for 19th century guitar
Before the selection..... Have you changed how you play, yet?
I have seen (heard) many people playing 19th century guitars in front of me at occasions like concerts, instrument shows, and having visitors to my workshop. With few exceptions, most played the instruments with inappropriate touch. They tend to use strong apoyand and some even played with extremely long nails. How they play should be no problem on playing modern guitars or would even be praised by instructors, because those follow the modern guitar methods. The same methods are not directly applicable to 19th century guitars, unfortunately. Imagine what would happen when a modern guitar player tries to play a lute, a violin player tries a cello, or a piano player tries a cemballo? The same can be said for modern and 19th century guitars. Regrettably, even some professionals, who are praised as "first class player", play 19th century guitars with a modern guitar technique along with nail noise (don't imitate them). Conversely, some amateur players who play as hobby on Sundays can generate great sound with full volume on 19th century guitars. Put musical presentation and accuracy asides, it is the question of how good they are to create "best sound" of the instruments. This is a very important thing, even before talking about string tension and their material.
Without playing an instrument properly, it is not possible to evaluate and select strings for the instrument. If one is to play an instrument that sounds better with low tension, it should be played with an appropriate soft touch. When I pointed out this, many players replied that they were using "soft touch". However, they often used rough touch to me and generated noisy and uncertain sound without volume. Some could not change their touch appropriate to the instrument and used modern strings on a 19th century guitar claiming that high tension like modern ones had been used even at the period. I knew many example of damaged 19th century guitars using high tension strings to rationalize one's inability to adopt to the period instrument. Yes, there exists 19th century guitars that sounds better and produce volume when high tension strings are used. But, they are rare and sound more like modern guitars. I believe the instruments that sound better in lower tension posses the classical taste and the charm of 19th century guitar.
Many players can't stop basing on the previous instruments they have played when they face a different one. It's not easy to change the touch appropriate to a different instrument instantly. It should be basic to play different instruments differently, though. Like violin and cello or piano and cemballo, it often is better to play 19th century guitars and modern ones regarding them as completely different instruments. This is not only how you regard them conceptually but also changing how you actually use fingers and hands. When you have a chance to hear someone plays a 19th century guitar, please observe whether the player is trying to accomplish the same difference between playing cemballo and piano on the guitar or not. It does not matter how famous the player is or even an amateur player or not. Sometimes, beginners and steel string guitar players make better sound on 19th century guitars. If you encounter these "better sounding" players, you should learn how they play and try to imitate them.
I would like to emphasize this repeatedly. 19th century guitars are NOT the same instruments as modern guitars. Although they look alike, full benefit of the 19th century guitar can be obtained only when a player device to change how to play it. Being aware of this, the string selection for the instrument will be quite fruitful.
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