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Doctoral Treatise

“Finding a Voice in the American Classical Guitar Vernacular: The Work of Andrew York, Benjamin Verdery, Bryan Johanson, and David Leisner”

Full text: 205 pages. 

Copyright 2008, Kimberley Perlak

From the Abstract:
The purpose of this study is two-fold. First, it examines the process by which American guitarists “find an American voice” within a chosen stylistic dialect. Second, it defines the specific musical vocabulary — technical, interpretive, and aesthetic — of the American guitar vernacular and studies the way it is integrated within the parameters of the classical style. To do so, it examines the lives and works of players who were among the first to embark on such a process within their professional community, setting their artistic perspectives within the broader context of American guitar culture. In a broader sense, this study explores how our relationships, collaborations, and perspectives as players both reflect the American experience and shape our national sound on the guitar.


Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist

Berklee Press/ Hal Leonard (2016)

Learn the essential techniques for playing classical guitar.

These exercises and demonstrations will help you to develop ease of motion, efficiency, coordination, tone, control over dynamics and color, melodic connection, and harmonic balance, while preventing injury. Techniques for each hand are discussed in isolation and then combined, with exercises drawn from the “Chaconne” by S.L. Weiss, which is also included in its entirety. Whether you are a classical or improvising player, you will find a clear, concise outline of the basic hand position and timing, with dozens of illustrative photographs and detailed descriptions. The online audio recordings demonstrate the techniques and their effects.

You will learn to:

  •  Play with healthy, comfortable posture that gives you a free range of motion, closely examining relationship between your body, arms, hands, and fingers

  • Shape, hone, maintain, and repair your fingernails to provide the best sound, whether you use real or fake nails; and create your own fake nails from ping-pong balls

  • Use right-hand techniques, such as alternation, string crossing, arpeggio patterns, and tremolo

  • Play with a variety of articulations, tone colors, and dynamics

  • Play left-hand techniques such as: barres, slurs (hammer on and pull off), and vibrato

  • Warm up, practice, and perform



“Clearly and meticulously written, Kim Perlak’s explanations of classical guitar techniques and principles invite investigation by guitarists of all genres (acoustic, steel string, electric). Kim has developed a useful and secure technique for the right and left hands that stems from years of patient observation as a guitarist, performer and teacher. Her thoughtful and logical reasoning encourages each guitarist to build upon her examples and develop personal exercises, all the while offering the ‘why’ behind each of the techniques being practiced. Whenever I sit and talk guitar with Kim, I always learn something. Sitting down with this book gave me exactly the same feeling.”

Guy Van Duser, Professor of Guitar at Berklee College of Music, Arranger of “The Stars And Stripes Forever” for Solo Classical Guitar Performance, originally recorded by Chet Atkins


“Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist is a much-needed addition to the current literature. Friendly for the beginner, advanced student, or teacher, Kim does a wonderful job explaining the techniques that will lead to success as a classical guitarist!”

Adam Holzman, Professor of Guitar and University Distinguished Teaching Professor, University of Texas at Austin, award-winning and critically acclaimed Classical Guitarist and Recording Artist


“If only I’d had this book when I first put down my pick and started bumbling my way into fingerstyle! Kim Perlak could have saved me years of effort. She has a great understanding of classical technique, accompanied by an unusually humane grasp of how humans learn. Her approach is welcoming—rigorous yet not rigid. Moreover, it is well organized, comprehensive, and crystal clear, which is not easy to accomplish, given all the subtle details of technique. Kim’s enthusiasm is contagious. If you pluck or want to pluck, get this book!”

Tuck Andress, Critically acclaimed Performance and Recording Artist in the duo Tuck & Patti


“A must-have for classical guitarists and those who want to learn about it. Insightful, instructive, detailed…. Kim Perlak makes it easy to understand how classical guitar technique should work to make the path to mastering the instrument much more enjoyable. Highly recommended!”

Berta Rojas, Critically acclaimed Classical Concert Artist and three-time Latin GRAMMY® nominee


“Dr. Kim Perlak offers an excellent overview of the fundamentals of classical guitar technique. Clearly written and easy to read, she presents a logical and systematic approach for guitarists of all levels and styles. Students who work with this resource will encounter numerous concepts to improve their playing. From basic left-hand and right-hand technique to the care of fingernails, Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist is a must-have for every guitarist.”

Dr. Stephen Robinson, Professor of Music at Stetson University, award-winning and critically acclaimed Classical Guitarist and Recording Artist


“Kim is a master guitarist and a master teacher. She has a deep understanding of the relationship between technique and sound production, between touch and tone. Her book “Classical Technique for the Modern Guitarist” is a fantastically clear and detailed map of the techniques that every guitarist needs that wishes to have a wide expressive range on their instrument. It is a book for life.”

David Tronzo, Professor of Guitar at Berklee College of Music, Musician Magazine “Top 100 Guitarists of the 20th Century”

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