Leo Garcia plays Villa-Lobos Prelude Nº1

This is the first of five wonderful preludes by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. With his gift for sorrowful lyrical melodies to the rhythmic and joyful interlude with its changing meters and Spanish flair, Villa Lobos creates a true guitar masterpiece which fully exploits the richness, emotional depth, and colors of the guitar. Hope you enjoy it.

New Series: My Favorite Fernando Sor Etudes, Part 1

Fernando Sor (1778-1839)

Every now and then, I find myself in a sight-reading mood and will pull out the complete Etudes by Fernando Sor. I could spend hours enjoying their perfect structure, their ingenuity, or the wonderful musical moments where Sor charms you by introducing a key or harmony you did not expect. Like a calm path in the forest, there may be something out of the ordinary to draw our attention but just enjoying the path in and of itself is reason enough to be there.

Though many of you are probably familiar with the 20 Etudes by Sor that were curated and published by Andrés Segovia, there are many, many more etudes that he wrote that range from simple to profound. Covering so many musical and technical concepts, they are valuable pieces to those fortunate and patient enough to study them. One great joy as a teacher is to introduce one of Sor’s etudes to a student and have them react with excitement or anticipation that they’ll someday extract their beauty from the guitar.

Anyway, enough rambling!

I decided to start pressing the record button while sight reading to eventually compile a series of videos so that younger and less experienced players get to hear some of the etudes I find particularly nice. I’ll include pdfs below and maybe I’ll even make a video or two demonstrating how I like to play them to develop technical flexibility.

I hope these videos help you discover some new nice little gems.

Previous post about Fernando Sor:

Expanding Sor Etudes

New Publication of Three Fernando Sor Etudes

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The Granada School of Guitar-makers, Part 2

Guest Post by luthier John Ray

All photos by Alberto Juárez

The Granada School of Guitar-makers, Part 2

417.jpeg“If in Linares I was born into this world, it was in Granada that my eyes were opened to the beauty of life and art.” Andrés Segovia.

Architectural beauty and guitar music everywhere; centuries of history of the craft, age-old techniques and knowledge passed down in the workshops. People from all walks of life and some from different countries drawn to this most wonderful of instruments and applying their strengths to make this community better; surely these drive the Granada guitar-makers to rise above the rest and forge the stellar reputation that they have. How could we not produce Andrés Segovia, Manuel de la Chica and Antonio Marín? Where else would Antonio de Torres Jurado come to make his first guitar? What other city could Pepe Romero and Eliot Fisk possibly choose as their second residence? Where else can you find a guitar-making competition which brings young builders together to show their best work and to exchange ideas?

I arrived in Granada in 1989 hearing that it was a hotspot for guitar-making and thinking that surely I could learn here. Now in 2020 I am president of the guitar-makers association and my guitars can be found in shops in the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, Germany, Australia and other countries. There is no doubt that Granada has been a centre for guitar-making for centuries and it still is. As for learning here, I had a long, challenging road and those who helped me get where I am hail from Granada but also from Germany, the U.S., Barcelona, Córdoba and Málaga.

Around the time I arrived the character of the Granada makers and their school of thought was crystalizing around two men and a series of events. Manuel López Bellido and Antonio Marín Montero had set up shop together in 1960 to make guitars, quite a few of which were sold under the labels of Eduardo Ferrer and Manuel de la Chica. As I wrote in Part 1, without the workshops of Ferrer and de la Chica the makers of the following generation would not have learned so quickly nor been so numerous. However, something happened under the leadership of Marín and Bellido which got players and dealers all over the world interested in the “Granada guitar”. These two men, like Eduardo Ferrer, travelled to Japan at the behest of some of their clients there and were an essential part of spreading the Granada tradition of building. Their growing skill and international projection combined with their generosity of spirit resulted in many of the guitar-makers in Granada working with them or learning from them at one time. Some of these trained with Eduardo Ferrer before or after their time with Montero y Bellido (which is what they first called themselves on the label). The death of Eduardo Ferrer signaled the end of an era and left the makers without the focal point that his workshop had become thanks to his strength of character and leadership and also left some of them without a job. For years he had brought the makers together and kept everyone on the same page. That role was filled by the formation of an association in 1987 just one year before his death and was started by 18 instrument makers. The name included the word Luthier because one of the members – José Mingorance – was a violin-maker; the preferred term is guitarrero. The other members were: Eduardo Ferrer Castillo (honorary president), Antonio Marín Montero (b. 1933), Manuel López Bellido (b. 1939), Francisco Santiago Marín (b. 1946), José López Bellido (b. 1943), José Marín Plazuelo (b. 1960), Francisco Manuel Díaz Fernández (b. 1942), Germán Pérez Barranco (b. 1940), Bernd Martin (1954-2018), Antonio Durán Zurita (1940-2006), Juan López Aguilarte (b. 1941), Rafael Moreno Rodríguez (b. 1954), Manuel Fernández Fernández (1930-?), René Baarslag (b. 1947), Antonio Raya Pardo (b. 1950), Juan Miguel Carmona Trapero (b. 1960) and Jonathan Hinves (b. 1956).

47.jpegAnother event closely related to the formation of this association is a an exhibition organized by the same group of makers. This was in 1989 and it helped to consolidate this important group. In addition to those mentioned above, the catalogue from this exhibition includes Juan Román Padilla (1928- 2018) who in an interview in 2012 assured me that he had ordered guitars for his label from the dúo Antonio Marín and Manuel Bellido. Also present was Antonio Ariza Rodríguez (1939-2006) who had spent some time with Eduardo Ferrer before striking out on his own.

Although the term Granada School in reference to the guitar-makers here was used in different publications as early as 1968, it only became accepted or popular enough to be the default description when Eusebio Rioja used it in his book “Inventario de Guitarreros Granadinos” in 1976. This book with its second and third editions in 1983 along with the articles in British guitar magazines of 1977, 1988, etc. all contributed to delimiting who exactly represented the Granada School at the time. Rioja’s first edition was published before any of the foreigners arrived and in subsequent editions he chose not to mention them. However, in the various books and articles that used his information as a reference these great makers were included as they were in the association mentioned above.

The new guitar makers association, formed in 2017 organized a homage in 2019 to this influential group of makers on the occasion of an exhibition of early Granada guitars. The reason for this homage was the explosion of quality and quantity of makers in Granada buoyed by the dedication to their craft of these founding makers and their tireless work to promote it in the world, especially in Spain and the rest of Europe. They are the ones who were responsible for the quality and the reputation even today of Granada as a centre of world-class makers. The opening of the exhibition including a short concert on a 1851 Pernas guitar and a speech by the City Councillor for Culture brought these important artisans to the public’s attention.

Robert Bouchet’s collaboration with Antonio Marín in the 1970s is another turning point for the guitar in Granada. It is unclear whether his influence was more practical or artistic but there is no doubt that Antonio (and others in Granada) build a guitar today which is inspired in some of Bouchet’s ideas and that Bouchet ‘s contacts helped promote Antonio’s guitars which in turn promoted the Granada guitar. Bouchet’s generosity and aesthetic sense (both visual and aural) are evident in the guitars and the work of Antonio and his disciples.

133.jpegAs mentioned, a few foreigners were already here making guitars but at the time of these events in the 1980s that is seems the floodgates opened and everyone realized that Granada was the place to be. Those drawn to Granada from other parts of Spain or elsewhere include Franz Butscher, Rolf Eichinger (1945-2009), John Ray, Stephen Hill, Mijail Kharash, Pavel Gavryushov, Henner Hagenlocher, Andrés Marvi, Mario Aracama, Olivier Marín, Johannes T’Kindt, Evan Kingma, Ayman Bitar and Knud Sindt. To different degrees all of these makers felt the influences of the original Granada School; some even learned directly from the founders.

Before this explosive growth in the number of makers, the craft was passed on through family ties or apprenticeships in the larger shops. This continues today although perhaps to a lesser degree. Jesús Bellido, Mauricio Bellido, Miguel Ángel Bellido, Ana Espinosa Rodríguez, Daniel Gil de Avalle, José González López, Antonio Raya Ferrer, Eduardo Durán Ferrer, Lucas Martin, Juan Antonio Correa Marín, Francisco Díaz, Victor Díaz, Javier Rosales López and Luis Santiago Hernández all have family connections to the original Granada School through which they have learned or at least been inspired to take up the chisel.

And of course Granada natives and new residents find themselves drawn to the profession of guitar-making usually through contact with the Granada makers. Juan Manuel García Fernández, Aarón García Ruiz, José Luis Vigil Piñera, Juan Labella Manjón, Francisco Muñoz Alba, Sergio Valverde Castillo, Oscar Muñoz Sánchez, Francisco Hervás Hita and Francisco Heredia are examples of this. All of these people have enriched the guitar-making community with their skills and passions. In addition to the more typical origins like carpenters, musicians and cabinet-makers we have incorporated engineers, historians, economists, metal-workers, philosophers, firemen, teachers, linguists, salesmen and weavers to this burgeoning guild.

Some have come, worked here or studied with one of the makers and then moved on elsewhere: Thomas Holt, Matteo Vaghi, Valerio Licari,  Daniele Chiesa, Philipp Neumann, Michael Ritchie, Anders Eliasson, Daniel Bernaert, Sergio Sánchez. In addition to these there are a great number of makers who have visited and been inspired by the work of the Granada school.

Another chapter on Granada might be the more active teaching outside of Granada that many of the makers have engaged in. David Gansz’ excellent contribution to the Granada guitar-makers book (see bibliography) lists makers who have spent time in Granada learning as well as Granada makers who have taught both in Granada and elsewhere.

“The influence of Granada builders has so permeated the world of guitar building – either directly via courses or seminars abroad or via visits to Granada by non-Spanish builders, or via builders studying Granada-made instruments – it is easy to conclude that Granada is in large part responsible for the fact that so many modern builders use traditional Spanish techniques.” – David Gansz


As reported by Javier Molina Argente, the town of Baza in Granada province was home to a number of guitar-makers since the 1980s:  Vicente Checa Aro, José Checa Aro, Vicente Pérez Checa, Ramón García Durán, Antonio Ruiz, and Pedro Martínez Peñalver.

Of course one test of a group of makers or of one maker is particular is how well the guitars sell and who is playing those guitars. The fact that guitars from Granada are in shops all over the world and in the hands of the best players speaks volumes. However, the contribution to the community and the community’s recognition of the makers is also important. Over the years the efforts of the guitar-makers and the different public and private entities have brought to fruition the following incentives and publications.

The Granada School of Guitar-makers is a book published by the Granada Provincial Government in 2014 and an exhibition was celebrated on the occasion of its presentation. A short promotional video was also made. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns2uGqoJJlE&t=80s

Gloria Medina Luque organized an exhibition with the collaboration of Caja Rural Bank in 2016 which included included guitars made by historic as well as current Granada makers, concerts and conferences.

The Association meets with conservatory students every two years during the Guitar Encuentro (GNO) at the Conservatory and with the students of CSU’s Summer Arts.

In 2019 the Association of Granada Guitar-makers organized the  exhibition of historic Granada makers and the homage mentioned to the original Granada School. You can visit this exhibition through this link. https://johnguitar.com/exhibition-tour/ The name of this exhibition was “Towards a Museum of the Guitar” and is part of a lobby to establish a museum in the city which best represents guitar history and construction in all of Spain (Granada of course).


But when a young virtuoso asks me which guitar is right for him, as long as his eye is quick and his mind is open, there’s only one answer: go to Granada, stay a week and come back with the guitar that has made you see the difference between what you were and what you are. –Angelo Gilardino

The Englishman, Jonathan Hinves, told me, “Although there are many makers here, there is a very positive relationship with an enormous amount of mutual co-operation. Of course, there is always space for personal disagreement but we do get on with each other very, very well”. –George Clinton, Guitar magazine

…but neither of these guitar-building centres, nor any other in the world, can compete with the Granada artisan workshops in terms of quality, specialization, tradition and pure excellence.  –Dr. Aarón García Ruiz

People often ask me what makes Granada so special. I tell them that Granada is the only place in the world where, instead of getting thrown out of my hotel for practicing my guitar and disturbing the other guests, the dueño of the hotel threw out the French girls who complained about my practicing. It’s a place where even the garbage man will ask me whether I play classical guitar or flamenco. Everyone in Granada is involved with the guitar in one way or another. It was no accident that from Granada a Segovia could emerge. –Lisa Hurlong

Now I think we can talk about what makes a guitar from Granada so desirable. Obviously all of this tradition and history gives the makers here resources to learn and perfect their skills. Competition between makers for clients means that each of us does the best we possibly can and make the best instrument possible. The opportunities for young makers to have their work critiqued by veteran builders are endless and this is perhaps the most important point. Advice may be given with kindly intent or scorn but it is almost always helpful. For the most part makers here value the traditional Torres style guitar and shun double tops and lattice bracing. We strive for and excel at achieving balance, beauty, dynamics and especially a broad tonal palette from which the guitarist can draw the sounds he or she requires in order to communicate through music. It is sound that we pursue, beauty and versatility. High end guitar dealers all over the world buy and sell guitars made in Granada

They really do have something special about them. My son expressed some interest recently in trying to create a new strain of plant by combining elements of other plants. His mother and I suggested he read up on Mendel and subsequent genetics work because in science you can always reach higher if you stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Perhaps this is the real secret to Granada’s continued success. So few builders can learn everything that has gone before whereas in Granada all that history, tradition, and techniques is just a stone’s throw away.

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This article was written with the intention of shedding light on the recent history of guitar-making in Granada and to encourage guitarists to visit this wonderful province in their search for the guitar that fits them like a glove. I hope no one feels misrepresented or left out by the content of the preceding words.

John Ray has been living in Granada since 1989 and has been making guitars for over 20 years. In addition to being well-known for building copies of Antonio de Torres and Santos Hernández guitars he was the editor of the book “The Granada School of Guitar-makers”.  https://johnguitar.com/contact/



Rioja, Eusebio. Inventario de Guitarreros Granadinos 1875-1983. Granada, Spain, Gráficas Monachil, 1983.

Hill, Kenny. “Visit to Legendary Granada.” http://www.hillguitar.com/website/news/articles/granada.html

Roberts, John. “The Guitar in Granada.” Guitar. February, 1977.

Clinton, George. “The Guitar Makers of Granada.” Guitar International. September, 1988.

Hurlong, Lisa. “¡Guitarra Granada Ole!” Soundboard. Summer 1990.

Clinton, George. “Bernd Martin.” Guitar International. August 1989.

Wade, Graham, “Robert Bouchet,” in The Classical Guitar: A Complete History, London, Balafon, 1997

Kasulen, Mark and Blackett, Matt. The History of Yamaha Guitars: Over Sixty Years of Innovation. Milwaukee, Hal Leonard, 2006.

“Escuela Granadina de Luthiers” (The Granada School of Luthiers), a series which ran in Guitar International magazine from September 1988 through July 1989.

Mairants, Ivor. “Granada: City of Guitars Makers, Part 2.” Classical Guitar. May/June 1984.

Huber, John. The Development of the Modern Guitar. Westport, Connecticut, Bold Strummer, 1994.

Ray, John. The Granada School of Guitar-making. Granada, Diputación Provincial de Granada, 2014 Includes articles by Angelo Gilardino, Alberto Cuellar, David Gansz, Aarón García Ruiz, Javier Molina Argente.

Promotional video for the book The Granada School of Guitar-making. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns2uGqoJJlE&t=95s

Martínez, Alberto. Orfeo Magazine No. 8 https://issuu.com/orfeomagazine/docs/orfeo_8_en

Valentí, Evaristo. “Granada guitar-makers: the first foreigners”

Artist Profile Interview – Alberto Mesirca

Italian guitar virtuoso, Alberto Mesirca has headlined across the globe with his passionate, supreme musicality. His interpretations of music from Domenico Scarlatti to Benjamin Britten not only display a dazzling technique but more compellingly invite the listener to imagine with him a musical landscape that is expansive, dreamy, and sometimes, unchartered. Between performances, masterclasses, and lectures, Mesirca has a list a mile long of collaborations with other musicians, composers, and publishers. Amid his rich musical life, he sat down to share a bit about his journey with guitar in this interview. Enjoy!

Alberto Mersica photo 1.jpgphoto credit Serban Mestecaneanu


When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?

I started playing when I was 8 years old, I wanted to play music as I loved music much earlier. My dad was a big music fan, specially of jazz. My aunt had a guitar at home and that’s the instrument on which I started playing.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?

I like all kinds of repertoire that touch me in a special way or permit me to express inner feelings, to sing with the instrument. They can be from the renaissance or from our time.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

I have a guitar built by Giuseppe Guagliardo and a guitar by John Gilbert, both in spruce, with D’Addario and Savarez Strings

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

I have an infinite admiration for Julian Bream, who devoted himself to the re-discovery of the old British repertoire, to the request of compositions to the great composers of our time, and to establish for the guitar a position which could have been easily compared to the piano or the violin, as a major chamber music instrument. This due to his tenacity, extremely big talent, intelligence, and capacity. Plus I love his way of playing and his sound.

What recording/s are you most proud of?

I think I still like very much the one dedicated to Domenico Scarlatti. I have also a deep attachment to the first one I did, “Ikonostas”, dedicated to guitar music inspired by mysticism, and with a few important first world recordings: “Errimina” by Padre Donostia, discovered by Angelo Gilardino in the Segovia Archive in Linares, and his own “Ikonostas” and “Annunciazione” and “Sefer Torah” by Gianmartino Durighello.

Are there any recordings that you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?

Like said, I love Julian Bream’s recordings, especially the one dedicated to the British repertoire of the 20th Century (Walton, Smith Brindle). I also still love Segovia’s recordings, especially the Deutsche Grammophon recording of his incredible rendition of Ponce’s Concierto del Sur. It is still for me the best one.

What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?

Now I am preparing a few concerts: recitals, a promotional series of concerts dedicated to the Chaconne (playing Dusan Bogdanovic’s wonderful Chaconne), and preparing a recording dedicated to Italian contemporary composers, having a few dedicated pieces by very interesting composers, like Filippo Perocco and Edoardo Dadone.

Alberto Mersica photo 3.jpgphoto credit Serban Mestecaneanu

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

I tend to warm up with a few technical exercises, scales, slurs, stretching, and then start focusing on the pieces. I love playing, and understood this even more since I started to have many obligations which kept me a  far from the instrument than when I just had to practice, so it doesn’t bother me at all to work on the guitar all day, if I can.

Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

I think it is a never-ending process, one tends to improve all the time, both technically and especially musically. I feel like I never managed to arrive at a point in which I can say: this is the definitive version. Otherwise I think I’d stop playing much earlier, as the vital and interesting aspect in making music is, for me, the search.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

I tend to memorize pieces easily, but it gets more difficult if the amount of music one has to perform is constantly growing.

I think that there are many memories and each one is helpful for a stable and safe performance: memory of the positions of the left hand, of the music itself, of the movements, of big passages etc. I think that a good exercise for memory is trying to play without the instrument, imagining the notes from the beginning until the end, which is not easy at all.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

I did a few, and the very last one is an interesting one: the Chanterelle Guitar Anthology, for SCHOTT – 40 Classical Guitar Miniatures from Sor to Segovia. I am very happy because it is the result of a friendship with one of the eminent figures in the Musical Research and Publishing for the Guitar, Michael Macmeeken, with whom I previously worked for the publication of a previously unknown piece by Giulio Regondi (Feuillet D’Album) and together with the great Marc Ribot for the Complete Works of the Haitian composer Frantz Casséus.

I made also the recording which is attached, with a beautiful guitar by Donatella Salvato, a talented Italian guitar maker.


Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?

I tend to play scales, in apoyando and tirando, slurs, stretching, etc.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

Frankly not, but I prefer to play in the hall before entering on stage for the concert. This way I get used to the acoustics and dimensions of the hall.

Do you do anything to your nails or shape them in a particular way?

Not really, I tend to keep them round and not too long, shaping them with a file and then using this special paper with wax on it.

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

Keep the love for what you’re doing and never forget the passion that drives you for creating music. If you have a lot of talent, especially at a young age, when competitions are routine, they can distract you from music by the mere search for technical perfection.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

I think Fernando Sor and Dioniso Aguado are still wonderful for students because they write in a polyphonic way, also the “easier” pieces, and thus one starts from the beginning to think the guitar as a polyphonic instrument, in which we are forced to lead voices independently.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

I think that guitarists should listen to more music, and not just guitar. Listening to recordings of great violinists, pianists, orchestras, and of compositions which are contemporary to the works they are studying can provide many more musical ideas than they would normally have if they didn’t listen to music. It is like expanding the possibilities, and playing according to the style of the time, rather than being influenced by the hands, by the technical difficulties.

Alberto Mersica photo 2.jpg


What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?

I just finished reading Shirley Jackson’s “Paranoia”. Wonderful! I love Franz Kafka.

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet? Have a favorite pre-concert food?

I do yoga, and love it, and feel much better since I started, my back is very thankful! I don’t follow a particular diet but I try not to be excessive with anything, No favorite pre-concert food, but I try to stay light.

Do you meditate in any way?

Well I think that yoga somehow helps me to get back to the human breathing, which I must admit I tend to forget when in stress.

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

I love to travel, read, and take walks with my wonderful wife.

New Publication

I’ve just released the first edition of my new book! Over the next few weeks, I will post a few excerpts or ideas from the book for Six String Journal readers. If you can’t wait, order a copy (and leave a review!). : )

Mastering Diatonic Scale Forms represents a book I wish I had had 35 years ago. Here is the description of the book from the inside cover:


Scale mastery is absolutely essential for the ambitious and serious guitarist. Touted as the single most effective way to solve technical problems by the most distinguished pedagogues and professionals, developing a scale practice and understanding the most useful way to develop it will lead to breakthroughs and improvement in your technique. Mastering Diatonic Scale Forms is geared towards the advancing guitarist and offers a practical approach for understanding the various necessary scale forms and some insightful methods to supercharge the results of your study.


Artist Profile and Interview – Tal Hurwitz

ta-hu-01-0070b.jpgIsraeli guitarist extraordinaire, Tal Hurwitz, recently sat down to share some of his thoughts, philosophies, and experience through an interview for Six String Journal readers. From his thoughts on practicing and recording to his influences, this is a fascinating glimpse into the world of a true artist.

Tal is available for lessons via skype and can be reached at talhurwitz@yahoo.com.


When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?

There was always music in the house as I grew up. My father was a big rock fan, he used to play amateur bass and sing, and when I was 9, he took me to a concert of the legendary band Deep Purple. It left a huge impression on me. That is when I started taking guitar lessons. Every kid wants to be a rock star. I, too, was counting on becoming one. I also played a lot of jazz music as a kid until one day a friend said he had a free ticket to a classical guitar concert.

The performer was Aniello Desiderio. That concert completely blew my mind. The next day I started taking classical guitar lessons and since then, it has become an inseparable part of me.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?

I enjoy playing a variety of styles, but if I have to choose one, I go for Bach. We have to feel extremely lucky to have Bach as part of our repertoire. Unfortunately most of the great composers did not write for the guitar, or it is not possible to make descent transcriptions to their music, but the greatest one of all, Johann Sebastian Bach, is very playable and that is a blessing.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

Over my career, I have played and owned many guitars: Paco Santiago Marin, Daniel Friederich, Simon Marty, Jose Romanillos, Andreas Kirmse, and Andrea Tacchi. Since last year I am playing a beautiful Andrea Tacchi made of Birdseye maple back and sides and a gorgeous piece of cedar top. The quest after the perfect guitar is a journey of a lifetime. As a matter of fact, there is no perfect guitar, but the ongoing search always fills me with enthusiasm. I have always played Savarez strings. I use a mix of them: 1st string nylon, 2nd and 3rd carbon. All trebles I use normal tension, while the bases are high tension. I really like the balance this combination makes.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

Wow, I could count so many names, but I’ll try to keep it short. Very naturally some of my teachers have had a great influence on me, Marco Tamayo, Carlo Marchione, Ricardo Gallen, Joaquin Clerch and Costas Cotsiolis and my composition teacher, Adam Stratyevsky. All of them are amazing musicians and have influenced me greatly in different ways.

From the non-guitarists, I think about two very special musicians to me. The violinist Leonidas Kavakos and the pianist Grigory Sokolov. Both make you completely forget that they are playing an instrument, they become music, and that should be the goal of all of us.

My great friend, Ariel Mann who is one of the most diverse musicians I have ever met. We grew up together in Israel, and since we were kids, were pushing each-other and explored music day and night. Today he is living in California and is composing music for Walt Disney.

I could think about at least 200 more names but I think we better stop here.

Being influenced by others is a most important thing. It helps you build up your own character, and if you are smart, you can take all this influence and make something original out of it. This ´something’ is you!

What recording/s are you most proud of?

To be honest, I am never really happy about my recordings. I always think to myself, “Oh, if I had another chance I would do this or that better.” This is just my nature. I feel that the fantasy in my head is always better than the outcome.  I prefer live concerts. What I am trying to say is, when you make a recording, you have to accept that in the eyes of your listeners, this is who you are – for good! You can’t change that. I love changing constantly my interpretation and that makes it difficult to live in peace with recordings.

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

I rarely practice more than 1.5 hours a day.  I believe that when a guitarist has explored the instrument enough to understand its anatomy and the relation between body-fingers-guitar,  namely developed a good technique, he should not over practice. In fact, over practicing can harm one’s development and eliminate the joy of making music. Music is a mirror of the soul of the artist, and should express feelings. If someone sits down to practice between four walls, eight hours a day, he can’t have much of a life outside of that room. If there’s not much living, there’s not much to express.

Also, I rather spend quality time with my guitar and give every note I play full attention and love. If I do that 8 hours a day, I don’t think I could focus my mind the same way. We as performers, have to educate our mind and fingers to always execute with full commitment, so that in a concert situation, we will feel just like any other day. If someone is used to practice without full attention, he should not expect a miracle to happen come concert day.

One of the worst ways to practice is in front of a TV!! My students know that it is absolutely forbidden. Practicing without focus will make you play concerts out of focus.

It is important for me to clarify that as a kid and as a music student, I used to work much more every day. I wanted to play cleaner, faster and just to push myself. However, as I grew older, I realized, I could never be the cleanest player on earth, nor the fastest… but what I could do the best, is be myself. Bring out my expression which is unique to me, the best I can. This concept lowers your stress levels and allows you to be a happier person and actually a better artist.

I do however spend much time with the score (no guitar at hands). This helps me to understand the music better and to develop an interpretation. It also definitely increases a musical fantasy. I think that in general, we guitarists, are too preoccupied with the fingers, and too less with the mind. The music comes from the mind and not from the fingers.

I also spend much time thinking of the music and visualizing my repertoire, while on trips, a flight, a train, and also before falling asleep.

Do I structure my practice? I used to do it as a student. Actually writing a diary, and write down times that are devoted to any material I was working on at the time, for example: warm up, scales, arpeggios, and individual phrases that I had trouble with.

Today I can tell you with all honesty, I haven’t practiced anything like scales or arpeggios for more than 10 years. I rather devote my time to the interpretation. I sit down with the score, read it once or twice, thinking on how I would like to play it, visualizing it in my head, and then I take the guitar and try find ways to execute ideas. That procedure really saves time, and make you more confident in your interpretation.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

Basically there are three main ways to memorize music. Fingers (muscle memory), inner hearing (hear the music in your head) and photographic memory. I try to devote time to each, and each of them is kind of a back up plan for the other. If you work on all of them, you are basically covered.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

I haven’t published any editions. If someone is curious or interested enough in my opinion, they can always take lessons with me [Tal teaches over skype and can be reached at talhurwitz@yahoo.com]. However, some of my own music as a composer, is published by Berben editions.

Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?

When I am at home, sometimes before starting to play, I’ll do a a very short warm up, that includes very slow rasgueados. And single notes for the left hand with vibrato. All in a slow tempo, just to get the blood flowing into the fingers. That does not take more than 2 minutes.

For concerts, I do need more than that of course. Before concerts I perform an exercise I learned from a pianist friend. He claims that this exercise was invented by Franz Liszt. It is practicing on extremely slow and consistent movements of each of the joints on each finger. I imagine that a weight is tied to my finger and I have to lift it in an upwards movement. On the down movement, I imagine that the finger has to push a heavy weight down. This is an amazing warm-up exercise, that takes quite long to complete, but when I am done with it, I feel fire in my fingers.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I do actually. Like many other musicians I find it very difficult to go on stage without having a banana before. It calms down my mind as well as my stomach. I also do half an hour of the Liszt warm up mentioned above. I have another habit that is quite terrible: over-polishing my nails until they are too short!

Do you do anything to your nails or shape them in a particular way?

Each of us has different nail form, different technique, and different sound preference. That means that each guitarist has to find his or her own nail shape that suits him or her better. With that said, I am following the tradition of creating some kind of a ramp on the left side of the nail. That allows a point of grabbing the string, sliding a bit on it like a bow, and then the point of releasing the string. I do try to give attention to both sides of the nail, and use the qualities of both of them. An important rule of thumb for me is not to have them too long to play rest strokes OR not too short for free strokes. It is a delicate balance!

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

Train your mind, at least as much as you train your fingers. Don’t let your fingers lead you, the fingers are your servants not your boss.  Be more curious about the music you are working on. And most importantly, Practice with full concentration and passion. Once you feel you are not at your best, just take a break. More general advice would be: choose your teachers carefully. There are no excuses. In this era, we can even study  with teachers from other continents. I teach guitarists from different parts of the world on Skype and it is very useful.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

I consider the music from the classical period, like Giuliani and Carcassi, well suited to learn and develop one’s guitaristic abilities. These composers offer a bit of everything: melodic lines, simple tonal harmony, arpeggios, scales, a little bit of polyphony, and so on. The music from that period is usually very idiomatic to the instrument, too. Music from the Baroque period, for example, is often too complicated for beginners to establish a healthy connection to the guitar. However, I think it is also important that the pupils are attracted to the music they learn, so that they want to put the effort and the work into it.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

Every guitarist should know the historic recordings of Segovia, Bream, and Williams. From the modern guitarists, just to name a few, I like the recordings of Carlo Marchione, Marco Tamayo, and Ricardo Gallen. I think it is more important to focus on recordings from the great pianists, violinists, orchestras, and opera. Learning from them will be the only way to raise the classical guitar to the level of true classical music.


Artist Profile and Interview – Edoardo Catemario

Upon hearing a recording of Domenico Scarlatti’s music performed by Italian guitarist Edoardo Catemario, I was immediately captivated by both his beautiful sound and his sensitive musicianship. Winner of both the ‘Andrés Segovia” and Alessandria International guitar competitions in the early 90s, Edoardo has been performing all over Europe to great acclaim. Edoardo recently sat down to share some wonderful insights on his journey and philosophies with Six String Journal. Enjoy!


When did you start playing and why? Or, what drew you to the guitar initially?

My father was an amateur player, he could play sixteen different instruments. He was also a good singer and used to sing to me every night before sleep. When he started playing the guitar I became immediately attracted by the sound of this instrument and wanted to play with him, he replied that I should start studying “properly” with a real teacher. I was almost five when I took my first lesson. My mother told me that I used to practice almost one hour per day at that time. I remember only that I liked the sound of the guitar and the feeling of my fingers on the strings.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?

It depends by the mood and by the time of my life. I like baroque, classic, and romantic music and sometimes some very good contemporary although I must confess that ultra contemporary avant-garde (despite having played it quite a bit) is not my favorite. Let’s say that I tend to prefer music that you can sing or whistle…

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

Since the late eighties I’ve performed only on vintage instruments. In my experience it is the best compromise between expressivity, projection, beauty of sound and dynamics. At a point of my life, I have had a collection with several great guitars: Simplicio, Garcia, Jose Ramirez I, Manuel Ramirez, Pascual Viudes, Del Vecchio and so. Nowadays, I still have a few guitars of that collection, those instruments that I was used to play the most: Enrique Garcia and Francisco Simplicio. Two years ago I have been struck by a modern luthier: Paulino Bernabe jr. Since then I am endorsing his guitars, in my opinion the best modern instrument able to compete in projection, beauty of sound and emotion depth with my old instruments. A special mention goes to a project of a wonderful “mad genius” from Italy: Walter Franchi. I own a couple of his guitars. He has invented a method called “ guitar refurbishment” that he applies to instruments of very poor craftsmanship of the end of XIX century and early XX (Ibañez, Julve, Casa Nunez etc) making them sound like guitars of very high level luthiers. In this way you can enjoy a pure “original” sound at a very reasonable price.  I own two guitars “Torres” which actually sound even better than the original ones (I have played several original Torres). Walter looks at a guitar and does what he calls “giving it a second chance” remaking it practically from scratch. The work of a genius.

Regarding strings, since 1992 I’ve used 1992 RC classic “Sonata light”, a string made in Valencia by a flamenco player: Juan Grecos. We have been working a lot to find a nylon string with a crystal sound and no personality in order to give the player the ability to have the sound he wishes.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

At the very beginning of my guitar playing my hero was Andres Segovia. Growing up I have turned my sight elsewhere probably because of my musical formation that wasn’t only guitar oriented. I have been student of one of the very last musicians of the “Neapolitan school” (Titina De Fazio Imparato) and had to learn some piano and organ in order to receive lessons by her. This fact opened my horizons quite a lot bringing me to discover the most important pianists and violinists (Rubinstein, Czyffra, Lipatti, Oistrak, Hifez, Primerose, Enescu) and obviously organists (Richter mainly). Also, I had to practice repertoire that was not guitar: string quartet, organ, piano.

During all that period I was trying to understand Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli piano mastery. Instinctively I could feel that he was the incarnation of my “ideal” musician but I couldn’t replicate his perfect taste on the guitar. It took me years to begin to understand and I am still on this process of making the music as deep as I can by respecting the composers marks, ideas, and styles.

I also have had the incredible chance to personally meet Sergiu Celibidache who deeply influenced my life. Thanks to him I discovered that perfect beauty and emotional depth was possible. I have heard the perfect balance in more than one concert conducted by Celibidache. Attending as many rehearsals as I could, I discovered his way to work on the details, on the profound meaning of the music and its incarnation in the “here and now”. It is a never ending training.

Why do you seek what you call “perfect taste” elsewhere than guitar?

The guitar, historically, has been an instrument with a double face. On the one side it has been the most “popular” instrument, on the other side it was the privileged entertainment of the kings’ courts. This fact has lead to a continued osmosis of information between the courts and the taverns. During the centuries this “counterpoint” has happened repeatedly and you can easily recognize both the “aristocracy” and the “popular” of the guitar. The repertoire itself is very different. That’s how Tansman and Barrios coexist and why, in my opinion, Segovia didn’t play some pieces that other guitarists like so much. He was an aristocrat. I come from a noble Neapolitan family, I was born aristocratic but I have lived most of my life thinking this was like a “sin”. The leading aesthetic of the last forty years of the guitar has been basically popular, having noble roots and refined aesthetic was considered “vulgar”, quite funny, no? Things are slowly changing and many young players are trying to go back to the aristocratic guitar but it is still not easy for them as it has not been for me. Guitarists have closed themselves in a “guitar world” where guitarists play for other guitarists in guitar festivals and get reviewed on guitar magazines (and blogs) by other guitarists, teach master classes (abused term that often indicates a simple class to a low level student) of guitar to guitar students in a guitar campus where no other musician is allowed or is interested to come in. The funny part of this process is that almost every guitarist that I encounter blames the lack of audience and attempts to gain more audience by playing more vulgar repertoire. Sometimes you can listen to entire “jingle programs” in the hope that the audience will enjoy it. None of the performers that I have met ever questioned the fact that probably the problem was not only the repertoire but the performers themselves.

What I can say is that in my experience the quality pays off in the long term. I have been lucky enough to play in the “temples” of classical music like the golden saal of the Musikverein in Vienna or the big hall of Berliner Philharmonie or the Balshoi Saal of the Philharmonie of St. Petersburg but not in the main guitar festivals. I tend to think that the way I like and play the guitar is not well accepted by many guitarists, probably it’s a matter of culture. I have many anecdotes about discussing with (even quite famous) guitarists having to cut the chat about the real matters of music in order to avoid to give a non required lesson. Going back to the aesthetic I must confess that I can’t see myself using a ton of rubato in every single phrase, making every piece a Prelude or play in the most aseptic way, fast and furious or fast and clean. Music is more than that for me, it is landscape (to use a definition by Atahualpa Yupanqui), it is the occasion to see the life with the eyes and the ears of a great composer. It is unacceptable to me to vandalize a text in order to be “original” or, even worse, just for lack of culture.

Real music travels on a railroad parallel to the one chosen by most guitar festivals and often looks at the guitar world like you might look at an unlucky brother. It’s a pity, don’t you think?

What recording/s are you most proud of?

The next one!

What are some up and coming projects (recordings, concerts) you are excited about?

In October 2018 I am going on tour with Prague National Orchestra to perform “Sinfonia Argentina” by Daniel Doura. We will play in Prague, Tiplice and at the Hercules Saal in Munich. This is an orchestral piece for a huge orchestra and choir. The fourth movement is a small concerto for guitar, piano and orchestra.

I am on a secret project of a recording that will probably see the light in October. Shhh…

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

It depends by what I have to do. Normally I would say between three and four hours a day. But in case of recordings or different concerts with different programs it can easily become twice that much.

I do follow always the same routines. Tune the guitar, put the score on the stand, take a pencil and start from the first bar, read the piece trying to squeeze out the emotions that it has. First comes the music and the pleasure to discover a new piece. Then I practice small parts of the piece trying to get them by heart as soon as I can, then I put together some small parts and practice slowly to gain clarity and precision, and so on for every part of the piece, from smaller to bigger (motive, semi/phrase, phrase, period, section, movement).

Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

Allow me to answer with a sentence by Carl Sandburg about the guitar: “A chattel with a soul often in part owning its owner and tantalizing him with his lack of perfection.”

The lack of perfection just drives me crazy in the effort to master it. I am not alone, I can remember an interview where Paco de Lucia was complaining about the guitar being the most ungrateful instrument.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

I do prefer to memorize everything. In order to achieve that, many years ago I started using mental training. My investigation started from a simple observation: when I was trying to play a passage with some kind of technical issue in it, despite playing it just in my mind without using the guitar the mistake was still there. I then understood that the origin of any mistake is only rarely physical and is more often what we imagine in our head.

A must read is “Mental Training for Musicians” by Renate Kloppel. This book describes roughly  every step that I follow to play everything by hart. I am sure you can find similar books  searching on the net.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

I have been asked to publish my arrangements many times, eventually I will do it in the future. For many years I have been too lazy to put them on paper and have thought that it was useless: I redo every arrangement as it was the first time I play the piece every time I play any other instruments repertoire and believe that, if someone likes my arrangement, he can make his own arrangement and eventually listen to my recordings and use the ideas as he/she wants. It is still questionable if publishing my arrangements or not… can we make a poll?

So far, there is only one book that I have published thinking that it could be of some help to musicians. It is called “fundamentals of interpretation” and explains in 36 pages everything basic I know about music: the meaning of articulation, tempos (what actually mean Andante i.e. and why you should play at a tempo rate instead of an other), structure, etc… Also is about visible and hidden signs in a score.

It’s a book about the essential things that every musician worth to be called a musician already knows. It is downloadable for free at my website: www.catemario.com

Do you have a favorite drill you use to warm up?

No. I have spent my life trying to be ready for public performance with no warm up. I try to play music every time I pick my guitar up. I quickly get bored by technique. When I was a student I practiced technical exercises for hours, in that period I liked it. Not anymore, my priorities have changed. Before a concert I play slowly something that I like in that moment (not necessarily from the program that I am going to perform).

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

Not really. I have everyday ritual, kind of superstitions… I come out of my bed always with my right foot, don’t share salt with anybody, don’t step under a stair and many others, in music I never play Scarlatti’s sonatas in odd number. I can’t say that I believe in bad luck but I prefer not to challenge the fate…

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

Do music, first! Be compassionate with your music, put your soul in it and then, only in a second moment, slow down every single passage and practice the technique to make it as perfect and full of energy as you can. Practicing the clarity before trying to put the music into the piece very often ends up in a totally dry performance. One very important advice: play what is written (P means *piano*, F *forte* and not whatever else you like, a rallentando mark means that you should slow down the tempo ONLY in the segment where the mark is placed).

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

Etudes. All of them: Sor, Giuliani, Carcassi, Legnani, Coste, Villa Lobos etc… An etude is a great occasion to manage a musical performance in a small form. From smaller to bigger. You can’t reasonably play Chaconne if you can’t manage to play a study by Sagreras from memory and musically convincingly.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

We live in an epoque when you can have access to virtually every recording ever made. I think that it is important for everybody to know his own roots. Who are the greatest masters of the past? Start with them! It’s dangerous to build up a student career by listening only to competition winners and try to imitate that play wishing only to win a competition at your turn. Music is a different matter and has nothing to do with competitions nor with cultivating “originality”. Originality is the pompous name that many people give to their ignorance.


What is the last book that you read? Favorite author/s?

I like thrillers (especially if, but not only) blended with philosophical arguments: Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho or Tolkien. Books of art (Philippe Daverio for example), Italian literature (Fallaci, Ilaria Cenci Campani and many others), some Spanish literature (Martha Batiz Zuk among others) and obviously the great classics: from Voltaire to Verne, Cervantes, Tolstoji, Goethe, Dante, Ariosto… also some Ancient Greek literature, I have read Sophocles, Eschilo, Plato and many others.

As of now I am reading the book by Leon Poliakov about the Shoah. The next one is lying on the table near my bed: Secrets of the Sistine Chapel.

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet?

I wish I could. I have been a rugby player in my youth, every year I promise to myself that I will exercise. It’s now over five years without.

I am very demanding with food. I live in the field and prefer zero km food, I avoid as much as I can pre-boxed food and try to eat as much healthy food as I can. Old weeds, biological food with no OGM and no chemicals. Obviously, living in Tuscany it is easier for me.

Have a favorite pre-concert food?

I don’t eat before concerts.

Do you meditate in any way?


What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

Play with my four years old son, walk with my darling, read, talk with friends, play cards with the elders of my village.

Any things else you’d like to add?

I have developed a system of teaching based on the XVIII century Neapolitan school and its “partimenti”. This system permits to any absolute beginner to play his first song in 4 lessons. The method can be used to introduce students to music and can be applied to harmonic instruments (guitar or keyboard). It can be used also to form amateur players to enjoy music. It is very progressive and is centered upon playing with the teacher and not in front of a computer. The skills asked to learn how to teach the first and second level are quite possible to get acquired quickly by a proficient guitarist of any genre. The method itself is not centered on the classical repertoire nor classical guitar and allows people to develop a good ear, good side reading, improvisation, knowledge of harmony, tab, notation and arranging. The system is based on two “steps” which are focused on the student and not on the institutional “timing”. This is a crucial aspect of artistic learning: institutions care that you learn a “basic minimum” in a given time, you have to be prepared to give an exam at a certain date but it doesn’t matter how well you perform. Art demands the absolute best you preparation, it doesn’t matter when (although the sooner the better). Teachers who use my method (Metodo Catemario) also accept the “ethical teaching code” which is a fundamental part of the method itself: every lesson can be repeated as many times as the student (or the teacher) feel being necessary to achieve any single result at no extra cost. Only when the student is well prepared and has no doubts about that particular lesson can step ahead to the following subject.

Jacob Cordover plays Danza Española Nº5

Australian guitarist Jacob Cordover recorded several videos for Guitar Salon International. All portray a solid command of the instrument but I found his rendition of Enrique Granados’ Danza Española Nº5 Andaluza to have a magical quality where the artist and 1969 Ramirez seem made for each other.

Here is another video where he plays a lesser known, though thoroughly convincing arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s Adios Nonino.

More soon!


Artist Profile and Interview: Celil Refik Kaya

celil_refik_kaya_june_2013_photo_orhancemcetin_5534Young Turkish guitarist, Celil Refik Kaya, is taking the guitar world by storm. He has won numerous victories in some of the most important international guitar and concerto competitions with displays of stunning musicianship and brilliant technique.

In addition to playing some of the most demanding repertoire with what seems like a magical touch, Celil is a prolific and gifted composer as well, and equally at ease playing with top notch orchestras as he is playing solo.

In the interview below he shares some insight and tips with Six String Journal readers about his musical journey so far…


When did you start playing and why? What drew you to the guitar initially?

I started playing guitar when I was six years old because my father used to play classical guitar and many other instruments. He has been professionally playing Rebab which is a traditional Turkish bow instrument. My father was my first teacher and when I heard him play, the sound of the guitar was magical to me and not comparable to any other instrument. The year that I started playing guitar I wanted to be like Andres Segovia and John Williams who were my childhood idols. Besides playing classical guitar, I play many other traditional Turkish instruments such as Rebab and Oud which I learned from my father.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most?

I enjoy playing 20th and 21st century South American composers as well as 20th century Spanish composers. Besides those, I enjoy playing my own compositions.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? Strings?

I have guitars made by Garreth Lee and Glenn Canin. Both are phenomenal guitar makers. I play both of my guitars depending on the setting of the concert. In fact I recorded my first album Jorge Morel Guitar Music from Naxos, with Gary’s double top guitar which has incredibly beautiful warm sound. I recorded my second album with Glenn’s guitar and it features the music of Carlo Domeniconi which will be released by Naxos. For both of my guitars I use D’Addario EJ46.

Which guitarists/musicians have had the most influence on you?

As a performer I was influenced by Andres Segovia, John Williams, Alicia de la Rocha, Maria Callas, Itzhak Perlman.  As a composer I admire Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Ponce and Tedesco.

What recording/s are you most proud of?

To me every recording has its own unique quality.

Which recordings do you consider have the finest recorded sound for guitar?

Recordings that I have done with producer and guitarist Norbert Kraft were the finest I would say. When we listen to all of the Naxos guitar recordings that Norbert recorded, they all sound phenomenal.

What are some up and coming projects you are excited about?

I will be recording the last two volumes of Agustin Barrios Mangoré which I am very much looking forward to. Starting from September 2017, I will be a fellow of Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C. I was recently invited for this prestigious fellowship program and I am looking forward to my performances in D.C. as part of my fellowship program.

Technique and Performance

How much do you practice? And, do you structure your practice in any particular way?

How much I practice really depends on my schedule and what is coming up. I practice as much as I need to which can really change according to the importance of the concert or difficulty of the new piece that I include in the program. When I competed in competitions, I practiced about 8 hours a day which I divided as 2 hours arpeggios and scales and 6 hours repertoire. For concerts I practice 2 to 3 hours a day.

Are there aspects of guitar that you struggle with or that you find you are still working on?

Not in terms of technique. In terms of musicality every dedicated musician grows musically until the end of their lives.

Do you deliberately memorize music or have a technique that helps assimilate music into memory?

I memorize the pieces naturally very quickly. Therefore I don’t have a specific method that I use for myself. For my students I recommend them to read the music from the end to the beginning or sometimes making them play specific passages of the piece only. Because most of the time, guitar players play with the muscle memory rather than really knowing what notes or fingering they play and this can cause many problems such as memory slip and lack of control.

Have you published any editions or do you plan to publish your own editions in the future?

My transcription of Valses Poéticos by Enrique Granados was published by FDP publications in Austin and my original works such as Sonatina, Longing, Suite of the Witches and Dream were published by d’Oz publications in Canada. I am working on the next projects for publishing including some of my solo guitar pieces and chamber works.

Do you have a favorite drill/routine you use to warm up?

I generally warm up with playing passages slowly from the pieces that I am going to play in my concerts.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals? 

I usually eat a banana and chocolate before performing. It significantly helps the energy and concentration.

Advice to Younger Players

What single most important piece of advice about practicing would you offer to younger players?

Practicing consciously and slowly. Whatever they are practicing, awareness of every single note and its quality should be the goal. Sometimes when a young player practices, they continue playing even if the passage is not perfect. It is very beneficial to have a self critical mind in that sense.

What repertoire do you consider essential for young/conservatory students to assimilate? Why?

I am always a fan of traditional classical guitar repertoire rather than only new works. There are many composers that young players don’t play anymore and I consider them the core of the guitar repertoire. Turina, Tedesco, Ponce, Torroba and many others are fantastic composers who wrote the skeleton of the guitar repertoire. Their works are not only challenging both musically and technically but they are also audience favorites. If a person hears classical guitar for the first time, it is very likely that they will like 20th century Spanish composers. What these composers achieved with the emotional expressivity of their works is not replicable.

Recordings that every young guitarist should be familiar with and why?

Every young guitarist should be familiar with the recordings of Andrés Segovia, John Williams, and Julian Bream. Today, the level of guitar playing is so much higher than before, but the foundation of the guitar technique and soul is hidden in those recordings. To understand rhythmic stability and inner pulse they should listen Williams. Although the aesthetic of musical interpretation has changed significantly, Segovia’s playing conveys great musical expressivity. Listening to these artists provides a great foundation. Besides listening to other great guitar players, learning harmony, counterpoint, music analysis, listening to orchestral recordings, chamber works, and great instrumentalists (non- guitarists) will transport young players to another level. After a certain point it is important to listen to more non-guitar recordings.


What is the last book that you read? 

The last book I have read was “A Composer’s World” by Paul Hindemith.

Do you try to stay healthy? Exercise? Follow a particular diet? Have a favorite pre-concert food? 

I don’t follow a particular diet but I am trying to eat everything in balance. Since I am Turkish, the majority of the time I eat Turkish food and my wife loves it, too. Before concerts, I don’t have a particular pre-concert food as long as it is not too heavy.

What is your favorite way to spend time when not practicing?

I like to spend my time in coffee shops with my wife reading books and sometimes composing. Besides that, I also practice Wing Chun which is a branch of Kung Fu.

Artist Spotlight and Interview: Zaira Meneses

Known as Mexico’s “First Lady of the classical guitar”,  Zaira Meneses, has been praised by the New York Times as “an arresting performer full of colorful touches” and has built a stellar reputation for her dark sound, powerful technique, and superb musicality. As a performer, she has graced the greatest stages of the world including New York City’s Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, Salzburg’s Wiener Saal, and the Great Hall of the Shanghai Conservatory. As a recording artist, she has released the CD Latina and is releasing three new CDs on the Centaur label. Zaira is also active in the contemporary music scene and has had works dedicated to her by the great American composer, Robert Beaser, and by award-winning composer Stephanie Ann Boyd. Besides her collaborations with prominent musicians, like her husband Eliot Fisk, the flamenco virtuoso Grisha Goryachev, flutist Viviana Guzman, among others, Zaira is active  as educator at the New England Conservatory’s Preparatory Division and as an outreach coordinator for the Boston Guitar Festival.

Here she is performing a beautiful voice and guitar piece followed by a stunning 3rd movement from Leo Brouwer’s Sonata.

When I mentioned featuring Zaira on Six String Journal, we thought it might be nice to add some personal details in a short magazine style interview so here it is:

What’s the most recent news in your guitar activities?  I’ve become a baroque guitar soloist. I’ve also created a new guitar performance art approach with Latin American Collages where I combine guitar, poetry, acting, and singing. Another thing I’ve been enjoying lately is improvising with my requinto and jarana “jarocha” instruments from native Veracruz Son Jarocho music. I’ve also performed in some great venues this year: Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall in Boston, and at the Mozarteum.

When did you start playing? At age of 7 years old.

What repertoire do you enjoy playing the most? Music that is rich in counterpoint, and that has interesting harmony, rhythms, and phrasing, such as Bach , Santiago de Murcia, Gaspar Sanz, and latin american music especially from Mexico and Cuba.

How much do you practice? It depends, if I have a performance coming up I don’t notice the time. On regular days I practice two to three hours.

Do you structure your practice? Yes. For concerts I prioritize memory reinforcement, sound projection, and how to connect with my audience.

Do you have a system or favorite drills you use to warm up? I start by playing the song I can’t wait to play because it will bring the best out of me. Then I practice the passages that I need to be improve.

Do you have any pre-concert rituals? I always meditate but before a concert I meditate to specific passages of the concert.   I also do mind/rehearse [visualize] the music in the sauna and steam room a week before concert. Sometimes I run with the music I will be performing. I fall asleep reading the music. It really depends what performance I’m presenting but more or less I breath music as much as I can.  

What is the last book that you read? Or the greatest book you’ve read this last year… Oh my gosh! I love the Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig. He’s a great writer and his books are full of imagination and detail. My favorite book is his short stories of “Forgotten Dreams”.

Any advice about practicing to younger players? Practice only if you want to practice. Practicing should come from your gut. Practicing is not a labor, it’s a need. It has to become your need otherwise its not worth doing it.

What guitar or guitars do you perform on? I use a guitar built by Stephan Connor and a Spanish baroque guitar.

Which guitarists have had the most influence on you? Oscar Ghiglia, Eliot Fisk, Joaquin Clerch.

Are there any recordings of guitar music that you think every young guitarist should be familiar with? Alirio Diaz’s Venezuelan Waltzes, Andres Segovia playing Spanish composers, any of Oscar Ghiglia’s Manuel Ponce recordings, Eliot Fisk’s playing Bach, Latin American guitar music, and his recordings of music by Robert Beaser.

Do you exercise? Do you think it helps your playing? YES absolutely! I run outdoors when it’s super cold and when it’s super hot. This helps me adjust my body to any hall circumstances.

What do you eat before a concert? If I can, my daughter Raquel’s best shake for performances:   banana, almond milk, oatmeal, and chia seeds. If I’m in a hotel, I eat turkey or white meat and avocados. If I’m in hotels I also like to order Chinese steam ed vegetarian dumplings.