Welcome to the area of the website which deals with the serious - and occasionally less serious - business of playing and enjoying the classical guitar. Here you will find analysis of aspects of playing technique, history, composers, recordings, instruments and performance - all the things that keep our thoughts from the things we should really be concentrating on through the working day ...

Salochin Ludd, Editor.


Agustín Barrios ‘Mangoré’ (1885-1944)

Practise Tips by Mark Witney

Here are some thoughts about how I practise. It isn't intended to be a practise method as such, but if you can use anything of this in your own practise then please do.

Being a married, working father I don't have the time I would like to do the practise/playing I would like. As a result I have redesigned how I practice. It has taken months! I have seen various suggestions on the web that you should practise X hours a day and you should have a practice structure, and you must do an hour of this, that and the other, etc. Now, that to me is useless as some days I have 10 minutes, last thing at night when the kids have gone to bed and I've done the washing up etc. You know the score, so to speak.

What I do with those few minutes is decide on ONE thing to practice. Often it is the result of trying to play a larger piece and realising I can't! So, it has to be a small thing, for example, a particularly difficult position shift or fingering, slurs, etc. I then spend 10 minutes focusing on that ONE thing. Over the course of a few days or weeks this one thing improves and I can move onto something else.

Now, I know that we want fast progress, we want it all now, and we tend to try to do it all in one go, but this just isn't reality. Learning any skill takes hours of dedicated effort, however, if you love what you do it doesn't feel like work. The one "shortcut" I have found is to understand your limits and what you can achieve in the time you have, and make sure your practise time is focused. What works for me is many bite size chunks and achievable targets built into larger achievments. I am now playing some of the pieces I've wanted to play for years but haven't because I haven't understood how to practise given my time constraints. Practise what you can't do, play what you can.

Classical (although some of this can be applied to any style) ...

Memory! I've tried lots of ways for this but have finally decided that for me, I need to learn the piece vocally. If I can sing my way through it then I can play it! Also, good old visualisation. Sometimes, I lie in bed and play an invisible guitar, although your partner may not appreciate this, so do it in your head. It's hard , but slow and patient work brings rewards. Again, bite size, manageable etc.

Warming up - while studying for a diploma, or any music exam, I use scales and arpeggios. Played slowly this kills two birds with one stone, or one guitar if you can afford it. The idea is that while warming up the hands I'm also memorising the boring side of the exam! Start with anything that doesn't require any stretching and then move on to arpeggios that do! Good luck playing scales in 3rds and 6ths, what a pain in the proverbial they are! Useful though.

Sight reading - start with easy pieces, one line a day or as often as possible. As your confidence grows you can increase the length and complexity of the piece. There is a very good book by Oliver Hunt called "Sight Reading and Musicianship for Guitarists". It's one I have used and it worked for me.

Speed - The book "Pumping Nylon" has some good tips and explains what I would do far better than I can on a website, however, play scales/arpeggios/pieces with the rhythm "dum de-dum de-dum" and then "de dum-de dum-de". See what I mean? Read the book!

Right Hand exercises - Giuliani's 120. Also, see "Pumping Nylon". 'Nuff said.

Aural training - copy stuff from CD, any stuff, often. Just like the reading, the more you do the easier it gets. Write it down, too.

I would recommend a thorough grasp of some basic theory. Know your basic scales - major, minor (melodic and harmonic), and chord theory eg how to build chords, from basic triads to 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths etc. If you can count to 15 then this is a piece of cake. If not, then how have you got this far in life?

Get to know your chords in as many different positions as possible, basically 5 positions using the CAGED system Look it up on the web.

Know your triads and how to extend them, then extend them. Avoid the root note when improvising, it sounds too obvious. I prefer to improvise based on the chord rather than any particular scale.

Study chord substitution. It's not difficult. Start with a chord like Cmajor7 (CEGB) and notice that it contains an Eminor triad/chord. Work on from that idea. It can get complicated but it doesn't have to unless that's what you want.

Focus your practise on both hands.

Listen to what you play, sing what you play, transcribe regularly, read frequently, warm up carefully

Love what you do!

Modes - For me, life is too short. If you have the time and the desire , then go for it, but they're not for me. I dare you say if you analyse what I play then you could find examples of modes being used, but it's not intentional. When I improvise it's usually "Help! What's next?" I think in terms of chords, chord tones, and surrounding notes. When I become very familiar with the harmonic structure I start thinking of substiutions, but I think in terms of chords not modes.

Any questions please ask in the next Society meeting, and remember I don't get the time to do all these things and I don't know anyone who does! They are hopefully useful things to dip into when you want to.

'There is nothing I can teach her.'

So said Segovia of the French prodigy Ida Presti, who took her native France by storm in the 1930s as a soloist, and formed one of the most accomplished duos ever with Alexandre Lagoya in 1951, only to die tragically young when their fame was in its ascendency.

From a 2012 vantage point, the combination of three facts about Ida Presti strikes one as curious: firstly, and unavoidably, that she was female in a largely male arena; secondly that she is widely cited as among the greatest guitarists of the 20th century, and thirdly that, as her pupil Anne Marillia points out, “you may search in vain for the name Ida Presti in a music dictionary; it's not there”.

It might be that Presti was a victim of the times she inhabited, in the sense that concert performance in general in the first half of the twentieth century was a largely male occupation. Perhaps, too, her death in 1967 at the age of only 42 curtailed the guitar world's exposure to her talent. And perhaps the formation of the hugely successful Duo Presti-Lagoya diluted the focus on her individual musicianship.

English composer John Duarte (1919-2004) was one of those who considered Ida Presti to be the finest guitarist of the twentieth century. In autumn 1999, Duarte was interviewed by Richard Sagala at the GFA Convention in South Carolina. Sagala asked Duarte to speak about this assertion that "perhaps the finest guitarist of the 20th century" was the great French guitarist Ida Presti. His answer makes fascinating reading (video is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Da_YFGYs-k8):

RS Why do you say that Ida Presti was the finest guitarist of the twentieth century?

JD Because she never made a mistake.] But she was such a natural musician too. She had such a natural understanding of music. And she loved it. But, no, I don't know if she ever had any technical limits. She was just born for the instrument.

RS But you were exposed to so many great people in your life...

JD Oh absolutely, I've been very lucky.  

RS ... and you see all these young virtuosi now, doing... And what does she have more than the other extremely gifted people, knowing that you have toured the world listening to all the finest and most brilliant, and judged concours here and, you know, prize-winning there. What in your opinion [did] she have?

JD I think, I don't know... it's hard to put into words. It was - if I had to put it into French I'd say it was a je ne sais quoi.

RS Un petit je ne sais quoi?

JD I don't know. She was just a magic person. And a magic artist. But at the same time a total, well-rounded human being, who could hold her own in any discussion of, what - music, painting, sculpture, religion, philosophy. Any subject.

RS She was a woman that you consider had great culture, or she was an intuitive person?

JD She was a cultured person. Whether she had a very comprehensive education I don't know. I doubt it. But in the same way Segovia could do that too. He was a very cultured person who had no... But I think at no time in his life, in his working life, was Segovia clearly the greatest guitarist in the world. I don't think that was ever true at a time when people like Llobet, maybe even Barrios, with all his eccentricities, and certainly Presti, were alive. Presti had this instinctive - her sight reading was unbelievable. She had this instinctive understanding of what the music was about. Even baroque music, for instance. At a time when many other people, including Segovia, were still playing their trills upside down, starting with the main note, not the auxiliary note, Presti wasn't. She was so innovative too. Cross-string trills, all kinds of effects, were her inventions in a way. She loved campanella - in fact, she often fingered passages, scale passages, that sort of melodic passages, across the strings, you know, so they sounded together, and she was just an extraordinary person, an extraordinary artist. I don't know, you sort of lament the death of other people, but she was a very different thing. Very different. She had a sixth sense, and she was not quite like we are. There'll not be another Presti in my lifetime. Probably not in yours either.

RS When you see how these young, gifted, talented performers that perform well, they don't have this little supplément d'âme like you mentioned earlier?

JD No they don't, and they're not, you know, sort of rounded people. I suppose Presti had an attitude to music and the guitar, which Segovia also had, and various others of that era, which is not necessarily the case with today's virtuoso. She loved it. She loved the guitar. She loved music. And the funny thing is that long after her death so many people have taken an interest in her, where they haven't taken an interest for instance in Llobet, and if Barrios hadn't written so much music they wouldn't have taken much interest in him either, and I find so many people, not vast numbers but surprisingly many, people like Angelo Gilardino, who say that their interest in the guitar wasn't stimulated by Segovia but by Presti. And I was told, by Presti, that when they played in Chigaco, Richard Pick, who'll be here, invited them back to his home and said he would show them how the music should be played.

RS Really?

JD Yes! They were absolutely, hilariously amused by it. It was unbelievable - ... What?? - and I always associate him with that, you know - mention the name and that's the thing that comes to mind first, the man who told Presti-Lagoya he would put them right.

... I met him at the end of 1947, but the 4th of November this year will be the 50th anniversary of the first time he ever came to our home for dinner. I remember that very vividly because on the 3rd of November we were visited by the Assads, who had come to England just to look around. On the 4th of November Segovia came to dinner. And on the 5th I left for America.

RS What do you think of the Assad duo and the relationship with the Presti-Lagoya duo?

JD Well, technically of course they were tremendous, they're tremendous, but they don't have the same emotion. There's no emotion there that I get. And then they play so much South American music and after a time it all gets to sound alike. You wonder, when they've performed some technical miracle - which I have no doubts Presti could have matched - you know I just think, well what are they going to do for an encore? It begins to remind me in a way of when I played the Abreu brothers' first record to Segovia, at home. He said, 'This is very clever, but who wants to listen to a man talking fast all the time?' Neither do either the Abreus or the Assads have the same range, sense of orchestration, the same range of tone colour and effects. They play notes and the dynamics change and they play deep and ponticello but that's about it. They don't have this tremendous range of colour.

RS So you're saying that Presti, and Presti-Lagoya in the duo, she would imbue her performance with a spiritual and some kind of a deeper sense about the music...

JD Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

... that was elevating the whole level of the concert?

JD Yes. I think, I think people now study with the idea they're going to become great soloists, which is almost certainly not going to be the case, and what they're attracted by is the fame and the potential to make money. These people were not. These people were not. Segovia, as I said, was probably never unarguably the greatest guitarist in the world. Not in the time when those other people existed as well. Where his strength lay is, he is the one who went out into the world and sold the instrument, and made it what it is. And if he had not existed we would not be here now. That's almost certain.

RS Lagoya says that too. Everybody recognises the importance, the significance.

JD Yes. That's right. We wouldn't be here. All these great people, including Presti, would have been a local phenomenon.

RS Could you please tell me again about those three Number 1 concerts?

JD Well, it's hard, it's really hard to say. Well the first of course has got to be the first and only solo recital I ever heard from Ida Presti. It was an invitation concert at the home of a man called Phillip Godley, who I think was the Chief - I don't know what his official, thing, was - at the Halle Orchestra in Manchester, which of course is a world-famous orchestra. And he had a very large home with a big music room, and it was an invitation concert, so we sat, maybe, not much further from Presti than I am from you.

RS How many people? Just a little group?

JD No, no, no, no. Maybe forty, fifty. It was a big room. And there was a big open log fire. And it was an unforgettable appearance. She played like a tigress.


Duarte mentions the influence of Ida Presti on the Italian guitarist Angelo Gilardino. Five years after that interview, in May 2004, Gilardino himself posted a comment on the subject of Presti on the Classical Guitar Newsgroup. It is interesting to read to what extent Gilardino admired Presti:


She was the greatest, firstly and simply in terms of her skills with the instrument: she could do with fingers things that no other guitarist could do. Her hands were physically "different" (by nature and for having been manipulated by her father since when she was a baby). She produced the loudest, roundest, fullest, tone ever heard: only Lagoya - since when they met and formed the duo - could match her, and only in certain situations. The tones she produced in certain recordings of the duo ("Goyescas" by Granados, just to give an instance, but one could add many other examples) is the best tone I ever heard from a guitarist - and I listened to all of them who gave concerts after my birth - and she could produce a variety of tones, with a correspondent amplitude of dynamic range, that nobody else has matched so far.

 She could play a sort of "legato" unique to her playing, and to nobody else's playing. Her vibrato - still documented in the duo recordings, take for example the "Adagio" by Albinoni-Giazotto - is still above anybody else's possibilities. She was - simply - unmistakable. I never heard a wrong note from her. Jack Duarte, who was a strict friend of hers, can witness that in the hundred times he listened to her practicing, he never heard one single mistake from her.

 Her virtuosity - a stunning one - has been matched by several players nowadays, but at which price, in terms of sound, expression, etc.? Consider that, after her severe training during her childhood, she did not practice very much, her life being spent mainly in travels and concerts. [...] But all of this prodigy was serving the most important purpose: she was a marvellous musician, with a direct, immediate, unabridged vision of the music. Her drawing rhythms, melodies, voices in counterpoint, chords, was simply perfect.

 She played so well that you couldn't realize she played well, because you received the music in such an accomplished way that you were allowed to forget she was playing an instrument, and that she was skilled. Her skills disappeared with her doing the music. Her fellows, in the heavens of 20th century interpreters, are to be sought outside guitarists: I would say Dinu Lipatti, and only a few other ones.


One can take the word of the experts, or listen to Presti, and to Presti-Lagoya, oneself. The recordings are a wonderful and arresting surprise; and the available internet footage of the two guitarists, together and separately, makes very interesting viewing. A group of American and UK documentary makers has been trying for some time, with the support of Presti's pupil Alice Artzt, to realise their dream of producing a documentary of the life of Ida Presti. To date, information and film footage held in French television and radio archives has been unavailable, but it is to be hoped that sooner rather than later that project can come to fruition. Presti certainly deserves to be not only in every music dictionary, but in every guitarist's music collection.

The Duo Presti-Lagoya


Presti solo:

Les Grandes Dames De La Guitare - Ida Presti and Luise Walker

The Art of Ida Presti: Studio Recordings 1938/1956 [De Visée, Bach, Paganini, Malats, Pujol,  Lagoya, Fortea, Villa-Lobos, inter al.]

Duo Presti-Lagoya:

L'Art de Alexandre Lagoya avec Ida Presti [Box set of complete recordings - Bach, Scarlatti,  Handel, Madurra, Sanz, Sor, Vivaldi, Haydn, Tárrega, Granados, Rodrigo, Albéniz,  Torroba, Turina, Villa-Lobos, Petit, Ponce, Marcello, Presti, Lagoya, Pasquini... ]

Ida Presti & Alexandre Lagoya, Complete Philips Recordings


Elizabeth Presti and Anne Marillia, Ida Presti: Sa vie son art/Her Life, her Art


Internet and video

Richard Sagala, Homage to Ida Presti


Presti-Lagoya in concert, 1956


Presti-Lagoya play Tocatta by Petit


Ida Presti solos


Alice Artzt, Presti's pupil, teaches the Presti technique


The Guitar Foundation of America Convention - July 2011

Thoughts from across the pond.

BCGS representative Vince Smith made the trip to Columbus, Georgia. Click here for the Guitar Life interview with Vince.

Our man in Brussels

An interview with Adam Purnell

Adam Purnell is one of the southwest’s most talented young guitarists. He studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff under John Mills and Graham Devine, and is currently in his third year of study, enjoying a period of intensive study in Belgium. The Bristol Classical Guitar Society is proud to be a sponsor of Adam’s studies – as well as concentrating on his lessons, he has made a habit of working hard during evenings and weekends giving performances, and providing music for public and private functions and charity events. Adam is also a Friend of the BCGS.

As the snow and ice gripped both the UK and Belgium, Adam spoke to Guitar Life from his student garret in Brussels.

GL You’ve been abroad since the start of this academic year. Tell us a little about your studies.

AP I’m studying at the Koninklijk Academy in Brussels, with the world famous guitarist Antigoni Goni. The idea of coming to study here was suggested by John Mills [Head of Guitar at the Royal Welsh College] early in my second year, during a lesson. He thought it would be good for my development to go and experience another teacher with different views and culture. He told me about his connections with a great number of guitar schools and conservatories around Europe, but in particular with Antigoni, as John was her teacher when she studied in London at the Royal College of Music. John was Professor of Guitar at the RAM. I applied, and I was granted a scholarship to come and study over here.

GL As a student at the Academy, what do your days consist of?

AP On a weekly basis I have my one-to-one lessons with Antigoni, where we work on my current repertoire and studies. My lessons are an hour long, although we sometimes go over the hour, depending on what we are working on. Every two weeks all the students in the guitar department have a performance class, where everyone performs his or her latest work in front of the other students. Last week was particularly busy, as the Italian guitarist Nuccio Angelo visited the Academy for a week of classes, lectures and a concert.

My day-to-day practice lasts between 4-5 hours. I start with a warm-up of scales and technical exercises or studies, like the Villa-Lobos Etudes. Then I’ll work on my pieces – at the moment I’m playing Barrios’ La Catedral. I’m also working on Piazzola’s Histoire du Tango with a flautist I met at the academy during freshers’ week. There’ll be a performance in the not-too-distant future. I’ll play the piece back in Cardiff too, this time with a friend who’s currently studying at the Sibelius Academy in Finland. That’s planned for next summer - so there could be a performance at the BCGS!

In my free time I work with my brother Lawrence, who’s a very talented singer and actor, on writing songs. This summer we recorded our first EP, and started gigging in venues around Bristol. I’m looking forward to getting things really up and running once I’m back in the UK. We had a great response from the initial gigs we played.

I have found time to sample some of Belgium’s delights including one or two of the 2000 beers they have to offer. I’ve also travelled a lot – I’ve just booked to visit Amsterdam this weekend with friends from the Academy.

GL How’s the life in Brussels?

AP It took me a couple of weeks to adjust to the way of life here. The pace of life seemed to be a lot slower, but then I gradually realised that the English just work at the speed of light! The language isn’t a problem as a lot of people speak English, but I’ve also managed to pick up some basic French in conversation.

My mum came to Brussels a few weeks back to visit for the weekend and check up on me, and I’ve also had two friends over from Bristol for a few days. I haven’t been back to Bristol but will be over for 5 days at Christmas. I’m looking forward to my Christmas dinner!

                                                        PHOTO OF THE KONINKLIJK ACADEMY

GL How have your studies at the Academy changed your playing and your musical outlook?

AP My lessons have really opened my mind on the subject of posture and technique, and how vitally important it is for a guitarist. Antigoni has helped enormously in that department; there were a few things that I’d overlooked for many years, as naturally we become obsessed with playing repertoire. The small movements we take notice of on the fretboard are all connected in a bigger way, starting with the position of the back and the large muscle groups around the shoulders, elbows etc. Thinking in that way has helped me eradicate a lot of tension and unnecessary pressure I had before.   

On the performing front, I was recently asked to play at a Spanish International evening in the centre of Brussels, in a celebration of Spanish culture. The performance was a huge success, a mix of flamenco and classical repertoire, with a lot of the leading figures of the University of Brussels attending.

GL You saw our patron Berta Rojas performing with the Brussels Philharmonic recently - what was your reaction?

AP I was so lucky to be present at such a fantastic concert. It was packed out - all 600 seats were taken. Berta play the Aranjuez flawlessly, and with such elegance and grace. She had the audience spellbound throughout, and finished with an encore of Recuerdos de la Alhambra that rounded the evening off perfectly. I’d have liked to meet her of course, but it was such a big event – there was a VIP area where people could meet Berta and the conductor and Cecilia Rodrigo. The BCGS are extremely lucky to have such a wonderful guitarist as patron of the society. It was a great performance.

GL You are staying on at the Koninklijk Academy longer than originally planned. Why so?

AP My stay in Brussels was originally scheduled to end on 17th December - my original scholarship was for one term. But when the Royal Welsh were made aware of the success of my lessons with Antigoni they agreed to extend my time, because my study here contributes towards my final degree at the RWCMD. So I’ll be at the Academy until the end of January. I’ll be back at the Royal Welsh College at the beginning of February; I have my technical and short performance exams to sit.

Our thanks to Adam for taking the time to talk to us. It s good news indeed, for the BCGS, the southwest and the guitar community that he is getting so much from his studies. Our very best wishes to him always; we look forward to seeing him at the BCGS in 2011!

Adam Purnell http://www.adampurnell.com

Koninklijk Academy http://www.kcb.be/eng/index.asp

Contents: Ida Presti (below) GFA Convention Adam Purnell  Agustín Barrios Atahualpa Yupanqui  All About Strings Practise Tips

Guitar strings                                                    Tim Rigley     14th August 2014  

Things we know about strings and take for granted

Strings are the same length but produce different notes. Strings come in treble (nylon filament) and bass (wound gold, silver, bronze or copper on nylon filaments). They get thicker the lower you go. They wear out and need to be replaced. New strings go out of tune quickly.

The science

Since all strings are the same length – how do they produce different notes?

The root frequency for a string is proportional to the square root of the tension, inversely proportional to its length, and inversely proportional to the square root of its linear mass density. Which means if we have a string which vibrates at 200Hz (roughly G plus a bit on string 3):

Double the length and the frequency becomes 100Hz

Increase tension four times and you get 400Hz

Increase mass four times and you get 100Hz

Standing waves and harmonics

Frequency and tension

Thickness – greater mass decreases velocity of vibration

Tension – higher tension, higher frequency

Why are strings different thicknesses? In theory you could have the same thickness and just increase and decrease the tension to produce the different notes needed for the open strings.

The lower the mass, the less tension is required for a given note. So in order to keep the tension relatively equal for each string, strings differ in thickness and mass  – markedly. B is about 10 times less mass than E string. Tensions are about the same – 5, 6 or 7 kg.

The tension for all strings is equivalent to that required to hold up a small child. (I haven’t tried this.)

The materials

Since the development of nylon guitar strings by Albert Augustine, the three treble strings are a single nylon filament, while the three bass strings are made of a core of fine nylon threadlike filaments wound with silver plated bronze or copper wire.

Nylon trebles thanks to Augustine1 :

In 1926-7, Albert Augustine (born Denmark 1900, died New York, April, 1967) moved to the United States to pursue his career as a luthier. In 1928, he married his wife, Rose.

During this period, he experimented with different types of strings without significant result. It was to be almost 20 years before his collaboration with famed guitarist Andrés Segovia would result in the development of the nylon guitar string.

In the mid-1940s, Andrés Segovia mentioned the shortage of good guitar strings in the United States, particularly his favourite Pirastro catgut strings, to a number of foreign diplomats at a party, including General Lindeman of the British Embassy. A month later, the General presented Segovia with some nylon strings which he had obtained via some members of the DuPont family. Segovia found that although the strings produced a clear sound, they had a faint metallic timbre which he hoped could be eliminated.

Nylon strings were first tried on stage by Olga Coelho in New York in January, 1944.

In 1946, Segovia and Augustine were introduced by their mutual friend Vladimir Bobri, editor of Guitar Review. On the basis of Segovia's interest and Augustine's past experiments, they decided to pursue the development of nylon strings. DuPont, sceptical of the idea, agreed to supply the nylon if Augustine would endeavour to develop and produce the actual strings. After three years of development, Augustine demonstrated a nylon first string whose quality impressed guitarists, including Segovia, in addition to DuPont.

Wound strings, however, were more problematic. Eventually, however, after experimenting with various types of metal and smoothing and polishing techniques, Augustine was also able to produce high quality nylon wound strings.

Fluorocarbon polymers have recently become an alternative to nylon treble strings. The sound is preferred by some luthiers and players, especially for the smooth transition provided by the G string from treble to bass.

The choice

You can’t compare sounds of different strings directly. You can’t listen to strings on your guitar until you’ve paid for them. There is a bewildering array of makers and varieties.

Extract from Classical Guitar Builder website2

Each classical guitar player should experiment with various strings to find which ones are best suited to his or her technique and guitar. In general, nylon trebles have a sweeter tone than composite ones. A medium or low tension string puts less tension on the soundboard and will frequently provide a greater range of tonal color. When a guitar is new, you should play it in for a few months with any brand of good quality strings. After the guitar has had time to settle in, start experimenting with various string brands and tensions to see what works best for you. I personally like Savarez New Crystal Corums, Hannabach, La Bella 2001 Professional Series, and D'Addario Pro Arte strings. Read my newsletter article on How to Select the Best Sounding Classical Guitar Strings for Your Nylon String Guitars in the October issue of the Classical Guitar Express.

Low Tension: Easier on the fingers, Softer Sound, Low Volume

High Tension: More Volume, More of a Rounded Tone, More Sustain

Another Extract from Classical Guitar Builder website3

Finding the finest classical guitar strings

Three things to consider when selecting strings are tension, string material and string quality.

1. Tension -- Classic guitar strings are made in different tensions. They are: low tension also referred to as moderate or light, normal or medium tension, hard or high tension. There are some other tensions but we don't need to be concerned with them now.

2. String material -- Treble nylon guitar strings can be made with clear or rectified nylon. Clear nylon strings are extruded and then calibrated for accuracy. Rectified nylon strings are extruded and then ground to produce a string that will play in tune. They have a very fine roughness of texture. Treble strings are also made of carbon fiber and composite materials. Bass strings are primarily made of bronze wire or silver plated copper wire wound around a core of fine threads.

3. Quality of manufacturing -- The strings must play in tune and be made from high quality materials that hold up well.

How to select string tension

To find out what string tension works best for you buy a low, medium and high tension set of the same series and manufacturer. Let’s use D'Addario as an example and choose the Pro Arte series J43, J45, and J46 sets. Use a peg-winder to change strings and try the three sets out over a few day period. Go back and forth between sets until you determine the tension you like.

Once you have selected the string tension you prefer try a few other brands in the same tension. I suggest, for the sake of comparison, you choose silver plated bass sets. Some classical guitar string manufacturers that offer excellent quality strings are Savarez, Hannabach, La Bella (the 2001 Professional series) and D'Addario.

If you have settled on the string tension that feels right for you and tried a number of brands you have probably found some classical guitar strings you are pleased with. Use the set you like the most as a comparison set. Keep the tension the same and...

Try different String materials

If you want to explore further try some rectified nylon trebles like the J29, J30 and J31 sets by D'Addario to compare the feel of rectified nylon to clear nylon guitar strings. The J29 - J31's are made with the old standard Dupont nylon and have a wonderful tone and feel. I like them very much even though they tend to be somewhat temperature sensitive. But beware, just because I like them doesn't mean you will. Savarez also makes excellent rectified nylon trebles.

Try some carbon fiber trebles. Carbon trebles are slightly smaller in diameter than nylon guitar strings of the same length and tension. Carbon fiber tends to give a brighter edge to the sound which can be a plus or minus depending on the guitar. My number one choice for carbon fiber classical guitar strings are the Savarez Alliance trebles.

A word of caution. Carbon fiber treble strings are prone to slip at the tie block as can nylon. Before I put the treble strings on classical guitars I hold the string tip above a match flame. The melted string tip balls up and prevents the string from slipping at the tie block.

Try some bronze wound basses. From my experience they tend to go dead sooner than silver-plated strings but they work well for many players.

The treatment

When to change4

Basses wear out faster than trebles. They collect grime and oils from the skin. Flat wound or polished strings may last longer. Hannabach provide three extra D strings in packs of ten sets so you can change these more often. Wiping strings after playing may help (see below). Some recommend washing strings – take them off the guitar first.

How to tie5

There are different bridge types – 1 hole per string, two holes per string. Knots or blobs can help prevent slipping.

My current set was recommended by Helen.  Pro-Arte lightly polished composite strings feature an exclusive multifilament core material which delivers a powerful, but warm tone which lasts 2-3 times longer than traditional classical strings. Each wound string is polished to a smooth surface for reduced finger noise. In addition to three traditional nylon treble strings, each set contains an optional monofilament composite 3rd/G string, which provides greater projection and optimal balance between basses and trebles. It’s an exclusive multifilament stranded core material which delivers a powerful, but warm tone which lasts 2-3 times longer than traditional classical strings. All Pro-Arte treble strings are sorted by a sophisticated computer-controlled laser machine which performs diameter/tension measurements and quality checks, ensuring true sounding, precise trebles in every set. Pro-Arte lightly polished sets are also ideal for recording.

EJ45LP "lightly polished," normal tension, is D'Addario's best selling "lightly polished" set, preferred for its balance of rich tone and smooth feel.

Reduce your string cost by half!6

The bass strings on a classical guitar often go dead before the trebles. The strings are usually not worn out. The windings are dirty. Remove the bass strings only. Loosely coil them and place them in a large basin, bathroom sink or whatever. Submerge them in room temperature water. The water can be lukewarm but NEVER HOT. Hot water will cause nylon guitar strings to play out of tune.

Add about 1/4 cup of ammonia to the water and let the strings soak for about fifteen minutes. More time won't hurt them. The ammonia and water mixture breaks down crud that has built up between the windings on the strings. Put a washcloth in the water and pull each string through it a couple of times. Rinse the strings under cold water. Pull them through a dry towel and put them back on your guitar.

The cleaned basses often sound better than they did when new. They don't squeak as much and they don't need to stretch out like new strings. The washed strings also work well for recording because they are somewhat smoother since they have been played in and they have a lively, clear sound.

Hannabach Classical Guitar Strings7

(I have included this because it describes different kinds of string.)

Hannabach hand-made guitar strings offer an extremely attractive alternative to better-known brands from the larger string companies, attractive in terms of quality, price and range.

Hannabach is a long-established Gemany family business which has been making strings for a range of instruments for well over 100 years.

Hannabach strings are still hand made and individually inspected although the company uses advanced technologies and innovative materials.

Hannabach offers special sets for intensive users such as professional performers and advanced students. These money saving "pro" packs contain 10 sets of strings with 3 extra D4 strings (to allow for the more rapid wear of this string).

Hannabach strings are generally available in a broader range of tensions for each type of string than those from other manufacturers such as Savarez or D'Addario.

The Hannabach range for the classical guitar is as follows -

Silver Plated Classic Guitar Strings Series 800 - Hand-made strings with basses made from silver-plated copper wire wound around high strength nylon core and the trebles made from clear nylon.

Custom Made Classic Guitar Strings Series 728 - The newly-developed basses are based on highly resiliant plastic fibres surrounded with hard silver-plated round section wires. The treble strings are finely calibrated and have a crystal-clear sonority.

Pure Gold Plated Classic Guitar Strings Series 825 - Treble strings in clear, precisely rounded, nylon with a "permanently polished" surface. The processing ensures 100% intonation and a clear and brilliant tone. The 24 carat gold-plating on the winding on the basses imparts a pure homogeneous sound and a full sustaining tone. It also provides corrosion proofing thereby substantially prolonging useful string life.

Silver 200 Classic Guitar Strings Series 900 The bass strings in this series are individually braided with silver-coated wire. As a result, the Silver 200 strings wear out less rapidly and are characterised by a brilliant and powerful sound. The trebles are Precision Rounded giving 100% intonation and a clear and brilliant tone.

Carbon Classic Guitar Treble Strings - Carbon trebles can be combined with any set of Hannabach bass strings. They are supplied as medium-high tension.

Goldin Classic Guitar Strings Series 725 - The trebles are made of a golden yellow super carbon, which gives them a softer, warmer sound than conventional carbon strings. The basses are characterised by a novel, high density, highly resistant plastic core. Winding wires are made of "Goldin", a recently developed golden yellow metal alloy (100% nickel and cadmium-free). These basses sound clearly and brilliantly.

Titanyl Classic Guitar Strings Series 950 - The treble strings are made from a new polyamide mixture (giving the distinctive light grey colour). These are precision-rounded and have a clear, distinct sound, openly brilliant. The bass strings have a high strength, flexible core and are wound with a newly developed "long life" silver alloyed wire. They have a sonorous tone development with beautiful, clear overtones.

PSP Polished Classic Guitar Strings Series 850 - Treble strings in clear, precisely rounded, nylon with a "permanently polished" surface. The processing ensures 100% intonation and a clear and brilliant tone. PSP stands for Precision Smooth Polished. The precision-ground bass strings reduce noise when changing positions, making them ideal for studio (or even home) recording and amplified stage performance.

Flamenco Guitar Strings Series 827 - The basses have a high-tenacity nylon core wound with "Silverspecial" round wire. The trebles are precision-rounded, golden-yellow, monfilament nylon specifcally selected for the flamenco guitar. Available ex stock as full sets in Super High tension and High tension.

Hannabach makes strings for a range of non-standard guitars too.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Augustine_Ltd

2 http://www.classicalguitarbuilder.com/newpages/guitartalk.html

3 http://www.classicalguitarbuilder.com/march_news/October_Newsletter.html

4 http://www.derek-hasted.co.uk/faqs/when-to-restring/

5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-pTlCZZQms and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RFEHUrGOP0

6 http://www.classicalguitarbuilder.com/newpages/guitartalk.html

7 http://www.classical-guitars-plus.co.uk/guitar_info/312__Hannabach+Classical+Guitar+Strings