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Next message Francesca Hunter  posted on Tuesday, 03 January, 2006 - 03:33 pm
My name is Francesca and I am 13 years old. I have been playing classical guitar for about 5 years and am of grade 6/7 standard. I also play piano and flute to grade 6 and obviously thoroughly enjoy all of it.....but my favorite instrument by far is the guitar. I have a music scholarship at my school which is ground breaking stuff as the Guitar is not usually recognised as soemthing that might be 'useful' at a very traditional school.

anyway my question is- my mum heard you being interviewed and you mentioned a particular type of string that you use - she couldn't remember what they were called so I wondered if you could let me know - any other tips would be gratefully received. We came to see you in Worcester - I loved it all particularly the South American music as I am from Colombia.
Next message Tim posted on Tuesday, 03 January, 2006 - 11:42 pm
Hi Francesca

It's a great shame but John Williams himself doesn't seem to contribute to these discussions.

The booklet notes on his CDs say he uses D'Addario strings. He uses 'hard tension' strings but they're designed for professional players - ask your guitar teacher's advice but I suspect that will be 'normal tension' at present.

You obviously enjoy your music a great deal to play flute, piano and guitar. One of the Latin American composers who John Williams has played a lot is Antonio Lauro. Lauro played piano and violin - whilst he was a teenager he heard Barrios play and concentrated on guitar after that. (Barrios is another John Williams favourite).

Keep enjoying your own playing!
Next message Arturo posted on Wednesday, 04 January, 2006 - 07:17 pm

I had the chance to ask Mr. Williams myself what stings he uses while he was here in Mexico giving a Master Class. He said he uses D`Addario J46LP Hard tension, except for the 3rd string. I`m not sure but I think he said that he used a Savarez carbon string for the 3rd one.

Next message Carl Benson  posted on Friday, 06 January, 2006 - 07:58 pm
I am currently 38 years old and I am looking for an album by John Williams that I purchased from Andys Records when I was 12 years old, it was a classical guitar album with tracks such as cavatina and air on g string?.I played the album to death over a 2 year period. I have searched itunes but with no luck can anyone in the world help.
Next message Tim posted on Friday, 06 January, 2006 - 10:32 pm
Hi Carl, Take a look at Richard's list of recordings. 'Bridges' was released in 1980 so maybe that's the compilation you're looking for - copies turn up on e-Bay often, otherwise go for 'The Essential Collection' which is easily available.
Next message Bill D posted on Friday, 06 January, 2006 - 11:25 pm
I think you mean 'The Guitar Music of John Williams', released on Telly Disc in 1980. (See It has classical stuff and material from JW's three 70s albums 'Changes', 'The Height Below', and 'Travelling'. 'Bridges' doesn't have any classical arrangements.

'The Essential Collection' has everything from those three 70s albums except 'Sheep May Safely Graze' and 'The Swagman'. The latter two are on 'Bridges' (which I was lucky enough to get on CD from eBay recently!).

On strings, I have been listening to the Harvey and Gray concertos (sorry, concerti!) today and the strings sound particularly soft.
Next message Tim posted on Saturday, 07 January, 2006 - 10:04 pm
Bill is quite right - when I suggested 'Bridges' I was thinking of classical guitar as an instrument rather than a style of music!. Anyway Carl, if you scroll up and and down the page Bill has linked you to, and also follow the link to the page for JW 'jazz-pop' complilations you'll recognise the sleeve your LP had.

Some dictionaries give concertos as the correct plural.

And strings, it's the tension that's hard not the tone. On concert quality instruments most professionals think hard tension produce a better tone - the composites JW uses are supposed to sound more like gut. So they should sound soft, not more like the harsh metallic sound of steel strings. The LP in the J46LP string number means 'lightly polished' to reduce string squeaking.

Anyway that's me making assumptions again Bill - by strings you might have meant the orchestral section not the guitar's 'six silver rays of light (that)... unmask the secret of the box'.

So Francesca, think of the strings of your guitar as rays of light or moonbeams (as Barrios did) rather than nylon and metal filaments. That will help the poetry of your playing far more than choosing a brand of string.
Next message Bill D posted on Saturday, 07 January, 2006 - 11:31 pm
...and some dictionaries give 'data' as a singular or don't even list that wonderful word 'agendum' (one item of the 'agenda'! :-)

Don't even start me on the 'mass media'. (Pop Quiz: Difference between 'media' and 'mediums'?)

Anyway, Italian is the language of musical notation so I am happy with 'concerti'.

I did, of course, mean guitar strings.

Steel strings are (literally) metallic but that doesn't have to mean harsh. Have a listen to 'Marwa Blues' or 'Stuck Inside A Cloud' on George Harrison's (posthumous) 'Brainwashed' album. (Or any good piece of rock/blues/bluegrass slide guitar.)

Admittedly, the pedal steel so favoured in country music is harsh by comparison with a good dobro...

But we're getting away from classical, unless you want to mention Bela Fleck's banjo recital 'Perpetual Motion' (featuring JW on a couple of tracks). The banjo does sound a bit sharp (rather than harsh) but he does wonders with Bach!
Next message Tim posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 01:21 am
You might be happy with 'concerti' but your CD collection probably isn't. I've just done a skim along my CD shelf. From that I conclude:
Concerto, plural Concertos (e.g. 7 Vivaldi Concertos, 6 Brandenburg Concertos, 5 Go-old Rings, 4 Calling...)
Concerto Grosso, plural Concerti Grossi (e.g. 12 Concerti Grossi Op. 6).

Agendums, datums... I'll check on Monday at work by asking someone who's got a Pe.D. (Doctor of Pedantry).

Pop answer: Media are a load who need to be given a free lunch, Mediums are a load of T-shirts you need to sell to pay for the free lunch.

Strings - although the violin family evolved from gut to wire, classical guitar has stayed resolutely with gut and nylon as a gut-sounding substitute.

By the way, we've rather lost the thread from Francesca's original question. If you're still reading this Francesca, take a look at David Russell's web-site for some tips from one of the best concert-giving, CD-making guitarists - these include right-hand fingering for trills, left-hand position, making scales interesting.
Next message Bill D posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 02:16 am
I was trying to be funny. I would never actually talk about 'concerti' any more than I would refer to 'syllabi'.

Mediums is the plural when you are talking about people who conduct spiritualist seances. (Just like the difference between indices and indexes.)

Anyway, if I was a REAL pedant, my rôle in life would oblige me to write 'séances' but it would be naïf to expect such precision to be noticed in this little œuvre! :-)

Back on-topic, true, CG is gut/nylon only (except for Barrios!) but there is a lot of other beautiful steel-string guitar playing out there.
Next message Tim posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 09:39 am
"Were I a real pedant... would obligate me" !-)

You're right there's a lot of great steel string playing out there too. I got interested in CG after enjoying John Renbourn's early and mock-baroque playing. And when I tried playing them I realsied I referred playing the wider fingerboard and nylon strings of a CG. I think it's a great pity no CG performer has played any of Renbourn's pieces.
Next message Bill D posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 07:19 pm
OK, I'll accept the subjunctive but my dictionary (Chamber's, published in Edinburgh) is happy with my "oblige".

Having learned what little guitar I know on a classical instrument, I can never get into the rock habit of stopping the bass string with my thumb!
Next message Tim posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 10:39 pm
I had my doubts about oblige v obligate as soon as I'd posted. Obligate is one of those words that solicitors use because it sounds like it ought to be more correct.

It's not just rock players who use their left hand thumb on the 6th string, it's usual in all steel-strung acoustic styles.
Next message Bill D posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 11:18 pm
'Obligate' alway sounds American to me, except when I am at work and it is an adjective meaning (roughly) 'gotta-be like this' when referring to some properties of bacteria and viruses.

OK, not just rock. I really meant any narrow-necked guitars. Although I can't really play, I can do a few tunes. At a party a few years ago, I was sitting in the kitchen talking, picked up the host's steel-strung guitar and starting strumming 'House of the Rising Sun' when my daughter came in.

Her: "Dad, what are you doing?"
Me: "What do you mean? I'm playing the guitar!"
Her: "But you can't play the guitar!"
Me: "Everybody's a critic."
Next message Tim posted on Tuesday, 10 January, 2006 - 12:39 pm
Glad you wrote 'viruses' not 'viri'!!!! refers to 'an obligate bacteria' (it's near the end if you want to check Bill) - shouldn't that be bacterium? Mind you that site is from the home city of Chambers Dictionary, so maybe it's got inside information...

Chambers Dictionary doesn't have an apostrophe these days, presumably because they got fed up with people who placed it before the S (some still do!). William and Robert Chambers (born in Peebles 1800 and 1802) first publication was Chambers's Journal, and they continued with that punctuation into Chambers's English Dictionary. Anoraks, pedants and serial link-addicts should go to to check this out.

What on earth does this dictionary stuff have to do with JW, guitars or guitar strings? Not a lot, but... My memory of JW's booklet note to 'The Guitarist' is he says the style of music determines whether you talk about a pianist or a piano player, but a guitarist is always a guitarist.

Guitar Player (!!!) magazine had a short interview with JW not long back. The definitive answer to his strings (and someone's unanswered question about his mike) is there.
Next message Bill D posted on Tuesday, 10 January, 2006 - 03:36 pm
Yes, 'a bacterium' grown on a 'medium'! :-)

You're right, it's 'Chambers' just like 'Princes Street' when it should be 'Prince's'...

As for the names, there are also violinist/fiddler, singer/vocalist, percussionist/drummer, musician/instrumentalist. In each case, the former usually refers to what the music snobs call 'serious' music. I suppose guitarists are a bit more egalitarian.
Next message Tim posted on Tuesday, 10 January, 2006 - 05:17 pm
Artist/artiste; saxophonist/horn player; harmonica player/harpist; cellist, sorry 'cellist...

Princes Street, Edinburgh was named after George, Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his brother Frederick, Duke of York, so apostrophers would call it Princes' Street. Mind you, most visitors to Princes Street Gardens wonder which Scot is commemorated by the Scott Monument. Burns perhaps ?-)
Next message Bill D posted on Tuesday, 10 January, 2006 - 06:28 pm
Don't mention Walter Scott. He has a lot to answer for.

He helped promote the myth that the Scottish clans had their own particular ancient tartans. He did this to create a folksy, cosy image for the visit of Goerge IV to Scotland in 1822.

A satirical TV show ('Scotch Myths') had Scott making plans for the visit when his manservant walked in, clad in kilt, plaid and bonnet, all in different tartans. Walter points to the kilt and asks "What do you call that tartan?"

Servant: "Number 143!"

Far better to commomerate Burns or Neil Munro than Scott. Every Christmas, the cod-Scottish buffoonery produced by Scott is unconsciously sent up by Glasgow Council. The statue of Scott atop a pillar in George Square wears a big illuminated bow tie. :-)
Next message Tim posted on Tuesday, 10 January, 2006 - 11:23 pm
Actually the booklet note to a JW CD about 'classical, folk or jazz - a guitarist is always a guitarist' is from the Mantis and the Moon.

All I know of Scott is 'oh what a tangled web we weave / when we first practice to deceive' otherwise he's a closed book to me. Burns I know rather better - I was introduced to him by Dick Gaughan singing 'ae fond kiss' and 'a man's a man for a'that' (the one that begins 'tis there for honest poverty...').

'Up in the morning's no' for me' is sadly untrue. Time for bed!
Next message Bill D posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 09:36 am
The Burns poem/song is 'A Man's a Man for a' That'

"Is there, for honest poverty
That hings (hangs) his head, an' a' that?...
...The rank is but the the guinea stamp;
The Man's the gowd (gold) for a' that!"

A Scottish nationalist (not a Scott!) might prefer another stirring Burns song "Parcel of Rogues", about the Scottish parliament being bribed to approve the Act of Union:

Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel even to the Scottish name
Sae famed in martial story
Now Sark rins o'er the Solway sands
And Tweed rins to the ocean
To mark whare England's province stands
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation

What force or guile could not subdue
Thro' many warlike ages
Is wrought now by cowards few
For hireling traitor's wages
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valor's station
But English gold has been our bane
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation

O would 'ere I had seen the day
That treason thus could sell us.
My auld grey head had lain in clay
Wi' Bruce and loyal Wallace
But pith and power till my last hour
I'll mak this declaration
We're bought and sold for English gold
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation

The sentiments aside, Burns' poems make good songs and a lot of the music used makes good guitar pieces.
Next message Tim posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 12:36 pm
Sorry about the 'tis' not 'is' - it makes Burns sound like he came from Wetherfield! Incidentally there's an Edinburgh-based composer / guitarist called Neil Munro but I think it's a namesake you meant earlier.

My memory (which seems increasing unreliable) is that there are three Burns variants using the "for a'that" refrain but the most famous is the one with honest poverty, guinea stamps, toils obscure and a'that.

I first heard Parcel of Rogues sung by Steeleye Span though I don't remember the words' author being credited.

I think Linn Records have done a many CD complete series of Burns songs - must have a look at their web-site and see if there's any samples.

I keep waiting for John McEnroe to leap up shouting "you are off topic!! you are way off topic!!"
Next message Tim posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 03:29 pm
PS I will learn to punctuate "a' that" correctly. :-)
Next message Bill D posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 03:37 pm
The Neil Munro I meant was the one who wrote the "Para Handy" stories.

The 'complete' Burns set (12 CDs) costs £98 from Linn although many other people sell their stuff cheaper. The web site does have samples. (By coincidence, I was on there today checking out 'Guitarra Celtica' by Andrew White.)

I wrote 'complete' because their are many smutty songs attributed to Burns that don't make their way into the more polite collections.

Hey, this is about music. That's on-topic!
Next message Tim posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 05:08 pm
Guessed it was that Munro! Mind you, I had to check the first name of the 914 metre Munro (I knew Saki was HH Munro).

By co-incidence I saw 'Guitarra Celtica' coming to an end on eBay today. Thought it looked my sort of cover but didn't bid.
Next message Bill D posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 07:02 pm
Now you tell me! :-)
Next message Tim posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 08:53 pm
If I see it re-listed I will tell you, though I may soon have to break my resolution not to spend lunchtime answering e-mails. Which will be very boring, as I'll miss finding fun-sites like the EU directive not to use an apostrophe in 'cello, 'phone, 'flu, 'bus etc

Looking through my trusty Burns' 'Poems and Songs' I find no less than four opening lines to "For a' that and a' that" (or so they call it) - I am a bard of no regard; Tho' women's minds, like winter winds; Is there, for honest poverty; Wham will we send to London town.

And none about Young Lochinvar!!
Next message Bill D posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 10:47 pm
I have just ordered 'Guitarra Celtica'! Couldn't wait. I have two of the tracks already (on 'Celtic Experience Vol.3') and liked them.
Next message Tim posted on Wednesday, 11 January, 2006 - 11:45 pm
Mmm. I've just had a listen to the clips on the Linn site - sounds very impressive. One for the wish-list!

From what I've heard on these clips, if you don't know Renbourn's 'The Black Balloon' (1979) you should take a listen.
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