I need to make up my mind….

..concerning my attitude regarding steel-string vs. nylon-string (classical) guitars.

I recently obtained a very nice LaPatrie classical cutaway from Godin Guitars I had been asked to play a solo classical gig by a local agent here in Philly and, as much as I love it, my Old Lady Lowden isn’t very appropriate for serous classical playing. In addition, I’d developed an affinity for the music and playing of Xuefei Yang, quite possibly the finest living classical player. Her rendition of El Sueno en la Floresta brought tears to my eyes. She is a truly complete musician, a virtuoso who makes the music her own and makes you forget she’s playing other composers’ music.

Then there’s my classical approach — and it’s my own. I learned from Ralph Towner’s first book (which went out-of-print the day before it was released I think) and now realized it took a long time before I could even figure out the simplest concepts in the book. Of course, results were not immediate but when it started to come together for me it really came together. The greatest challenge is the material; classical players and fans tend to keep scorecards when they listen and pick 16th-note trills and fluctuations in tempo to pieces. Sadly, many overlook the primary focus — the music. Nevertheless, the interpretation is so important, making sure it doesn’t sound mechanical and un-emotional. Of course, I’m not going to play El Sueno or any ten-page pieces as I’m not in performance. Still, as I always tell myself, if I’m playing I need to play great — I have never dismissed a gig, even private bookings, and played a mediocre performance. That’s how you raise your standards and get better as a musician.

The thing is… I’m starting to really like the nylon-string guitar. Another mid-life crisis is underway, it seems, in my ongoing steel vs. nylon drama. I really like the room to get around that many steel-string guitars don’t afford me. The LaPatrie, while not a boutique instrument, plays very well and I’m getting the feel/touch finally.

I guess I need one of each built to my specs…..

I’ll discuss the technical issues next time.

Until then….!

Matt's LaPatrie awaiting his return.

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