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Arts - September 21, 2022

Classical Guitar and Classical Music

We all know the guitar, which is one of the most well-known musical instruments today. This instrument, in which today’s popular pop songs are played, actually has a very important place in classical music, after starting with a zeal and learning a few chords and rhythms in primary school, secondary school, high school or even university. In this article, we will talk about the general characteristics of the guitar and its relationship with classical music.

The guitar is a stringed musical instrument with 6 strings and pitches on the keyboard part. This instrument, in which the rhythm is played with the dominant hand (left handed if your dominant hand is left hand) and we determine the notes by pressing the strings on the guitar frets with the other hand, should lie flat on the musician’s body. The same notes can be heard in different octaves, thanks to the sound vibrations of different frequencies emanating from each string. Vihuela, gittern and five-row baroque guitar, known as the ancestors of the guitar, are important musical instruments that form the shape of today’s guitar.

There are different types of guitars due to some feature differences (string type, number of strings, body and wood structures, etc.). Classical guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, fretless guitar, 7-string guitar are just a few of them. Thanks to the different sound timbres they provide, they can be used for different types of music. For example, jazz guitars differ from other guitar types because they have a core, hollow and half-body structure, and the sound they make is more suitable for jazz-style music. To give another example, in fretless guitars, the fact that the guitar does not have a fret on the keyboard part, goes beyond the notes (including sharps and flats) in classical music and catches more intermediate tones, distinguishing it from other guitar types. Thanks to this feature, Taksims, which have an important place in Turkish and Middle Eastern culture, can be made on fretless guitars.

Among the guitar genres, classical guitars are known as the ancestors of all guitar genres. Thanks to the sound hole in its body, the air inside the guitar vibrates with the vibration of the strings and this air spreads out from the sound hole. The first 3 strings of this guitar, which has 6 strings, are steel-coated and called the bass string, and the low-pitched sounds are extracted from these strings. The last 3 wires are fishing line wires made of nylon. With these strings, high-pitched sounds are produced from the guitar. It is usually played with a fingernail rather than a pick. Classical guitar is preferred in classical and flamenco music.

In classical music, classical guitar is generally used because of the sound volume and tone it provides. Classical pieces usually played on guitars are polyphonic music. To give an example of polyphonic music; Instruments such as violin, cello, double bass, semi-flute, and oboe in the symphony orchestra all have a different function and timbre. And when the plural sound produced by these tones is combined with the harmony, it is listened to as a single sound. This music created with polyphonic sounds is called polyphonic music. The use of bass strings in harmony with treble strings in classical guitars is an example of polyphonic music. The harmony created by the bass and treble strings gives the impression that this sound comes from a single place. Polyphonic music is frequently used for classical music on the guitar.

There are important composers who direct classical music in the field of guitar. Composers such as Francisco Tárrega, Eduardo Sainz de la Maza and Luigi Legnani have left very important works on the guitar to polyphonic music. Apart from the compositions written for the guitar, classical pieces by many composers have also been adapted for the guitar. Many works of important composers such as Beethoven, Vivaldi and Johann Sebastian Bach can be played on the guitar thanks to the adaptations made. Examples of such works are Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, Prelude, Romance and Bouree by Bach, Asturias by Isaac Albeniz and Alla Turca by Mozart.

Although the guitar has an important place for pop music, it is also an indispensable musical instrument for classical music. I think that this instrument, which has embraced the works of many composers in terms of classical music in our past and present, should be given the necessary value in classical music as well as pop music. The polyphonic music it provides in classical music, leaving unforgettable melodies in people’s minds, is just one of the unique colors it has added and will continue to add to the music world.

Evren Çetinkaya


I am senior year student at ITU Computer Engineering Department. I am working on Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Computer Vision topics. I am interested in Aerospace, Metaverse and Virtual Reality. I like following up-to- date scientific and technological research.

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