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Old 08-12-2013, 06:23 PM   #1
Nietsche
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Can't Compose for Classical Guitar

I've been trying to scribble down something for solo classical guitar for months but for some reason I can't even muster a simple miniature. It's not that I have a problem understanding what is and isn't idiomatic or possible on the instrument, I've been playing for years, I just can't seem to think of anything.

Maybe I really just don't care about the guitar as solo instrument in a classical context, I didn't even really want classical guitar lessons, they helped me loads with sight reading and general musicianship but even now that classical repertoire in general interests me the guitar repertoire in particular seems mostly second rate at best. I have nothing but sympathy for Stravinsky's reaction to Villa-Lobos.

It still bugs me that I can't seem to write anything at all though. I think I'm going to have a crack at writing something for piano and then arranging it for guitar. Any other suggestions to overcome this peculiar mental block are welcome.
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:04 PM   #2
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Using a new and completely different tuning might help, if your stuck in a rut and can't seem to come up with any ideas this might help. When you're just noodling around but in a weird tuning, something cool-sounding might come up and set you off.

Also yeah try a different instrument, different gear sometimes inspire me for riffs etc
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:15 PM   #3
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Write your melodic line on paper first then bring it to your instrument and harmonise. I also have difficulty writing for classical guitar, despite recieving my initial training as a classical guitarist. Although I no longer writie idiomatically for it. Rather I try to think of new things to do with it. One thing I noticed is that creating interesting texture for it is difficult despite how easy the great composers for the guitar made it look.
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:51 PM   #4
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Classical guitar is really really hard to write for unless you are proficient in it. I stay away...
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Old 08-12-2013, 11:53 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiaoxi
Classical guitar is really really hard to write for unless you are proficient in it. I stay away...



this



i try but im nto very good or very classical

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Old 08-13-2013, 12:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiaoxi
Classical guitar is really really hard to write for unless you are proficient in it. I stay away...

Especially if you want it to remain really really hard to write for
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Old 08-13-2013, 01:00 AM   #7
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Writing for guitar while writing for piano is not a very good idea. When you compose for an instrument it is always best to keep in mind the instrument you are composing for since it has its own limitations, weaknesses, and strengths.

Also, composing for a particular musician and his instrument is what a master composer does. Think Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata.
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Old 08-13-2013, 01:20 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Erc
Writing for guitar while writing for piano is not a very good idea. When you compose for an instrument it is always best to keep in mind the instrument you are composing for since it has its own limitations, weaknesses, and strengths.

Also, composing for a particular musician and his instrument is what a master composer does. Think Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata.


I've always had it explained to me in the opposite way. Don't really think about the limitations of the instrument. One of the composition professors at my school wrote an ascending chromatic line in a harp piece, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to ascend chromatically on harp. Write the music that you want to be played, and then its the players job to play it. That's what Shostakovitch did for his cello concertos. He knew that good old Mtsislav was going to end up playing them for the first time, so he didn't pull any punches with technique.
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:08 AM   #9
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Well if you want to call Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven poor composers then so be it. They composed for a very particular set of musicians and instruments since they were court musicians, or basically a court musician since they had the assets (like beethoven. his sonatas are composed for himself to play, his symphonies for the full time orchestras he conducted for.) It takes a lot of networking to acquire those kind of assets in this brave new world.
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:25 AM   #10
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I tried to compose a fugue on a mandolin and it wound up pretty nicely
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:33 AM   #11
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I've gotten the sense that you usually have to earn your stripes before you can expect musicians to take your extremely demanding pieces seriously. Then you can switch to "do what I want, how I want it" mode.

I've never heard more frustration about preparing for a concert than when my school's choir and orchestra did Beethoven's Ninth...
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Old 08-13-2013, 09:54 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by will42
I've always had it explained to me in the opposite way. Don't really think about the limitations of the instrument. One of the composition professors at my school wrote an ascending chromatic line in a harp piece, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to ascend chromatically on harp. Write the music that you want to be played, and then its the players job to play it. That's what Shostakovitch did for his cello concertos. He knew that good old Mtsislav was going to end up playing them for the first time, so he didn't pull any punches with technique.

This kind of thinking is why musicians hate new music. You shouldn't let idioms dictate what you write, which happens all too often when someone who is primarily a player tries to compose something for their instrument, but you also need to take into account the limitations, strengths and practicalities of an instrument. An instrumentalist will love you if you write something that sounds cool that also falls under the fingers well. There's nothing worse than spending ten minutes of rehearsal (especially for an orchestra piece where you might get 15 minutes of rehearsal) on trying to figure out a way to make a line playable because you fucked up and wrote something impossible or really impractical. And that's on the composer. It's the composer's job to make sure that everything is playable and easily done, if it's not, it's the composer's fault.

(btw it makes me ill to agree with Erc.)

And also what RG2 said. If you're Mahler or Beethoven, people will go to the ends of the earth to play your music faithfully. But if you're John Q. Whothefuckcares nobody is going to bother to learn your piece beyond the absolute bare minimum of actually playing it. Even at that, there's very few new composers I can think of that get the kind of respect from performers that the classical masters do.


As for the original question, something so idiosyncratic as the guitar is tough to write for I find. My only suggestion is to write something. Even if it sucks, get it done from beginning to end and you'll learn so much about what works and what doesn't and a good workflow for working with the instrument. And I think that stuff only comes when you fully work out an idea. You're obviously at a huge advantage because you play it proficiently.
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Old 08-13-2013, 03:27 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nietsche
but even now that classical repertoire in general interests me the guitar repertoire in particular seems mostly second rate at best. I have nothing but sympathy for Stravinsky's reaction to Villa-Lobos.


I've been through the same thing.
After understanding Beethoven's Piano Sonatas I've realized how badly structured the Giuliani Sonata I was playing all the time actually was. And that actually made me quit my plans of becoming a professional soloist. However, instead of just giving up guitar it rather motivated me to work on my own stuff.

Writing for guitar is a great way to get your music performed and maybe even have it become part of the reportoire!
Because let's face it, you're going to have a hard time writing a Piano Sonata or String Quartet that can even compare to the quality of works by Beethoven or any other great composer who wrote for the genre, nor will it bring many new ideas to the instrument.

Guitar on the other hand has a very small reportoire, and a large part of it is either keyboard music arranged for guitar (Scarlatti, Bach, Granados, Albeniz) or cheesy romantic wallowing (Tarrega, Barrios).
There are only like 4 meaningful Sonatas for guitar that I can think of right now. And only 2 Concerti.

Many trends of music history have never really been realized on the guitar, and there is a huge amount of Folk music techniques that you can integrate into your writing.

So I see a lot of potential in the guitar. And since you disregard all the works in the repertoire as second rate you have a chance to just write your own music without copying ideas from anyone, which is at least a nice challenge.
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Old 08-13-2013, 05:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by will42
I've always had it explained to me in the opposite way. Don't really think about the limitations of the instrument. One of the composition professors at my school wrote an ascending chromatic line in a harp piece, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to ascend chromatically on harp. Write the music that you want to be played, and then its the players job to play it. That's what Shostakovitch did for his cello concertos. He knew that good old Mtsislav was going to end up playing them for the first time, so he didn't pull any punches with technique.

If your professor honestly said that without adding any caveats, then he is toxic and you should disregard everything he has ever said.
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Old 08-13-2013, 07:13 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by 505088K
Because let's face it, you're going to have a hard time writing a Piano Sonata or String Quartet that can even compare to the quality of works by Beethoven or any other great composer who wrote for the genre, nor will it bring many new ideas to the instrument.

Guitar on the other hand has a very small reportoire, and a large part of it is either keyboard music arranged for guitar (Scarlatti, Bach, Granados, Albeniz) or cheesy romantic wallowing (Tarrega, Barrios).


I don't think that necessarily means that it's easier to write pieces for the guitar though. Just because the Guitar repertoire didn't benefit from the heyday of sonata form in the same way that the piano, cello or violin did it doesn't necessarily mean we can go back and try writing a sonata for guitar inspired by Beethoven and expect to be successful. Writing for the guitar should deliver all the elements we would expect from any composition but with the addition of being played on a guitar.

I think my plan now anyway is to sit on this for a while and come back to it when and if I have an idea I think could work out well on the guitar.
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Old 08-13-2013, 08:57 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nietsche
I don't think that necessarily means that it's easier to write pieces for the guitar though. Just because the Guitar repertoire didn't benefit from the heyday of sonata form in the same way that the piano, cello or violin did it doesn't necessarily mean we can go back and try writing a sonata for guitar inspired by Beethoven and expect to be successful. Writing for the guitar should deliver all the elements we would expect from any composition but with the addition of being played on a guitar.



Yeah I agree. I just meant that if somebody really wanted to write in an old style and still get performed/published classical guitar is the way. This is purely practical advice.

I just said that because us guitarists are desperately in need of large scale works that don't suck.

If you need inspiration for modern guitar writing I suggest you listen to William Walton's 5 Bagatelles. This is not second rate imo.
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Old 08-14-2013, 08:41 AM   #17
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5 Bagatelles is impressive... Ana plays it brilliantly. If I had to compare my classical comps to that or anything by Torroba/Barrios - I would have to admit a monumentous defeat and forget I ever played guitar. Dismiss it all as a very bad dream. But I tend to like my simple classical comps - elevator music for tumbleweeds - makes me smile.

But you serious composers, if there are any of those left of course, well... good luck to you is about all I can say.
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