I have an interest in the Plectrum Guitar, which is often associated with jazz but in fact has a much wider repertoire and practice. One could fancifully trace it back to the vihuela penola of 16th-century Spain, or ‘Latin’ and Moorish guitars of the medieval period, but for most people the work of Eddie Lang would be a good starting place. This wonderful website http://www.eddielang.com/el_home.html provides an overview of his work.
The Masters Of The Plectrum Guitar from Mel Bay Publications,
has a wealth of material in it, including some items by Eddie Lang.
Harry Volpe (1904-1995)
The work of Harry Volpe has got my interest of late. An Italian-American, Volpe rose to become one of the leading guitarists of the 1930s and 40s, and teacher to Joe Pass, Sal Salvador, Al Caiola, and many other jazz guitar luminaries. More info HERE. His compositions from the late 1930s reveal classical music traits amongst jazz harmonic twists. Try for instance this very beautiful solo guitar piece from the aforementioned Mel Bay book, the lyrical My Cherished Prelude:
And his Modern Etude (1938):
In a classical music vein:
Midnight Clear. This was the first video I made on the day the Loar guitar arrived.
Unfortunately my recording techniques were not up to scratch, so the sound is weak. If I get time, I’ll do it again.
The video, ”Romantic” at the top of this page is also by Volpe.
Later, Volpe would become more associated with swing guitar, and was famously photographed playing with the great Django Reinhardt:
Although associated with music publishing, Mel Bay (1913-1997) was a brilliant jazz guitar player and fine arranger. Here is his version of Sweet Lorraine, which I perform in a slightly melancholic way. It is also available in Masters Of The Plectrum Guitar (Mel Bay Publications). The video starts with the aforementioned, Romance, by Harry Volpe. Sweet Lorraine starts at 1’35”.
The pop song, Mighty Lak’ A Rose, was actually written in 1901, but became a hit in the 1940s. Here is Mel Bay’s arrangement:
Carl Kress was one of the greatest guitarists of the 1940s, and teacher to Joe Pass, and many other notable jazz guitarists. His solo works are wonderful explorations of harmony and melody, uniting jazz and classical aesthetics, and well worth studying by today’s guitarists. There is a little bit about him on this wiki page. He used a tuning based on the tenor banjo, which he played early in his career, notably with the great Paul Whiteman Orchestra. The pieces I play here are in standard tuning, and can all be found in the Mel Bay “Masters Of The Plectrum Guitar” book.
George M. Smith
Here’s the beautiful Estrellita by the Mexican composer, Manuel Maria Ponce (1882-48), arranged by 20th-Century Fox and Paramount house guitarist, George M. Smith.
This is a beautiful guitar solo by Hendrickson, but I recorded it the day after this guitar arrived. I had put flatwound strings on, but they cut the volume in half. I might record it again later.
Plectrum Guitar tutor books – in my possession
Guitar Tutor in Theory and Practice – Ivor Mairants
Play The Plectrum Guitar – Ivor Mairants
Perfect Picking Technique – Ivor Mairants
Complete Course in Jazz Guitar Volume 1 – Mickey Baker
Complete Course in Jazz Guitar Volume II – Mickey Baker
25 Graded Pieces for Plectrum Guitar – Compiled by Adrian Ingram (see below)
A Modern Method For Guitar, Complete 3 Volumes – William Leavitt
Guitar Method – George Van Eps
My preference is for an acoustic, non-cutaway archtop, such as the type created by Lloyd Loar (wiki link) for Gibson back in the twenties, such as the L5 (wiki link) . A new company called Loar have set out to recreate this guitar at different price points. I have the current flagship Loar LH-700, and can’t fault it for its price.
Here is Eddie Lang’s L5
In 1946 Django Reinhardt used an L5 fitted with a DeArmond pickup for his tour with Duke Ellington.
Tutor Book for Plectrum-Style Guitar
If you are interested in this style of guitar playing, you could do a lot worse than get hold of A Modern Method For Guitar by William Leavitt from Berklee Press. Initially in three volumes, you can now purchase all three in one Complete volume. It has no TAB, but teaches you to read standard notation from simple to advanced levels. I believe all guitarists should be equally proficient in reading both TAB and Standard Notation. The harmonic language and techniques used in the book will prepare you well for this style.
UK Plectrum Guitar Examination Syllabus
Trinity College in London have nine levels of examinations in Plectrum Guitar, from Initial Grade to Grade 8. You can download their current syllabus from HERE. The repertoire ranges from jazz and classical items (some from classical guitar books) to pop and rock.
Adrian Ingram, famous jazz guitar player, has compiled a useful book, ‘25 Graded Pieces For Plectrum Guitar‘, with many of the pieces being used for the Trinity-Guildhall exams:
Two pieces by Adrian Ingram from this book:
Here are mp3 files of all the pieces in the book, recorded using my Loar LH-700:
Just a quick reminder that I teach this style of guitar either privately or via Skype. If interested, read this page first.
For more on the early plectrum guitar, zip along to the Jazz Age Guitar, – a wonderful site by Christopher Billiau