Music Study – The Guitar And Mandolin

It seems entirely superfluous for us to consider here certain odd instruments, strangers to the symphonic orchestra, which, although having a perfectly musical character, are connected with this art only on account of their picturesque quality and local colour, and have been used by composers only in exceptional cases or as hors-d’oeuvres. Such are, among others, the Guitar and the Mandolin, instruments for serenades, charming to hear in an appropriate setting, in the streets of Seville, or the canals of Venice, but out of place elsewhere ; also the Russian Balalaika and the Hungarian Cembalo.

Let us say, however, that the guitar, if we want to do anything more with it than to accompany a common Italian or Spanish song, is excessively difficult to learn, but it also forms a very delightful study; in private, in the midst of a very restricted circle of attentive amateurs, a skilful artist can get charming effects from it, although of little variety and always somewhat similar ; but it is very difficult to find a good teacher of the guitar, this unfashionable instrument falling daily into greater -disuse, which is to be regretted.

In Italy and Spain, the guitar plays the part of accompanist to the voice, or to the mandolin ; the latter constantly gives the melody, and guitars accompany it. Sometimes a flute or a violin is added. In its picturesque frame, under a beautiful moonlight, or a starry sky, such a little orchestra in miniature lulls the tourist deliciously, and sometimes produces ravishing effects. The mandolin, on the contrary, may be learned with extreme facility; the irritating tremolo of its doubled strings, endurable only in the open air, is within the reach of everybody. For violinists, in particular, it is a mere toy; its strings and fingering being identical with their instrument, they have nothing to acquire but that perpetual trembling of the right hand which seems to have furnished the voice with that deplorable example of tremolo of which we shall soon speak.