Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

I really dig this little piece. Working on expanding my color and articulation palate without nails. I think it’s getting better. Original (anonymous) 19th century guitar

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Comment by Peter Stuart Davis on July 5, 2021 at 22:00

Thank you, Jon, and, by the way, well done with your inspiring playing of the underplayed Legnani caprices. I shall give them a try myself!

Comment by Jon Mendle on July 5, 2021 at 19:31

I couldn’t agree more, Peter! My feeling is that I do what I do, and anyone is welcome to like it or dislike it! In fact, I’m delighted to meet people who are better than me because I can always learn something from them. Re: nails…I personally love the journey I’m on now without them. There’s so much subtlety in the fingertip alone that I wasn’t aware of! So great to still find new things to try after 20 years of studying classical guitar. 

Comment by Peter Stuart Davis on July 5, 2021 at 12:54

I certainly wouldn’t advocate the kind of fights, sometimes literally apparently, guitarists got into in the 19th century over the subject of nails. Calm, informed, respectful and reasonable discussion would be welcome (as it would be in other topics in the current era where there is such polarisation and silencing of other views, especially of those balancing both sides of an argument).
      For me personally, I have been playing entirely without nails since 1993 after discovering and studying Fernando Sor’s Méthode pour La Guitare (1830), preferring the rounder and more natural tone, which, happily, suited my inability to create and maintain smooth nails whatever the length. Starting out with the lowest tension strings, pitched down on a ‘normal’ classical guitar, I eventually bought an 1825 replica in 2001. (By the end of this week I’m awaiting an original from the middle of the 19th century!).

Comment by Jon Mendle on July 4, 2021 at 20:18

I completely agree, and I certainly don't believe that there is only one correct way of doing things, nor do I believe that my way is the best. Nails were certainly in use for centuries before Legnani, as was flesh playing. I play with flesh today because I have made solo renaissance and baroque lute a large area of focus, and I prefer how they sound without nails. I played guitar with nails for 20+ years prior to that. Piccinini certainly advocated the use of nails around the year 1600, and I don't believe that he invented this out of nowhere. I think nails and/or flesh can both sound wonderful, I have just found it very interesting to explore the possibilities of the fingertip alone lately - as Tarrega did towards the end of his career. Thanks for checking out my videos!!

Comment by Theo on July 4, 2021 at 17:03

This makes a nice contrasting pair with the 28th you already did ;-0) In the 18th century, nails were and were not used it seems according to the performer/composer; was that not the same in the 19th century too? There are certain moments here that might be nice with a 'touch' of nails being used - just my 2 cents!

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