Interview with Canberran Classical Guitarist Extraordinaire Minh Le Hoang – Part 3

Well hello folks! Today I have for you the third and final part of my interview with Canberra Classical Guitarist extraordinaire, the wonderful Minh Le Hoang.

Minh Le Hoang

If you happen to be in or around Melbourne this weekend, be sure to head along to St Mary’s Church, 430 Queensbury Street, Melbourne to check Minh out live in concert on Saturday 9th May at 7pm. Grab your tickets now online and save yourself $5 on the door price!

On with the final part of the interview…..

What’s your favourite repertoire to play?

I like a bit of everything, so I’m not specializing at all – more baroque, or more classical. I do a bit of everything!

When I record a solo record you can see it’s a mixed bag of everything I like – it’s Latin, it’s Spanish. I do like Bach. I like my classical repertoire as well, like Giuliani, Sor, Aguado and so on.

The last couple of years my interest has been with some of the classical repertoire. There are a lot more unknown works, like Russian seven string guitar. It’s kind of new to a lot of people, but the music is very well written and it’s very nice. That’s my next project – I’m going to pull out my 19th century guitar and learn a few more of those.

What music do you enjoy listening to?

A listen to a mix, like jazz, pop – good pop. I used to like a bit of the old Police. I still like a bit of that sort of thing. I like the Gypsy Kings, a little bit of rhumba. A bit of Cuban stuff, some tango. Vietnamese music even. The traditional music is quite interesting.

You don’t listen to Schoenberg you know?! Every now and then maybe….

I try and not listen to guitar music so much though. I don’t know why. When you’re a student you’re like “check out this recording” or “check out this player”. A lot of the recordings are so boring though! I’d rather listen to a decent piano recording, or a well-known player playing some cello suites you know?

I think actually learning pop guitar gave me a sort of advantage, going around the finger, getting around the fingerboard better. Some classical players they start in a particular style and that’s all they do. They’re not so fluent. The pop background is very good for a young player. From my experience the ones with the most efficient technique, from an early age, are those doing pop first. Interesting.

Were there any guitarists growing up that you looked to as a source of inspiration?

When we came here I taught myself for a couple of years, I didn’t have any connection with the school of music or anyone. So one of my main inspirations was just listening to John Williams on a cassette. And I still do every now and then for a source of inspiration.

Of course when I got to the school of music I met some of the older guys in the degree, my peers. Antony Field was around at the time, and we were like “hey Antony show us how to do this!” He’s a fantastic player. He’s one of the guys we used to look up to. And of course we had great teachers in Canberra too with Tim (Kain) and Carolyn (Kidd) who I first learnt with.

Are there any guitarists who inspire you in particular at the moment?

Oooh, there are a couple of really good players, I like they’re playing a lot. In the newer generation there’s Ricardo Gallén, something he does is pretty amazing. Adriano del Sal, a beautiful player.

In the older generation there’s Roberto Aussel, he’s one of the most colourful players you can think of. Really beautiful. Everything is so musical, you don’t think of his technique.

There are more players that I like of course.

And when you’re not playing or practicing what do you like to do in your down time?

In the last couple of years I spend more time down at the lake than in the practice room! I like to go fishing a lot!

I really enjoy fishing, and I do it whenever I can. I head down with my rod maybe three or four times a week. There’s something about the bells, and the way the rod bends. It excites me a lot!

It’s good to get away from work, a bit of stress relief!

What’s coming up for you in the next 12 months?

After this solo gig in Melbourne, I’ll be recording with Guitar Trek in July which we have been rehearsing for every weekend for the last month or so with Matt, Bradley and Tim. So that’s in July, and we’ll try and get it out as soon as possible. We’ll get it produced and we’re thinking around the label we want to get on. We should be signing.

Then we’re going to launch the CD in October. There’s going to be two concerts in October with the quartet, and I might be planning to do a few more solo gigs and get some more repertoire learnt. And a lot of teaching.

And of course I might go to Vietnam again at the end of the year, with a couple of solo gigs lined up. So that’s all for now! Keeping me very busy!

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.