Book Review

Book Review : “The Art of Classical Guitar Playing” by Charles Duncan

The Art of Classical Guitar Playing” by Charles Duncan is a comprehensive explanation of every aspect of classical guitar technique. Starting with the most fundamental concepts (seated posture, the basic hand positions) Duncan systematically explains every physical detail that goes into creating the most beautiful and refined sounds on the guitar.

In terms of content, this book is sort of the opposite of a method book. Most classical guitar method books are filled with musically notated exercises and contain only a few paragraphs of writing about technique. The Art of Classical Guitar Playing on the other hand, has relatively few exercises and instead contains extensive written explanations, supported by many diagrams and drawings. Read more >>>

art-classical-guitarObviously, the only way to develop classical guitar technique is by actually playing. So why take the time to read this book that simply talks about guitar playing? Well, what is not so obvious is that plugging away for hours on some technical exercise without adequate explanation as to the exercise’s purpose can be a complete waste of time.

The development of solid technique involves many layers of refinement and it is hardly and intuitive process. I have found this book to be an invaluable supplement to the exercises and etudes found in the various method books. There is no substitute for the understanding one gains from studying this book. Its pages contain the knowledge to unlock the purpose(s) of the individual exercises and etudes we guitarists use to build our technique. The difference in the amount of progress made through purposeful, knowledgeable practice, than by diligent (though aimless) repetition, can not be overestimated.

Of the countless technical concepts that this book helped me to understand better, perhaps the most valuable is the concept of developing greater AWARENESS on the instrument. The concept of awareness is so powerful because it covers both the breadth and depth of our senses. Whether we are trying to sharpen our perceptions (of pitch, timing, touch or tone) or more securely coordinate technical movements, the feeling that we strive for is that of greater awareness! That is why we are practicing. We are not mindlessly repeating movements to build up muscle memory. This book helped me realize that we are, through repetition, integrating these movements and sensations into our overall sense of awareness at the instrument. And this realization has had a continual effect on my practicing and playing.

The last thing I want to say about this book is that I have read it more than once and it has benefitted me in different ways each time. I think as I continue to grow as a player I am able to access more and more of the valuable insights Duncan has collected here. After all, one can only incorporate so many new ideas at one time. I will return to this book again in a year or so to have my mind blown all over again!

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