Why write formal studies for electric guitar?

You mean ‘why write notated studies for an instrument that has such a strong tradition of improvisation?’ Because we need a broader palette to choose from; advanced instrument study depends on a variety of well-presented, well-defined, stylistically nuanced material. And for higher education we need electric-guitar material to be notated in the traditional manner, just like other instruments are. TAB does not work in advanced music courses; TAB-bound guitarists do not develop high enough music literacy and insight to negotiate tertiary levels of music study.  Being constrained by not reading notation blocks the electric guitarist from mastering advanced music theory and participating in quality fine-music ensembles [those that require adherence to a score].

My inspiration for this came from Matteo Carcassi’s seminal Opus 60 work for classical-guitar Twenty-Five Etudes for the Guitar

Classical guitarists the world over appreciate the high foundational value of those beautiful studies. Though written some 170 years ago they still provide high quality, and yet popular material for developing classical guitarist.

So, feeling concerned by the diminishing amount, and quality of notated high-grade material suitable for Electrics I thought “gee it would be great if advanced electric guitarists had a source of studies similar to Carcassi Opus 60”.  Once that idea had germinated the pieces began to flow out of the fingertips, the majority coming in a rush from late 2016 into the early months of 2017.

The online/digital revolution may have provided many benefits and exciting novelties but it certainly has not improved guitar education. The world has been swamped by internet TAB – much of which is either not correct or is, at least poorly edited. Even famous classical guitar works, like those mentioned above are now freely available online in TAB versions that contain critical errors. Why has this happened when the professional standard originals were (and still are) available?

I don’t want to debate the rather elastic subject of whether printed books are too expensive, or not obtainable widely enough. What has concerned me, as a guitar education professional is the undeniable decline in technical standards. Its no wonder the electric-guitar has lost it’s once lofty position in contemporary music.  The stereotypical use of it in digital-era Pop provides little more than background color and texture. And much of what is out there doesn’t make it into professional print anymore. We could go on about this but the overall result is a clear drop in the standard of electric-guitar playing and in the way it is presented in printed form.

So the driver for creating these notated studies is the desire to see new, worthy material that demands a higher standard of musical intent and acumen. Interesting, composed material that reflects the techniques that created such a vibrant, progressive style; that reflect the high level of instrumental discipline and astute musicianship inherent in the best examples of the art.

I sincerely hope teachers find these studies a useful addition to their resources, and that students enjoy tackling material that will challenge them musically whilst developing their abilities.


Yours in music,

Michelle Nelson J

Michelle Nelson