If you could master the technique of any guitarist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Fellow tonebuddies!

Imagine for a moment, closing your eyes, strumming that first note, and when you open them, you have the impeccable technique of one of the world's most iconic guitarists. A thrilling thought, isn't it?

This week, let's ponder on this very dream: If you could master the technique of any guitarist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

馃幎 Would you dive into the soulful touch of Segovia, the infinite color palette of Julian Bream? 馃幎 Perhaps the perfect tremolo of David Russel? 馃幎 Or would you choose to resonate with  Paco de Luc铆a's flamenco mastery?

Share with the community:

馃幎 What draws you to this particular guitarist's technique? 馃幎 Are there specific videos or performances that encapsulate their prowess for you? 馃幎 How do you think adopting their technique would influence your own musical journey?

Remember, it's not just about skill, but the emotion, the legacy, and the story behind each string maestro that makes them unforgettable.

Can't wait to hear whose guitar genius you'd like to embody for a day!

55replies Oldest first
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Active threads
  • Popular
    • Peternull
    • Peter.3
    • 3 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    It鈥檚 a cliche but definitely Bream. He was, above all, a great musician but one with his feet on the ground. He put on airs and graces in his accent but there was still a touch of the london cockney who grew up in a pub. 
     

    I was once fortunate enough to be at a recital where he was playing Dowland Lachrimae Pavane and rather appropriately the lady in front of me died during the performance. Ghoulish perhaps but I can鈥檛 think of a better way to go. 
     

    he may not have had the flare of other guitarists nevertheless his ability to express the music of the great composers was phenomenal. Perhaps because his main formal musical study was the piano with its wealth pedagogical tradition behind it. 
     

    Adding to my admiration, he was a wonderful patron of luthiers and young guitarists and therefore influential in the  development of the instrument and playing. And what a legacy of music written for him has been left for us all to enjoy. 
     

    no disrespect to David Russell who told me the other day that I was his first student - and definitely his worst student too. 

    Like 2
  • Such a difficult question. There are so many fantastic players and I've only heard a fraction of them. Cinzia Milani, totally unknown to me till recently is up there in the top few, so is Marcin Dylla, Alec Holcomb. So many of the recent competition winners are awesome. Many of the newer players a better than some of the previous big names both in terms of technique and musical interpretation. Newer players learn from the previous players and improve on it. Segovia set a new bar at his time and opened doors and pushed the guitar to new heights. We all owe him for that, but in todays group of players, technically he would be left far behind - I know I'll get some flac from that, just my opinion though.

    Like
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Robert St Cyr todays players need to study the poetry inherent in Segovia鈥檚 playing. Sure, the recordings are sub par but you need to remember none of his recordings were edited. Everything was live and one take. And the sound of the recordings isn鈥檛 best quality. But people I have spoken to who studied with him say his sound was amazing. I heard him play one of his last concerts in 1983 and even at 90 years old he played beautifully although not perfectly. I think one can acquire technical prowess through many hours of practice but if it lacks poetry, I鈥檓 bored after a few minutes.

      Like
    • Debbie Hi Debbie. I have heard Segovia in person, as well as Bream and hundreds of others. (at 69 I get to about 60 or 70 live music concerts a year).  There are numerous players who I would rather listen to than Segovia, not due to technique but musicality. Celia Linde who studied with Segovia recently spent a week with us (she was playing locally). I heard many stories about the maestro. If you get the chance, attend a Guitar Foundation of American annual conference and competition. There you can hear 3 or more concerts a day with the top players from all over the world. It is truly an earn opening experience. I would be interested to hear your impression after an experience like that.

      Like 1
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Robert St Cyr yes, of course, I have been to many of those events as well and have heard a gazillion players. At age 60 I鈥檓 not far behind you 馃槈 

      Like
      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Robert St Cyr 

      I certainly share your respect for Marcin Dylla, Robert. I continually find myself drawn to his interpretations, especially modern works. I should also mention his BWV 996 Suite is on of my favorites, especially the Courante. I attended the GFA Conference in New York this summer and not only got see him in concert but also had the honor of having a private lesson with him. He was very insightful and gracious. I also got to see Lorenzo Michelli in his SoloDuo duet. He is another wonderful performer in the Baroque and Romantic repertoire. 

      Like you, I also have a problematic appreciation for Segovia. I did see him once, probably in the 80's (in Houston, Tx I believe). It was something of a pilgrimage for me - I was living in Dallas. I do not find myself drawn to his performances though that is not as critical  as it sounds. I do find his style of playing and repertoire to be dated. Segovia was hugely instrumental in establishing the guitar as a serious classical instrument but at the cost of dominating the development of the guitar and its modern repertoire, I feel.

      Like
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Jack Stewart Debbie Robert St Cyr I agree that Segovia's performances are dated, but they reflect the musical aesthetic of the time. I do think Debbie makes a valid point about the nature of recording in the past. The short concert that was presented on Italian television in 1956 probably gives a fairly good impression of what Segovia was capable of. ('Sevilla' by Albeniz, played as a final piece, stands up well to more recent interpretations by today's virtuosos, I would say.) And bear in mind that he was nearly seventy at the time - still in vigorous health, no doubt, but no one can maintain their 'peak' form through so many decades. I disagree, though, with the idea that Segovia's dominant position in the guitar world was somehow detrimental to the instrument's development. It's true that he mostly promoted composers working in a neo-romantic style (Ponce, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Rodrigo) but he did encourage the creation of an important (and large) repertoire which is still being explored. (His archive is, as far as I know, still in the process of being edited and published.) The Sonatina by Cyril Scott (beautifully performed by Canadian guitarist Michael Kolk) is a good example of a piece written for Segovia that didn't make it into his repertoire. (Of course, it's a pity he didn't encourage Scott to write more, but at least we have one extended piece.) Sure, it would have been great if Segovia had asked Stravinsky or Bartok to compose for guitar, but he didn't, and I'm not sure it's fair to criticize him for this. (Bream apparently did try to get Stravinsky to write something, but the Russian seems not to have been interested.) One composer I do wish Segovia had worked with is Frank Martin, whose 'Quatre pieces breves' he saw but rejected. Martin wound up giving them to a far lesser guitarist (I think it was Karl Scheit) who eventually published them, but they had to wait over thirty years for a proper recording (Bream's '20th century guitar' released in 1967). Of course, Bream could have commissioned something himself, as Martin, though no longer young, was still composing. (I suspect Martin would have written a concerto, had he been asked - but who knows, maybe he was.) Anyhow, Segovia was just one individual, and there was a limit to what he could achieve on his own. And I would say that was rather a lot!

       

      Segovia full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrPE3YQ8xx4

      Segovia concert Sevilla only: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a3lz9qxtio

      Michael Kolk: https://www.youtube.com/@mjkolk/videos

      Like
      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      David Krupka Segovia's performances were certainly a product of the times. Major classical pianists were performing Bach in a very romantic style. That's what I meant by stating that my attitude towards his performance was not as critical as it sounds.

      My assessment of Segovia's legacy are based on his tremendous accomplishments of developing guitar performance commiserate with other classical instruments and having it accepted in the classical world as a serious musical instrument, expanding the tradition of transcribing works to expand its repertoire, commissioning new works, and teaching the next generation of classical guitarists.

      But there are some rather negative aspects to his legacy. He rejected much of modern music, especially if it deviated from Neo classical and / or Neo romantic composers, He insisted all of his students play like him. He had become the dominant figure in the classical guitar world. In fact he pretty much represented the classical guitar to the world at large, therefore his actions and attitudes had enormous influence and consequences, positive and negative. There are many stories of his brutal (emotionally) insistence that his students play only his repertoire exactly like him.  John Williams has made reference to that aspect and there is a YT video of an 18 yr old Micael Chapdelaine being dismissed from his master class because Chapdelaine had not used all ofSegovia's fingerings. Sharon Isbin recounted an instance in which she, as one of his students, played a movement from Barrios' La Catedral for Segovia. He was very impressed with the work and asked who the composer was. When Isbin told him it was by Barrios, who Segovia detested as a composer, Segovia ended the lesson and never taught her again.

       

      So, for me, Segovia's legacy is complicated.

      Like 1
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Jack Stewart I've heard similar stories and it does seem he was, to put it nicely, a rather poor teacher. I'm certainly not trying to defend his character. (He had other faults too, particularly in his personal affairs.) But the fact is, with or without his guidance, the subsequent generation of guitarists got on perfectly well, and soon met and then surpassed his technical standard. I don't see that Segovia interfered to any significant degree with the normal development of the art. His petulant outbursts did not prevent young artists like Williams and Isbin from having successful careers of their own. Now, I do agree that he rejected modernist music - it's just I don't think this can be held against him. Had he had different tastes, I suppose we might have a few works by Stravinsky and Bartok, but we might then lose those by the Neo-romantics. That would be like one of those blockbuster trades in sport - it's always hard to predict which side 'wins'. Also, we need to consider that the modernists might not have been drawn to the guitar in the first place. The composers Segovia worked with were mostly from 'guitar-friendly' musical cultures (basically, the 'Latin' world). I think we're in basic agreement about Segovia's legacy - we differ mostly in how we view it (half-full versus half-empty).

      Like
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      David Krupka Thanks for those links, David. It would be remiss of me to not swing the pendulum back a little bit on Segovia. He played everything with a romantic interpretation and for early music repertoire I do not prefer to listen to him, except maybe his Bach Chacone. My main point to Robert was mainly to express that while current players possess exceptional technical skill, some could benefit from learning to play more expressively as Segovia did, sometimes, arguably, to a fault. Be that as it may, historical context is everything and we owe him a debt of gratitude for the music he commissioned and bringing the guitar to the concert stage. Although I still love the guitar as an intimate parlor instrument as well! In any case, fun discussion!

      Like
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Jack Stewart a few anecdotes should not give us the right to call Segovia a bad teacher. He may not have been the right teacher for some but for others he was a very good teacher. I have had two teachers, one current, who studied with him at length and from their accounts he allowed them to develop into highly unique players, one of which is quite famous. I might suggest it had more to do with personality clashes. You either got on with him or you didn鈥檛. And to mention the one story that everyone knows about Chapdelaine isn鈥檛 fair. By Michael鈥檚 own admission, he came back to the masterclass the following day and had a great time with Segovia. But no one seems to know or mention that.

      Like
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Debbie I certainly agree that Segovia's treatment of early music leaves a lot to be desired. (Frankly, I find it unlistenable.) But the historically-informed approach to performance was only in its infancy in Segovia's day. Again, he was a man of his time, and most of his peers in the broader musical world shared his late romantic aesthetic. In fact, it took guitarists a long time to catch up with the new trends - only in recent decades have we had decent performances of composers like Francesco or Dowland.

      Like 1
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      David Krupka That's very true, David. I did the recent Tonebase month long master class with Thomas Viloteau and he had me work a renaissance piece with serious performance practice. I was so inspired that I ended up buying a lute and am learning to play it. Tuning the third string to g sharp and putting a capo on was ok but I wanted that lute sound. It's been a fun challenge although I play it more like a modern lute with single strings instead of double courses. It's not historically authentic to play it that way but it still sounds cool.

      Like
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Debbie That's wonderful, Debbie! I took up the lute myself a dozen or so years ago. I think it's normal (for guitarists, I mean) to begin lute with a guitar-like technique. I found I gradually drifted into something more historically appropriate. (In the end, I wound up playing the lute 'properly', and the guitar with a lute-like technique!) What kind of lute did you wind up buying?

      Like 1
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      David Krupka it鈥檚 made by a local luthier in Romania. It鈥檚 an 8c Renaissance lute. I don鈥檛 play with nails so I get a nice lute sound but I really can鈥檛 handle those double courses. I kind of think I might buy a Liuto-Forte at some point. It is neither lute nor guitar so I may get flack from both camps but I love the sound. I had a nice email discussion with Rob MacKillop and he encouraged to do my thing as long as I don鈥檛 claim I鈥檓 trying to be historically accurate so as not to disturb the purists,  and I鈥檓 good with that. The figure 8 of the guitar can鈥檛 project basses like the lute pear shape so I think a Liuto Forte is a better choice than an 8 or 10 string guitar. I think it鈥檚 so cool that you play the lute. What kind do you have?

      Like
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Debbie I have three now - six, seven, and eleven courses, all made by luthier Lauri Niskanen in Finland. (I also own a four-course guitar from Gyorgy Lorinczi in Romania.) [The problem with getting interested in early music is you invariably come down with a bad case of GAS (gear-acquisition-syndrome).] I'm a big fan of Rob's and I know he at some point started playing with single strings himself, although I think he eventually returned to full courses. (Not sure about this.) Personally, I would try getting on with double stringing for at least a while - once you get the hang of it, it's not too difficult, and the sound, when produced properly, is very distinctive. It's interesting that you've also been looking into multi-string guitars and the 'Liuto-forte'. I considered those too when I was starting out. In the end, I decided just to go for a 'proper' lute. A decade on, I'm very glad I did.

      Like
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      David Krupka thanks for the encouragement David. You鈥檝e given me something to think about so I鈥檒l maybe put those extra strings back on! My lute is made by a student of Lorinczi鈥檚, Gagyi Denes. He is doing some nice work and I鈥檓 happy to have one of his lutes. One issue is trying to find a case or padded gig bag for it. Can鈥檛 find a bag and the cases are stupid expensive!

      Like
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Debbie I agree, the made-to-measure cases are absurdly expensive. Some luthiers (both Lauri and Gyorgy, fortunately) provide their own. But there are a couple of options for something cheaper. One is to make your own. The English luthier David van Edwards has designed a 'soft' case that can be made at home, using ordinary materials:

      https://www.vanedwards.co.uk/case.htm

      It can be purchased through the Lute Society of England which, by the way, is worth joining, if only to get the discount on their publications.

      https://www.lutesociety.org

      I definitely recommend acquiring their 'special offer' of 8 student books:

      https://www.lutesociety.org/pages/catalogue

      If you're handy with tools, you could try making a simple plywood case - a friend of mine built one for his lute, and it's every bit as good as anything one might buy. Finally, Ammar Biser (in Bosnia) makes what look to be nice foam cases. I'm not sure he sells them as cases alone, but you might contact him to find out:

      https://biserlutes.com

      One last option: RCH cases, based in Italy. These are reasonably priced, but in my experience (I own one) they are poorly fitted, and cheaply constructed. Still, better than nothing.

      http://www.rchcases.it

      Like
      • Debbie
      • Debbie
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      David Krupka thanks for the links, David. I appreciate it and I鈥檒l check them out. I joined the UK lute society when I bought my lute. It is, indeed, a good resource.

      Like
      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Debbie David Krupka I will reassess my attitudes toward Segovia in light of your discussion of the Segovia legacy. My attitudes are pretty much in constant flux as it is. I started as devotee then a complete anti- Segovia snob and now a bit more nuanced perspective. Thanks for the discussion.

      Like
      • David Krupka
      • Amateur guitarist/lutenist
      • David_Krupka
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Jack Stewart That's pretty much the 'journey' I've taken too, Jack. What began to change my thinking (back to a favourable view) was acquiring a few years back an urtext edition of Ponce's guitar sonatas. I was familiar with the Segovia editions of the same works. What was striking was how unplayable the original versions were. Segovia had done more than simply edit Ponce's work, he had completely overhauled it. Apparently, this was their arrangement: Ponce would provide the basic idea, and Segovia would render it into something playable. (I believe he worked with Castelnuovo-Tedesco in a similar fashion.) Anyhow, I gained a new appreciation of just what had been involved in getting these works to the concert stage. Another thing that has influenced my thinking is my increasing awareness of the 'historical performance' movement and it's aims. Rather than seeing Segovia as having failed in his interpretation of early music, I have come more and more to understand his performances as historical documents in themselves: we have, through him, an insight into the aesthetic of late 19th century romanticism. (He was, after all, born in that era.) It doesn't really make sense to complain that he didn't know how to approach pre-classical repertoire. To make an analogy, that would be like complaining that Eric Clapton doesn't really 'get' the blues, because his recording of 'Crossroads' (Wheels of Fire version) doesn't sound remotely like Robert Johnson. The observation would be correct, but entirely beside the point. Cream weren't trying to sound like anyone except themselves. The same, I think, can be said of Segovia.

      Like
    • Jack Stewart Yes it is complicated - the classical guitar would probably not be where it is today if not for Segovia. His promotion of the guitar as a concert instrument and the development of new repertoire and his establishment of a standard technique and approach helped immensely.  One of Segovia students said though - "he helped many guitarists succeed but I wonder how many he ruined?" His ego is legendary. I was in a museum in Seville, Spain where there was a Torres guitar that Segovia had signed - on middle of the top in magic marker!!! Can anyone imagine a violinist who would do that to a Stradivari violin?

      Like
      • Jack Stewart
      • Retired
      • Jack_Stewart
      • 3 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Robert St Cyr Ouch! Well, at least he didn't use spray paint.

      Like
    • Robert St Cyr I just returned from a trip to Italy which started in Venice, and in some research before I left, I learned that these had been a European conference on new music in Venice in 1932. Andres Segovia crashed the meeting to recruit composers to expand the guitar repertoire. It was there that he met Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and planted the seed to write guitar music! What a historic event, as Castelnuovo-Tedesco ended up writing over 100 major works for guitar! I think that typifies what Segovia did for the guitar, aside from teaching, and establishing nails and nylon strings. He is why we all play. My high school teacher was a Segovia student, and there was some tendency to regard him as a god or cult leader. As I learned music, I began to notice that Segovia seemed to have no sense of tempo-or did he? When playing with orchestras, he was spot-on. Same with his recording of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco quintet. So maybe his solo performances, inserting 'fermatas' seemingly at random were just how he 'felt' the music. Well, that's what inclined me to gravitate to Bream. Still, Segovia is truly the 'Father of the guitar'.

      Like 1
  • Without question, Paco de Lucia. His masterful technique and his musical genius allowed him to play flamenco and classical equally superbly, and the way he envisioned music inspired awe. His interpretations of the music of Manuel de Falla, his recording of Rodrigo's Aranjuez, and his journeys into fusion flamenco jazz were phenomenal and set the stage for all who followed. I met him briefly at the home of Ren茅 Heredia in Denver in the late 1970's. He left an impression on me that has not faded to this day.

    Like 1
Like Follow
  • 10 days agoLast active
  • 55Replies
  • 309Views
  • 23 Following

Home

View all topics