You’ve probably had the experience of hearing a great guitarist with a distinctive
tone and wondering how it is achieved. You can buy the same instrument, play under
the same conditions, and still come nowhere near equalling the sound that she or
The magic of the classical guitar rests very much in the tone quality produced
by the player, and as with the violin there can be distinctive differences in the
tone produced by leading players. It is often surprising to find how much this individual
quality can survive changes of instrument, and how a really good player can extract
an amazing quality from a humble violin or guitar.
Frederick Noad learns the trick.
At the heart of quality tone production is the way the rest and free strokes
are performed, as introduced in Chapter 7. With the rest stroke some of the factors
involved are these:
- Is the string made to vibrate vertically or horizontally in relation to
the soundboard? It makes a distinct difference, and usually the more vertical
vibration is preferable.
- Where is the note played in relation to the bridge or sound hole? Closer
to the bridge, the sound will be more metallic. In contrast, the roundest sound
will be achieved if the string is played at a point halfway between the left-hand
fretting finger and the bridge. Try this out to hear the difference:
First, play the note near the bridge and pull the finger across in a free stroke
that just clears the second string, vibrating the string in a plane parallel to
the top of the guitar.
Now, with the same note prepared, play a rest stroke over the sixteenth fret,
pressing the string down so that the vibration is as vertical as possible. Notice
the considerable difference. For an even sweeter sound, play the same A at the tenth
fret of the second string. Play your rest stroke at a point halfway between the
tenth fret and the bridge, and press the string down for the roundest sound.