On My Mind

There has been a severe lack of posts in the last few weeks. I’ve been giving a few solo recitals (along with a guitar duo performance thrown in) and traveling a lot to do doctoral auditions. Things will be quieter in a few weeks, and The Classical Guitar Blog with back to normal.

In the meantime, here’s some things that have been on my mind:

  • People need to play easier music. A good repertoire selection will have some hard stuff, and some easy. Trying to put together an entire program of hard music is not the best way to get better at guitar.
  • I’d rather listen to easy music played well than hard music played badly.
  • It’s all about the legato. Music is about lines, and we need to connect them. Just because the guitar can make nice pointallistic stabs of sound does not mean we should do it all the time. Always try for a legato sound as your default (unless the music says otherwise, of course).
  • Don’t learn interpretation later. It’s like learning two different pieces, and people spend too much time just, “getting in their fingers.” It’s no surprise, then, that a bad, uninterpreted version is the one that comes out on stage.
  • Everyone needs to spend less time on scales and more time arpeggios. Seriously. Most of our stuff is arpeggio like in texture. That said, don’t neglect those scales completely.
  • A smile and a good moment of poise can make a performance. Master those two things and your stage deportment goes to a new level.

What’s on your mind?

Posted on in Best of the Classical Guitar Blog


  • Bradford Werner

    “Don’t learn interpretation later” This is true. We have to work out all the interpretation before we start solidifying the work. Make sure to “practise” interpretation and musicality, don’t leave it for after the technical completion of the work. If we leave it to last it won’t be in our muscle memory and it will be too easy to revert back to the basic “playing” of the piece which can be mindless.

    Also, I think phrasing is all about contrast. If you want the audience to hear the guitar as sounding legato then you need to show them some contrasting ideas to make the legato sound ultra smooth by comparison. When it comes down to it, our instrument is not as legato as a violin, but the audience can be made to forget that.

    Thanks for the post, I’ve been a bit too busy lately too. Don’t forget to use some of your older achieved material, it sometimes hard to find on the site and I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the much earlier posts that got the blog started.

  • David Norton
    David Norton

    I agree heartily with the idea “easy played well beats hard played poorly.” Ever heard of Manuel Gayol, Dave Starobin’s teacher in the 1960s? A real master of this concept. His LP is quite an object lesson here.

    The famous concert pianist Wilhelm Bachaus said in a 1938 interview in The New Yorker magazine, “Why seek difficulty when there is so much that is quite as beautiful and yet not so difficult? Why try to make a bouquet of oak trees, when the ground is covered with exquisite wildflowers all around, waiting to be collected?”

    He was speaking of the piano repertoire, certainly, but the same idea applies equally to the guitar.

  • singvomblatt

    Hey Chris,

    the question is, at your stage of soon entering a doctoral -program in guitar, what do you consider to be an easy piece of music ?

    Is it Lacrima, Romance, Giulliani opus 48 nr.3, un dia de noviembre ?

    greetings heidi from Germany, Freiburg

    • Christopher Davis

      Singovmblatt, that’s a very fair question. It would depend on the student I was working with. For some I think the first few Carcassi etudes are the ones that are easy. For others, I write them little studies to practice specific things.

      I would consider all of those things you mentioned easy. I don’t the Giuliani Folias variations that I’m playing right now (opus 45) is terribly hard, but it does have a few spots are are technically challenging (a few “hot licks” if you will). Musically there’s a lot of challenging material in it. Another example of an easy piece (for me) Bach’s first Cello suite.

      That probably doesn’t answer your question, but it gives you an idea. I think my program right now is a bit too hard for me to be honest.


  • Jacksonville Guitar

    “An entire program of hard music is not the best way to get better at guitar” I agree with this line, just like many other things in life – every lesson is learned when done starting from the basic, which means the easier ones then from then advancing little by little will lead you to what you are aiming for. Nice tip, thanks for this.