers along with the immensely talented American composer-guitarist Ralph Towner and equally talented Austrian composer-guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel are coming together to present what promises to be an awesome blend of jazz, contemporary classical and world music. A must see concert in you’re in Melbourne on Tuesday 28th October at say, oooh, 7pm

The Grigoryan Brothers, Towner and Muthspiel are all intent on expanding the guitar oeuvre, and have led vividly different forays into world, jazz, and modern classical music. This performance brings together the range and diversity of their outstanding talents in solo, duo and trio sets of pre-composed pieces, spontaneous composition and improvised mastery on a variety of guitars (baritone, 12- string, electric and classical), creating a unique aural soundscape.

Head over here for more info and bagsie yourself some tickets: http://www.melbournerecital.com.au/events/2014/grigoryan2/

Check out their collective playing  with these YouTube clips:

Advertisements

What To Look For When Buying A Classical Guitar

There are lots of folks out there who are interested in learning to play the classical guitar, but are not really too sure what to look for when picking out an instrument. For a newbie this is completely understandable as there are so many different choices available these days, many for some very alluring prices too. Today’s post is really aimed at the beginner or those looking for the market entry point student guitar.

A guitar’s a guitar right?

Not quite. At the entry level side of the market we see guitars with cheap, roughly made plywood tops, often painted or dyed a bright orange or yellow. They tend to look cheap and nasty and they tend to play cheap and nasty too – no better than the orange boxes they’re made from really. These guitars, whilst seriously, cheap could potentially put you off playing! They are often poorly built, roughly finished, difficult to play (which you may not realise if you’ve just started out) and sound terrible.

Solid top

Look out for a guitar with a solid top (the part of the guitar facing away from you when you’re holding it to play it), as this is the part of the instrument (aside from the strings) that most significantly influences the nature of the sound coming out. Solid top guitars will either be spruce (usually a lighter coloured wood, producing a bright sound) or cedar (usually a darker wood, producing a warmer sound than the spruce).

John Price Guitar
Cedar top

Action

The “action” on a guitar is the height of the strings from the fretboard. Oftentimes the higher the action, the more difficult a guitar can be to play, particularly for the beginner as you’ve got to use more pressure to press the strings down. So check this out when you’re testing out an instrument (always test out if you can) and play the instrument for a while. You may be able to cope with a reasonably high action for 5 minutes or so, but you don’t want to feel like you’re running a marathon when playing your new instrument for 10 minutes or longer.

Extraneous noises

Watch out, or rather listen out, for any buzzes, hums, rattles or any other unusual noises. Even at the cheaper end of the scale you shouldn’t really be getting any of these annoying noises that will be detracting from your playing and enjoyment of the instrument. Sometimes it may just be a case of a loose machine head, which can be easily tightened up, or the end of a string vibrating against the instrument (solved by just trimming the string down). If the source of a buzz or rattle is harder to find I’d say that’s a big warning sign not to buy.

Sizing

Not all guitars are made the same size – whilst all “standard” instruments are of a similar size there are subtle variations which can make a big difference over time whilst playing. Try out a few guitars and how they “feel” whilst you’re seated and playing them. How is the body depth? Do you feel you have to reach your arm a little too far? How is the width and the depth of the neck? Can you move your hand comfortably up and down then neck? Can you reach and play chords and barre chords with relative ease? If you’re smaller of stature, buying for a younger child or you have hands and fingers on the smaller size you may even want to check out a 3/4 size guitar or similar.

So, which brand or make of guitar should I buy?

Well, for a dirt cheap beginner’s instrument, for minimal investment of your cool hard cash (just in case you don’t like it after all), the Yamaha student guitars are not a bad bet. Don’t get me wrong – these guitars in the overall scheme of things are not the most beautiful sounding, but they are solid as a rock. For around AUD$140 they represent better value for money than other guitars at a similar price point. These entry-level student instruments have a solid top rather than plywood too.

I would then recommend taking a look at the entry-level student range from Alhambra. The Alhmabra 1C is actually a pretty bloody good instrument for the cash (around $500) and you can take your pick between a cedar or a spruce top. The playability of these guitars is very nice indeed, the finish is of very high quality and they are capable of making a pretty decent sound. Definitely a better pick of instrument than any of the others I’ve tried at this price point.  

Most importantly of all – if you can try a few guitars out before you buy, I highly recommend doing so. Then you’re not just taking my word for it! Happy guitar hunting!