Since the 1980s, the electric guitar has had a romance with classical music. From neo-classical shredders, like Yngwie Malmsteen, to Eddie Van Halen’s baroque styled tapping, to Steve Vai playing Paganini’s 5th Caprice in”Crossroads,” electric guitarists have been fascinated by the techniques and harmony used in classical music. Although written for acoustic instruments, distortion and amplification can breathe new life into classical pieces and add an intensity otherwise unattainable. Also, many of these pieces are technically demanding, particularly when adapted for electric guitar, an instrument for which they obviously were not intended. For this reason, almost every accomplished guitar player emphasizes the importance of studying and performing classical music.
Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for the Violin are some of the most popular classical pieces for electric guitarists to learn. Aside from being great compositions, they’re a good place to start your journey into classical music because all the pieces are written in treble clef and the violin has a comparable range to the guitar. A collection of six works composed by J.S. Bach, this book is a great introduction to the language of classical music, covering major and minor tonalities, various tempi, different rhythmic meters, and a wide range of keys. The most famous movement is “Chaconne” from Partita No.2 in D Minor, but you’ll be surprised how many melodies you recognize throughout all of the pieces.
And don’t think this is just applicable to modern guitar shredders! This book was originally recommended to me by the great Jazz guitarist, Adam Rodgers, who, like many other guitarists, has spent years studying these pieces. J.S. Bach has also been a huge influence on Ted Greene, Joe Pass, and Tommy Emmanuel, just to name a few guitar masters. And let’s not forget about Bach’s massive influence on music in general! Overall, studying classical music is an amazing way to improve your technique, knowledge of harmony, compositional skills, and sight reading ability – plus, gain exposure to some beautiful music. So follow in the footsteps of many guitar greats and get yourself a copy of Bach’s Partitas and Sonata’s for the Violin!
And now, enjoy a performance of the “Giga” movement from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor by one of my all time favorite guitarists, the amazing Paul Gilbert!