Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco


Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by JC_SF » Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:32 pm

Hi all,

I happened upon this forum when digging around for the origin of a classical guitar song, “The Frog Galliard”. As it happens, my curiosity about classical guitar has been recently piqued.

Although I played some guitar as a teenager, I stopped for many years and picked up a Stratocaster on a whim a few years ago and started trying to learn using various resources. It quickly became apparent that I needed some proper instruction.

As such, I found a good electric guitar teacher and took lessons for about six months. This gave me a good basis on which to proceed on my own. Unfortunately, my instructor left SF for the East Coast and Skype lessons just aren’t the same.

I tried another instructor some time later that immediately turned out to be kind of a jerk. I’m learning to play for my own enjoyment and this guy made me feel like a little kid getting rapped on the knuckles by an ornery piano teacher. The last straw was when he asked me to play the opening riff of Day Tripper. I played it pretty darn well, but he immediately shushed me and told me I did it all wrong. Then he proceeded to play it completely off. The dude then asked me to give him a yelp review, but if it wasn't going to be five stars, not to bother. Well, later dude.

I’ve been mostly been practicing on my own and with friends. I play in my office/guitar room at home and simply derive great joy from playing riffs and songs I like. On the electric side, my favorites are Johnny Marr, Albert King, David Gilmour and many others. My kid tried to get me to come up with a favorites list over the holidays, and I forget half the people I like.

Anyways, I got my kid a Big Baby Taylor steel string acoustic for a birthday. I didn’t bother actually playing it until a few months ago. First, I tried it with an ultex pick and it sounded awful. The raspy sound of the pick on the wound strings made me cringe. Then, I tried the few finger style melodies I sort of knew and it sounded incredible. This is only a $500 guitar, but it sounded beautiful. I know this is a cliche, but the feel of my fingers dancing on the strings was sublime. I knew at that point that I needed to learn some kind of finger style or classical method.

So, therein lies my quandary. I’m not sure if I want to get a steel string acoustic, a nylon string acoustic or full on classical guitar. I’ve looked at and played some very nice Taylor, Santa Cruz and Martin steel string acoustics and dig the way they feel and play. Coming from electric, it’s not much of a change for the fretting hand. I’m mostly interested in playing melodies. Strumming chords is necessary sometimes, but it’s not what excites me about playing guitar. Even on electric, I’m more interested in playing scales, lead parts, etc. Nylon string and classical guitars have some appeal to me as well, because I like a lot more than just classic rock.

I love stuff like guitar intro to “Yo Me Llamo Cumbia” by Toto La Momposina, the melodies of “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac, various things by Dominic Miller., some things by Larry Carlton, and then I also like some classical guitar by various artists. That’s a pretty random list off the top of my head, but the point is I’d like to be able to play a wide variety of music.

The other thing is that due to my job as a programmer and various hobbies like rock climbing, etc. and also in large part to it seeming like a massive hassle, I don’t think proper nail maintenance is going to be a reality for me. So, from what many people seem to say, nylon string guitars, and classical in particular are not ideal for someone that doesn’t play with their nails.

So I’m honestly not sure which way to go. I’d like to buy an acoustic of some sort soon as I’ve only got electrics now. I don’t really have a budget it mind, but would be fine spending whatever I need to for one or two nice, solid back and sides acoustic guitars. I’ve found a new classically trained instructor that I like to work with. He’ll teach me whatever I want to learn, but also agreed that for playing with fingertips, steel string might be best for me. Nonetheless, I'm still curious about maybe getting a nylon string acoustic, classical or otherwise, but am not sure what to look at.

In any case, this seems like a cool forum, so here I am.


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Erik Zurcher
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Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by Erik Zurcher » Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:39 pm

Hello JC and welcome to Delcamp forum! Enjoy yourself and see you around!

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Reedition Domingo Esteso by Conde Hermanos 2004; Kenny Hill, model Barcelona 2001
"While you try to master classical guitar, prepare for a slave's life: the guitar will forever be your master and you its slave".

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Steve Ganz
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Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by Steve Ganz » Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:53 pm

JC, confused about what guitar?...since the teacher issue is important to you, why not start there? Find someone with whom you feel is in your corner, and go with the style of music and instrument they recommend.

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Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by Luuttuaja » Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:59 pm

Hello and welcome to the forum!

Jules Wilkins

Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by Jules Wilkins » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:36 am

Ha, your title caught my eye and you write a good introduction. One thing puzzles me though. Bear in mind that I am a self taught amateur currently going through the free lessons offered here, but I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would recommending a steel string guitar for finger picking. I suppose it depends on what style of music floats your boat and hey, the dueling banjo's scene from Deliverance is a true masterpiece where the steel string guitar in the right hands shines, but this is a classical guitar site and playing something by the masters such as Sor or Carcassi is going to sound horrid on a steel string IMHO. The electric guitar, the electric bass guitar, the steel string acoustic, and the classical guitar (to name just a few) are all hugely different instruments suited to vastly different types of music. Personally I tend to relegate the steel string acoustics to campfires where all you need to know is how to finger the most common chords and start strumming load enough for people to sing more or less on tune, which I realize is an unfair generalization as there are some amazing musicians with these axes, but they don't generally play the music that I would like to be playing. I suggest you listen to the recordings various members here have made as there are many awesomely talented musicians here who have shared their music. Listen to a variety of styles. If you find yourself wishing you could make music like these guys and gals then you are in the right place. Assuming you opt for a classical guitar, a few words of advice. Learn how to play it properly starting with the correct posture. It is vastly different from playing lead electric. Also, buy the best guitar you can afford and be prepared to get hooked and wanting to upgrade from a $500 instrument to a $10,000+ concert guitar. Hope this helps.

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:18 am

JC_SF wrote:I don’t think proper nail maintenance is going to be a reality for me. So, from what many people seem to say, nylon string guitars, and classical in particular are not ideal for someone that doesn’t play with their nails.
A good teacher can show you how to play well with or without nails. For an example of the latter simply go to Rob Mackillop's site and listen to a few of the videos.

"The aim of this site is to encourage those who wish to play classical guitar without using finger nails ... using the flesh of the fingers to generate sound on the guitar has a long and distinguished history. Whether you play without nails through aesthetic choice, or through medical necessity, hopefully there will be something on this site to help and encourage you."

He is a true enthusiast and a fine musician.


Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by CliffK » Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:44 am

JC also have an acoustic and electric. Now interested in learning to play the Classical guitar, too. Each has its place and creative musicians can make amazing music on them. It is interesting that many rock and acoustic musicians have had formal Classical training. I think I recall Jimmy Page inserting a Beethoven riff. On the other hand, Julian Bream early on played Paris Hot Club/Django style jazz. Perhaps the “best” guitar is the one that sounds and looks good to you and plays well in your hands. Larry Carlton, “Mr. 335”, has an acoustic cd out. And all the archtop guys....and then the pop and rockers with steel string guitars... There are of course many fine steel string acoustic fingerstyle players, the late John Renbourn for example. Chapdelaine won a National Fingerpicking competition...hmm. On the Classical guitar side, aside from Classical music there is a lot a great Latin popular and jazz music played on it. So you could go for a Classical guitar and borrow your youngsters acoustic from time to time. A good teacher can be your best guide.
Last edited by CliffK on Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by pogmoor » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:50 pm

JC_SF wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:32 pm
...I happened upon this forum when digging around for the origin of a classical guitar song, “The Frog Galliard”...
Did you manage to answer your question about the Frog Galliard? It is an example of John Dowland reusing his own material in two linked works relating to the English Queen Elizabeth 1st. Elizabeth’s last official suitor for marriage was the French Duc d’Alençon who came to England in 1579 and 1581. He was a small ugly man with a large nose and a face marked by smallpox who Elizabeth referred to as her Frog. She eventually refused to marry him and he returned to France. Dowland wrote the song Now, oh now I needs must part (in his First Booke of Songs or Ayres) about the Duke’s departure, using the same tune as the Frog Galliard. I'm not sure if Dowland himself called it the Frog Galliard or whether it was named that by association with the song.
Eric from GuitarLoot
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Yamaha (SLG 130NW silent classical guitar 2014).

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Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by drexparker » Thu Jan 18, 2018 4:48 pm

This thread caught my eye since I've been through a somewhat similar learning sequence with the guitar. As a new forum member I introduced my self just yesterday. I followed the trajectory of having played a modest steel string acoustic with a pick (not well and only occasionally) for decades, and then at age 62 I decided to get serious about learning. My long range goal was still fairly modest, to be able to play Celtic /Scottish and Irish songs well on the guitar, to learning fingerstyle method, and to play some classical such as Bach (2 part inventions for example) and the "simpler repertoire. I found a good teacher who is a musicologist (PhD) and has excellent piano and guitar expertise and is a good teacher. I learned a lot about music theory and to read notation. But much of his guitar interest is jazz and he's not a classically trained guitarist, and he uses a pick.

Meanwhile I proceeded to learn and improve to "early intermediate" student stage, and purchased a very nice used Taylor 310CE (steel) and learned jazz chords and so forth. This is when I decided that I really wanted to lose the pick, and started to learn "fingerstyle". But on the steel stringer that is hard. My teacher suggested Brigite Mermikides book "The Classical Guitar Compendium" which has turned out to be excellent to learn classical method and some of the basic repertoire. This is when I realized that I would really benefit from playing a classical guitar, and this has made all the difference to my learning fingerstyle.

The classical guitar wider width and string spacing are major factors that are so much more conducive to right hand fingerstyle technique, it really is a world of difference vs the narrower steel stringer. So I recently purchased my teacher's classical guitar, which he was happy about, it is "just" an old Japanese K. Yairi 1980's with plenty of real world wear and tear, but it plays beautifully and I absolutely love the feel and sound of it. I haven't decided yet to sell the steel Taylor, but I think the classical guitar decision is clearly the right one for me to advance and I aim to continue on this path.


Re: Confused in a suddenly smokier San Francisco

Post by fretter » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:07 pm

JC_SF wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:32 pm
So, from what many people seem to say, nylon string guitars, and classical in particular are not ideal for someone that doesn’t play with their nails.
So I’m honestly not sure which way to go.
Hi JC. I'm in Colorado, where we're quite familiar with wildfires and bad air quality that goes with them. (Even when it's coming from other western states.) Hope the conditions improve.

I have the same issue with keyboards and nails. Have been using all manner of terminals and keyboards for far too long, and have the carpal tunnel syndrome to prove it. When I initially played classical many years ago, I kept left hand very short and grew just enough nail on the right hand to play. No, it wasn't concert quality, but I couldn't stand the long nails sported by more serious players. I can fingerpick without nails on right hand (keep thumb a bit longer since that does space bar), albeit more softly. As I'm playing only for myself, I accept the compromise. There are metal "nails" you can slide onto the ends of fingertips, but I found them clumsy and too much like the Addams Family.

Had I the resources, I'd get both regular acoustic and classical. Try it. You're already used to using a pick, which is something I never enjoyed. You can always sell classical guitar if it doesn't work out. I believe classical style is good to learn, regardless. I've heard some amazing classical fingerpicking on acoustic guitars by well-known electric guitarists.

Hope it goes well, whatever you decide, and I hope you'll share the results of your exploration.

Maybe we can try stick-on acrylic nails (with cartoons of notes on them) on right hand and start a trend for practice and playing? Nope, not weird at all. You go first.

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