This may be the most serious problem in the classical guitar world today: the obsession with difficulty. That is, the idea that pieces of a certain level are the goal. We want to be able to just get through them, or use the most difficult fingering, or play the hardest piece, regardless of how well we can actually pull a piece off.
Masterclasses and Fingering Arguments
Gohar Vardanyan gave a masterclasses while she was in Fort Worth. One of the students was using a lot of very difficult fingerings, so Gohar presented him with some easier alternatives.
These alternative fingerings sounded just as good. And, more importantly, were probably going to allow the student to have more successful performances of the piece.
But then afterwards, an interesting question came up: when is it better to woodshed, and make the difficult thing work versus just trying something easier.
Gohar’s answer was pretty much in line with what most professional guitarists I’ve talked to think about these things: it’s more important to have a successful performance, so do what’s easiest and most likely to work on stage. Sometimes the difficult fingering, while sounding different (or “better”) is not worth the effort.
Guitarists are Lazy
In other words, good guitarists are lazy. They take the easy way out more often than you’d think. This doesn’t just apply to fingerings. Good concert programs include some easy and difficult music. And, of course, good practicing is all about efficiency and achieving the desired results with the least amount of effort. Good guitarists edit and change things and simplify.
I don’t think amateurs and beginners think this way. Instead they’re obsessed with the next step, the harder pieces, doing things “correctly” (eg. what’s on the page) rather than finding the best solution.
That’s why there’s so many people who have only been playing guitar for a year or two trying to tackle pieces like Asturias or Recuerdos. Instead of worrying about how they can play some easier music well, people tend to focus on playing harder music not-so-well (or terribly).
Nothing is Below You
Now the Villa Lobos preludes would be considered “undergraduate repertoire”. Do we think less of Denis Azabagic for playing them? Hell no. Probably because he can play the hell out of them.
And that’s really the line: how well can you play something. It’s not about how hard the repertoire you play is. And it’s not about proving to yourself that you can do some difficult fingering (but only nail it half the time). It’s about playing well, and reaching the lay, non-guitarist audience in such a way that you create fans.
The guitar community as a whole, in my opinion, is far to in love with the difficult, and it’s not professional players spreading this idea around.