Over the years, I have taught many students to play classical guitar. Some have asked why they would study classical guitar if it’s not what they usually listen to.
Because classical guitar is awesome, of course! But also because there are benefits of classical study, even for students who mainly want to play modern popular styles.
When I start working with a new student, I ask what they want to learn. They may want to strum chords and play rhythm guitar. Or improvise and play lead guitar. Or play bass guitar. These are important skills. And I am happy to help students achieve these goals. But I think it’s also important to learn skills that are emphasized in the classical approach to the guitar. These include the following:
Music Literacy: When you read staff notation, you understand music more thoroughly than when playing from tablature or chord charts. Reading staff notation also makes it easier for a guitarist to communicate with musicians who play other instruments.
Fingerstyle Technique: Plucking with right-hand thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers gives the guitarist more options than a single pick. Playing fingerstyle allows you to play lead, rhythm, and bass all at the same time on the same guitar. This gives you a technical reserve that is useful in playing lead, rhythm, or bass individually.
Left-Hand Precision: The classical approach encourages precision of left-hand technique. This is useful in any style of guitar playing.
Diversity of Repertoire: It is beneficial to study diverse musical styles from the present. It is also beneficial to study diverse musical styles from the past. Many guitarists who explore music of the past find masterpieces that they passionately enjoy. If not, at least they have developed an understanding of the roots of modern styles. This also provides a broader palette from which to draw in improvising and composing.
It is possible to explore one of these areas without the others. In fact, if the student has a negative opinion of the term “classical guitar”, you don’t even need to mention that term. Some teachers may emphasize music reading without using fingerstyle technique. Others may ask students to learn fingerstyle technique without covering music from the past.
But if you provide students with training in all four of the above areas, they are well equipped to move forward in any direction they wish. This gives them a firm foundation for a lifetime of musical enjoyment.
Question: In your opinion, why would someone want to play classical guitar? You can leave a comment by clicking here.