1

I am planning to compose a 4-voice polyphonic piece. I am not familiar with the classical guitar at all and do not know its limitations. However, I would like to write the piece in such a way that it would be playable on several instruments (including the piano, a SATB choir, or classical guitar(s)).

What is the number of more-or-less independent voices that can be simultaneously played on a classical guitar by reasonably skilled players? Two? Three? Four?

Are there any other instrument-specific concerns that I should be aware of? For example, would it be harder to simultaneously play two notes that have a large gap (two octaves) than two notes that are close together? Are there any issues with high notes? Wikipedia states that a classical guitar can produce sounds up to B5. (I would restrict myself to no higher than G5 anyways, because I want it to also be suitable as a SATB piece.) Are those 5th octave notes more difficult to play? Do they have a nice timbre? All in all, are they actually practical to use on a guitar? If no, then what would be a reasonable highest note to use?

closed as too broad by guidot, David Bowling, Todd Wilcox, Dom Jul 23 at 3:35

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    I consider this question as too broad and reasonably skilled a bit thin; I assume non-professional? – guidot Jul 22 at 11:52
  • 2
    Yes, there is a lot of information in question here. I think a sit-down with a classical guitarist and/review of the existing literature would be a good place to start. In the end, there may be some trial and error necessary where you get specific feedback from guitarists about your compositions as you write them. – Todd Wilcox Jul 22 at 13:31
  • I disagree that it is too broad, except for the "reasonably skilled" part, which IS a bit vague. But if I asked a similar question about a piano, then would it also be too broad? It would be very concrete. Someone could respond with information about hand spans and what is the largest interval playable with a single hand. Someone could also respond by saying that it's relatively easy to play two adjacent white keys using only one finger. Someone could answer that some chords which involve a lot of black keys can be more awkward to play than accidental-free chords. Etc. Very concrete. – Liisi Jul 23 at 5:56
  • And I think that the answer that I got proves that this question can be answered in a very informative and useful way. I do understand that it is a complex question because classical guitar technique is varied and complicated, and that the only way to fully know the answer would be to learn the instrument myself. But the answer down below is still a very good answer that explains some basics and satisfies my curiosity, and, I hope, the curiosity of some other users who might read it. – Liisi Jul 23 at 6:02
1

What is the number of more-or-less independent voices that can be simultaneously played on a classical guitar by reasonably skilled players? Two? Three? Four?

I don't think you can pick a particular number here; rather, I think the answer is that the more independent the voices are, the lower that number is going to be.

One voice is always going to be possible.

Two will be usually be fine as well, but even then it might be possible to concoct some slightly awkward leaps.

Once you get to three voices, you probably need to have more awareness of the particular fingering shapes that are feasible, especially if you expect the player to mute effectively - and by four, you'll definitely be needing to respect the specific chord shapes that can be played on the guitar.

For example, would it be harder to simultaneously play two notes that have a large gap (two octaves) than two notes that are close together?

Both large and small intervals can be problematic. The reach of the left hand is around two octaves (unless you can take advantage of an open string for the low note), but because the interval between strings is 5 (or 4) semitones, close intervals can be awkward too.

Are there any issues with high notes?

They can be harder to play on a guitar without a cutaway, and with notes played high up on lower strings the timbre can be a bit clangourous.

I am not familiar with the classical guitar at all and do not know its limitations.

To compose something with more than two voices that can be played comfortably on guitar, I would say you'll need the advantage of a guitarist's knowledge. Taking a step back, another risk is creating something that's possible to play on guitar, but not a lot of fun; "independent voices" doesn't really play to the strengths of the guitar.

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer. I found a link recently and I'm going to post it here because someone who has a similar question and reads your answer might find it useful to further read up on the details of guitar technique: howtowriteforguitar.blogspot.com – Liisi Jul 31 at 6:08

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.