The Classical Guitar Companion

Christopher Berg is pleased to announce that The Classical Guitar Companion has been published by Oxford University Press (December 2019). This work features over 200 examples, exercises, etudes, and pieces organized to help serious guitar students better navigate the shoals of becoming well-trained and expressive artists. Rather than try to shepherd each student down the same path, the book allows students to approach their training within a flexible and personal curriculum based upon their weaknesses and strengths. The Classical Guitar Companion is neither a treatise, method book nor anthology, although it has elements of each. It is Oxford University Press's first major work for classical guitarists designed for daily and long-term use.

The work is beautifully laid out and is organized into ten chapters according the technique used, e.g., scales, arpeggios, slurs, with brief commentary, as well as discussions of the elementary and advanced versions of different aspects of guitar technique. The pieces in each chapter progress by degree of difficulty, insofar as that’s possible given the variety of backgrounds and abilities students have, but material within the chapters can be studied concurrently according to one’s strengths and weakness, interests, and advice from a teacher. In this regard, it is the antithesis of a typical method book or graded repertoire series. In The Classical Guitar Companion students and their teachers are afforded flexibility and discretion, flexibility and discretion that should be informed by ongoing assessments of each student’s ability to solve technical, procedural (i.e., how to study), and artistic problems. Composers of etudes, of course, use more than one technique in a piece, and it makes sense, for example, to have gained some knowledge of harmony before attempting the more challenging arpeggio studies. The Classical Guitar Companion will provide students with a well-organized and comprehensive approach to their studies that is adaptable to the variety of backgrounds students have when they come to the serious study of music and the classical guitar.

The chapters of the work are:

Preface, Editorial Method, and Introduction followed by,
  1. Learning the Fingerboard
  2. Scale Exercises and Studies
  3. Repeated Notes
  4. Slurs
  5. Harmony
  6. Arpeggios
  7. Melody and Accompaniment
  8. Counterpoint
  9. Florid or Virtuoso Etudes
  10. What Next?

What’s in it?

Most of the music is drawn from the 19th-century pedagogical literature and includes etudes and exercises by Aguado, Bathioli, Carcassi, Carulli, Giuliani, Horetsky, Mertz, Molino, Moretti, Pelzer, Sor, Tárrega, and Zani de Ferranti. Also included are transcriptions of Renaissance lute music to explore certain techniques in more detail than the 19th-century masters did, specifically, rapid scales and contrapuntal playing. These composers include Besard, da Crema, Dalza, da Milano, Dlugorai, LeRoy, Mertel, John Johnson, and Valderrabano. The 30,000 word text is heavily annotated and the work features a three-page bibliography.

Far from being another shopworn collection of studies, the exercises and etudes in The Classical Guitar Companion are presented in relationship to other etudes or exercises that approach the same or similar techniques; relevant writings and examples by composers discussing or demonstrating how they thought their works should be approached; and known fingering and performance practices. In other words, each chapter comprises a curated collection of works that presents a path to mastery. The Classical Guitar Companion is suited for students just starting their serious study of the instrument as well as advanced students looking to sharpen their skills, deepen their knowledge of our pedagogical literature, or fill in gaps in their training.

Oxford adds that the:

• Organization of material allows teachers and students to devise individual curricula and work in multiple areas simultaneously
• Level of scholarly detail helps students understand historical fingering practices and connect these (and other material) to ease in performance.
• Includes detailed explanations, along with examples and exercises for practice, of advanced guitar technique

Where can I get a copy?

The work is available world-wide through major online and brick-and-mortar book retailers. Visit Christopher Berg’s website and The Guitar Whisperer Blog for the latest news. The Classical Guitar Companion is also available on Kindle and Apple Books.

Also of interest…

Christopher Berg's newly released Practicing Music by Design: Historic Virtuosi on Peak Performance (Routledge, 2019) developed concurrently with The Classical Guitar Companion, and although Practicing Music by Design was written for all instrumentalists, it complements The Classical Guitar Companion and provides information that will help students use the material more effectively.