Getting your Start with Nylon-Stringed Guitars
Although most modern guitar-based music utilizes steel-stringed acoustic and electric guitars, there is a beauty in classical guitar that cannot be overlooked. Some of the most stunning and uplifting music ever created was written for and played on nylon-stringed acoustics. We are going to have a look at a brief history of classical guitar and go over some of the basics of how to play one.
A brief history
Classical guitar has its roots in ancient times with numerous guitar-like stringed instruments being made and played. The classical guitar as we know it today was developed in the late 19th Century. Most classical guitars are much smaller than their steel-stringed counterparts. Their shape is based on designs of early romantic guitars from France and Italy. Strings are commonly made from nylon, with a fine wire wrap around the bass strings.
Contemporary classical guitarists often use what is called the “Smallman” design of guitar, which uses a balsa brace and can be played louder and with more sustain but loses some of the tonality of Spanish (traditional classical) guitar.
Keep in mind that, although Flamenco guitars are similar, they are manufactured and played differently from Classical guitars.
Works composed directly for guitar made their first appearance in the late 1700s, although they were derivative of compositions for other instruments. Classical guitar music came into its own in the late 19th century. Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909) was considered the father of modern classical guitar. Andres Segovia (1893-1987) was the most popular classical guitarist of the modern era.
Playing classical guitar
If you have played steel-stringed guitar up until now, you are going to find playing Classical guitar playing a very different experience. The look, feel, and sound are radically different. These guitars are typically considerably smaller. Their necks are wider. Nylon strings are much softer and gentler on the fingertips than steel strings; this adds to the different feel. The sound is quite different; it is much “lighter” and quieter than a steel stringed acoustic being played with the same intensity.
Classical guitar is typically played while seated, with the guitar on the lap and one foot placed on a footstool. Classical guitar is played with the thumb plucking from the top of a string downwards (downstroke) and the other fingers plucking from the bottom of string upwards (upstroke). A pick is never used. The fingers are always in contact with the strings.
Like with most other musical instruments, you can self-teach with the help of videos and books, but this is not recommended. Classical guitar is a highly stylized and specialized genre and needs more finessing than other styles of guitar playing do. It is greatly recommended that you get one-on-one lessons with an instructor who is proficient in classical guitar. As long as you work at it and stay committed to it, you will find the money and time spent well worth it.
As said above, classical guitar is takes more effort to learn than other genres of guitar, but it will pay off handsomely and you will be playing a type of music that is considered by many the most beautiful and romantic in the world.