Introduction and Overview
Recordings of guitar music have been around for more than a hundred
years. One of the earliest, an Edison cylinder dating from 1905, is a
guitar and mandolin duet called "An Autumn Evening," played by Samuel
Siegel and M. Loyd Wolf. It can be heard online at the Cylinder
Preservation and Digitization Project at this Univ. of California Santa Barbara Library web site.
Unlike books, sound recordings have undergone vast improvements in
physical format and in carrying capacity. But multi-track albums also
multiply the burden of cataloging for libraries. If working to the
highest standards, catalogers must make retrievable not only the
composer and title of every track on the album, but also its
performer(s), the medium of performance, the duration, and the musical
Cataloguing standards for sound recordings differ widely in the
library community. It is common for online union catalogs, like RLIN and
OCLC, to host multiple states or versions of cataloging for the same
recording, not to mention its reissues. This can make online searching
and retrieval in library databases challenging.
Despite the cataloging challenges, major music libraries are still
the places where the broadest selection of guitar recordings will be
found, starting with LPs in most cases. For the earlier formats
(cylinders, 78s), one should expect to visit specialized sound archives.
Virtually all such archives are members of the Association for Recorded
Sound Colections [www.arsc-audio.org ], and/or the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives [www.iasa-web.org ], both of which support listserves that anyone may join and monitor.
The advent of long playing records (1948- ), which allowed up to 26
minutes of playing time per side, coincided with the rapid adoption of
nylon strings on classic guitars, and with the emergence of Andres
Segovia as the first great recording artist of the classic guitar. He
released some 30 LPs, preserving his recordings from 1927 (his early 78s
on the HMV label, remastered) all the way to 1977--a half century of
epoch-making guitar artistry.
Digital recordings (music CDs) appeared in the 1980s, as the Internet
became widely available. More compact sound files, like MP3s, were
developed in the 1990s. With them, plus Web distribution of audio files,
the era of dominance of the record companies in the creation and
distribution of recorded sound on pressed vinyl came to an end. Personal
computers ushered in a chaotic but vital online universe of home-made
recordings, frequently involving some kind of guitar performances,
uploaded by tens of thousands of motivated guitarists from all over the
world who want to be heard.
NOTE: This guide to online retrievals of guitar recordings parallels
the one for scores [.../node/4112]. If you already know the name of the
performer, the composer and/or perhaps a keyword from the title of a
recording you would like to locate, skip section 1, and go to section 2
1. Searching for Recordings of Guitar Music by Instrumentation, To See What's Available
a) Getting the best from Google retrievals
It's always a good idea nowadays to search Google with an appropriate
array of descriptors, to get a sense of what is available. Using the
descriptor "MP3" seems to function very well as a limiter to online
sound recordings. Combinations of words in quotes, like "guitar music,"
can also be an important way to focus on the wheat and eliminate the
chaff in online searches. Here is a demonstration of how, with well
designed descriptors, Google retrievals of sound recordings can be made
manageable and productive:
- A Google search of "guitar" and "mp3" retrieves over 121 million hits--not helpful.
- A Google search of "guitar music" and "mp3" brings back about 4.68 million hits--better, but still too big to be useful.
- A more narrow Google search, for example "clarinet and guitar" (in
quotes) and "mp3" brings back about 1.86 million retrievals. Reversing
the order ("guitar and clarinet") adds over 589,000 more hits.
Most of these retrievals, it seems, point to private sites where
guitarists have mounted and basically give away their own sound
recordings as free MP3 downloads. They are by no means limited to a
particular style of music or type of guitar.
b) Getting the best from OCLC WorldCat.
If you want to focus your search and deepen it historically, try using WorldCat.org , clicking on the "Advanced search" option:
- Keyword-searching just the two words "clarinet" and "guitar"
(without quotes), limiting the Format to any type of Sound Recording,
retrieves over 12,000 hits - too much to be useful.
- Changing the Format delimiter to "LP recording" in the same keyword
search brings up over 1,880 LPs featruing, somewhere in their tracks, a
guitar and a clarinet being played. One can do better!
Abandoning Keyword searching in favor of Subject searching
and using the same two descriptors (clarinet guitar) is a smarter
strategy. These two instrumental terms retrieved some 90 LP albums in
2011 -- giving us a realistic way to identify and locate recordings of
pieces with these two instruments, alone or in larger ensembles, and
enabling us to become aware of repertoire that we might not otherwise
have discovered, especially ensemble music.
Doing the same subject search for CDs (the more modern format)
retrieved slightly over 650 albums (when searched in 2011), proving that
in the last twenty-odd years (the music CD having appeared in the
mid-1980s) there has been an explosion of new digital recordings
involving guitar and clarinet in various combinations and styles. But
reviewing 650 albums is still a larger task than many would like to
Fortunately there is a more precise tool for these kinds of retrievals. It has to do with the exact wording of the subject search:
The official Library of Congress subject heading can
be used for the specific combination of original music for clarinet and
guitar. Any music reference librarian or catalog department can help a
student understand and use the official LC subject headings correctly.
Those headings can always be found at the bottom of a quality cataloging
entry. For the combination in question, the correct form of the LC
subject heading is clarinet and guitar music, in that
order. Limiting the format to LP recordings retrieved 51 albums;
limiting the format to "CD audio" retrieved nearly 400 CDs in 2011. One
gets the impression, in looking over the retrievals, that much new music
has been composed and recorded for this medium in recent decades.
There are many other instrumental combinations with guitar that
guitarists may want to explore in WorldCat, especially if they are
planning a chamber music program. One can usually find the relevant LC
subject heading by locating one good recording using that
instrumentation in WorldCat, and then by checking its subject headings.
Many ensemble-specific LC subject headings are constructed like this:
Quintets (Clarinet, guitar, percussion, violin, violoncello)
2. Searching for Recordings of Guitar Music by Performer
Sometimes the sound of a piece is what we fall in love with, before
we know its composer or title. It may be something we hear on the radio
while driving, or in a restaurant. Of course the most direct retrieval
strategy is to phone the radio station or visit it online to check out
the playlist for the day and time you heard the piece.
Assuming that you could make out the name of the performer when it
was announced, you have two good options nowadays: (a) visit the
performer's web site and check out the recordings, or (b) search OCLC's
WorldCat to see what the libraries of the world currently hold by way of
that performer's recordings. Use the "advanced search" feature of
WorldCat, and enter the performer's name in the "author" field.
Catalogers always attribute authorship to performers because the latter
create the particular interpretations fixed on the recording.
3. Searching for Recordings of Guitar Music by Title
The most important tip for doing thorough online searches by the
title of a piece of music, whether in a free environment like Google or
in a controlled environment like WorldCat, is to remember that NOT
EVERYONE USES ENGLISH names and titles. So ask yourself if a piece like
Barrios' Cathedral might be cataloged in other
languages, and search them too, to get a complete picture of what is
available. Limiting WorldCat searches to Format="CD audio" yielded these
results in 2011:
- Keywords: Barrios and cathedral --> 11 hits (English form of title)
- Keywords: Barrios and catedral --> 155 retrievals (Spanish form of title)
The most common cataloging rule for titles is to favor the original
language of the piece. Thus a well known set of Variations by Fernando
Sor (his Op. 9) can be quite a challenge to retrieve if one only thinks
in English. Here are some 2011 WorldCat retrievals, limited to
Format="CD audio," for that work:
- keywords: Variations Mozart, and author: Sor = 154 (French, English)
- keywords: Variationen Mozart, and author: Sor = 8 (German)
- keywords: Variazioni Mozart, and author: Sor = 1 (Italian)
Can you guess what the original language of this piece was?
One of the great advantages of online searching, impossible in the
earlier days of card catalogs, is the fact that by keyword searching any
part of a title you can probably find it. If you recall just a part of
the title of a piece you heard on the radio, like "vacas," then try to
search that as a keyword in WorldCat, adding "guitar" in the subject
field, and limit the Format to "Sound recording" or "LP recording," etc.
You will soon find albums with a track entitled "Narváez, L. de.
Diferencias sobre Guárdame las vacas." That's probably the piece you
were listening to!
4. Downloads and Negotiating the Online Environment
What are the best places to visit for online guitar music, free or otherwise?
- The best known legal download site is probably iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes/
), which charges $.99 per downloaded tune. It currently offers "about
833 results" for the search "guitar music." there are also numerous
other online sites, like these:
(prices start at $ .25 per song or piece; there were some 200 tracks
retrieved in response to a search of "guitar music" but one can't search
it without joining first.)
- www.Music-oasis.com (offers free guitar tabs, free lyrics pages, and some free MP3s), but one can't search it without joining first.
- FreeSoloGuitar.com gives away MP3s of only acoustic guitar playing, not classical.
- Classiccat.net and musikethos.org feature classic guitar recordings contributed by members.
NOTE: Please send us other links to sites with significant free MP3 downloads of classic guitar music.
5. Special Collections and Resources
a) WORLD MUSIC FOR GUITAR
GFA member Dustin Wiebe writes that he has done a bit of
brainstorming regarding online research resources for "world" guitar
music and the Smithsonian Global Sound site came to mind. The URL is: http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/index.aspx.
The site require the user to register an ID and password and allows you
to search by a variety of categories including genre, country,
instrument, and year. The engine searches the holdings of the
Smithsonian Global Sounds Catalogue and there is a charge to download
files as MP3s.
b) ALBUM COVERS DIGITIZED.
The International Guitar Research Archive (IGRA) at
California State University, Northridge, has been mounting
full-screen-size digitizations of its guitar music albums (mostly
historic LPs) along with full cataloging of each band of each recording.
The URL is http://library.csun.edu/igra/
, and the IGRA discography is linked to that page. It brings up over
2,400 guitar albums in the collection, along with a search window where
one can retrieve albums in response to key words. A similar database on a
much larger scale, just for commercial CDs, is hosted by Amazon and
called CDNow. Searching "guitar music" in CDNow [www.cdnow.com
] retrieves useful information (if not full cataloging) on over 22,000
published CD "main albums" of all kinds of guitar music, most with
thumbnail album covers that can be enlarged. One can limit the search to
"classical music" and retrieve over 5,300 such CDs. Searching "Giuliani
Mauro" on CDNow brings up over 260 CDs.
c) INTERNATIONAL AUDIO RESOURCES - FRANCE.
There are several major audio archives in France where the guitar may
be heard online. The "médiathèque de la Cité de la musique" in Paris [http://mediatheque.cite-musique.fr/masc/
] has digitized examples of a number of historic guitars being played,
including a Panormo of 1850 and a Torres of 1883. The "médiathèque de
l'IRCAM" in Paris is devoted to contemporary sounds. It has an
acoustical presentation of the guitar, with text in French, of course [http://mediatheque.ircam.fr/sites/instruments/guitare/ ].
Over 3,500 sound recordings of contemporary music performed in concert and held by France's CDMC (Centre de documentation de la musique contemporaine
) have gone online through the Gateway for contemporary music resources
(Le portail de la musique contemporaine) in France. So far over fifty
works in the CDMC database involve the guitar,
and most of these contemporary pieces (by composers like Berio,
Stockhausen, etc.) can now be heard on the internet in excerpts of up to
three minutes, and in their entirety at the CDMC.
Visitors are invited to send suggestions for additions and corrections to Thomas F. Heck.
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