In my house sits an old guitar, unused for many years. Sometimes I’ve wondered about learning to play, but still haven’t taken the plunge. All I remember about the one and only time I went to a guitar class (at a music club for young people, when I was about 12), was all the talk about chords. I never went back. So playing guitar’s a mystery to me, and yet I respond to guitar music when I hear it played by others. Classical guitar calms and stills me, makes me feel grounded. Then there’s the loud blasting guitar of heavy metal and rock. Is any other instrument as commonplace across genres as diverse as folk, rock classical, techno and pop?
Try listening to three such different guitar pieces today as the Concierto de Aranjuez, one of Jimi Hendrix’s songs and a hit by Simon & Garfunkel. Think what different impacts they have on you. Maybe you respond to one more than another, maybe one will fit your mood one day and another the next. When you think about the guitar this Guitar Day (11 February), which music style comes first to mind? Is it most of all a folk instrument to you, classical or maybe rock? Even asking that question shows the guitar’s unique heritage.
There’ss omething very informal and communal about the guitar. If someone has a guitar and starts strumming, people tend to gather round to listen, chat or sing along. This can prove useful in sharing music for wellbeing – someone taking their guitar into, say, a care home, is a very natural way to share music that is familiar and lively, encouraging people to sing along.
Guitar has a long heritage, some 800 years old. It has stood out sometimes. In Baroque times the guitar was a common instrument, a legacy which survives in pieces like Vivaldi’s lively Guitar Concerto. It may have been overshadowed as a classical instrument by the violin and cello, but has still inspired a continuing stream of music by composers like Benjamin Britten and William Walton. In Spain guitar has remained more central, played by such masters as Andres Segovia. And down the years guitar has held unique importance in musicmaking. For countless teenagers dreaming of fame, for buskers, for singer songwriters and for superstars, it has opened up a new world.
A hallmark of all forms of creativity is variety – the endless possibilities (limited only by imagination) which can so enhance living. Surely the guitar embodies this variety. New styles and technology have played their part – electric guitar, rock and rhythm guitar. Stimulus is there in abundance. Start to experience guitar music, and you set out on an endless journey.
Which three pieces or songs will you choose to listen to? And share what you think in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002