Thursday, September 29, 2005

Guitar Transcription of Bach's Goldberg Variations

Haven't gotten the time recently to blog recently and wouldn't much much chance either for the next 4 months, but oh well, I'll just try to blog whenever I have the inspiration and a computer with internet connection.

Have been listening to Glenn Gould's 1981 recording of Bach's most gigantic composition for the harpsichord and I'm deeply drawn by the beauty of this work. Come to think of it, the way I've come into contact with this work has been really strange. I saw the guitar transcription of the Goldberg Variations in the local music store by József Eötvös and it actually stirred up my curiosity in this work, thus I went to acquire the legendary recording by Glenn Gould and I could say that was the most correct decision which I had made. And of course, I made my way down to that local music store to purchase the guitar transcription for it. I haven't gotten József Eötvös's recording of it yet, though I've listened to a few tracks in it, and I can only say that it's truly beautiful in its own way.

I'm indeed pleasantly surprised that József Eötvös had done the 'impossible' of transcribing this marvellous work by Bach onto a solo guitar. I wouldn't have gone down to purchase the score if it's a duo piece, for I wouldn't think that it's hard to transcribe a polyphonic piece onto two guitars, since Kazuhito Yamashita has managed to transcribe the whole work of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition and Igor Stravsinky's Firebird onto the solo guitar. Of course, certainly not an easy feat, but through the transcriptions, the architecture of these two orchestral pieces had suffered. But it's completely different for Bach's Goldberg Variations, which is written for a solo instrument - the harpsichord, for the guitar is also a solo instrument without sustain and a fairly quick decay of the sound.

I'm glad though, that József Eötvös had transcribed this work in a way such that it sounds like original composition for the guitar and not attempt to make the piece an imitation of the original. There are classical guitar recordings in which guitarists attempt to bring out the harpsichordic effect or make the guitar sound like a harpsichord. It desecretes the spirit of the guitar for the beauty of its natural sound is lost. What's the point of creating an authentic performance at the expense of the beautiful natural sound of the instrument? Bach himself had transcribed his works for different instruments and reworked them to suit the characteristic of the instruments anyway.

It's no wonder that this transcription has been hailed as the guitar transcription of the century, for this works seems more 'impossible' as compared to transcribing the whole Violin Partita No. 2.

I still hope to be able to complete one or two suites of Bach every year, so this work will probably have to wait a few years down the road, after I master the Lute Suites and probably a few of the Violin Sonatas and Partitas and Cello Suites.

It is, in short, music which observes neither end nor beginning, music with neither real climax nor real resolution, music which, like Beaudelaires's lovers, "rests lightly on the wings of the unchecked wind." It has, then, unity through intuitive perception, unity born of craft and scrutiny, mellowed by mastery achieved, and revealed to us here, as so rarely in art, in the vision of subconscious design exulting upon a pinnacle of potency.
-Glenn Gould, linear notes of the 1956 Bach Goldberg Variations

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Joaquín Turina

After completing his musical studies with Vincent d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, Joaquín Turina had composed his first piano quintet. In 1907, when Isaac Albéniz heard this piece in concert, he recommended his young colleague to focus his talent on Spanish folk music, especially flamenco music. In the next few years, Turina wrote a considerable number of piano pieces, songs and chamber works in which the spirit of the Spanish gypsies is evident. His Sinfonia Sevillana won a prize and he was given a professorial chair at the Madrid Conservatoire in 1930. Even then, he still remained faithful to the flamenco spirit in his compositions.

Even though his music is deeply influenced by his native Andalusian flamenco culture, there is still a presence of French impressionism in them, probably due to his acquaintance with French composers like Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. It's amazing how his music can evoke the most wonderful images of places in Andalusia. In most pieces, I can see myself walking through the streets in the evening, revelling in the historic magnificent structures around me. At the same time, the melancholy generated by the rich harmonies of the instruments is overwhelming beyond description.

Turina had written several pieces for the guitar due to the instigation of Andrés Segovia and these masterpieces by him bring out the essence of the flamenco culture. He has written a total of five works for the guitar - Sevillana, Op 29 (1923), Fandanguillo, Op 36 (1926), Ráfaga, Op 53 (1930), Sonata, Op 61 (1931), Homenaje a Tárrega, Op 69 (1932). Most of his guitar works are in the style of the flamenco dances, with their distinctive rhythms, and bring out the resonance of the spanish guitar in the most beautiful way.

Guess I'll start studying his musical style in general, before going into his guitar works, to prepare for the piece I'm chose.

XV International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition

Here it comes again. 3 more days to the opening of this renowned competition. Really wish I could be there to watch the competition. Who will emerge the winner of the this prestigious piano competition this year?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Apparent Intonation Problems

I was listening to Henryk Szeryng and Nathan Milstein's recording of Bach's Violin Partitas and Sonatas when I realised there was a slight intonation problem in one of the movements in BWV 1006. Towards the end of the movement, Nathan Milstein's recording started to sound a little flat. As I compared both of their recordings, they both started almost similarly. Yet, at the end, Milstein's recording became duller due to the flat intonation as compared to the other recordings of it that I have.

Oh well, maybe it's just a small intonation problem in this particular movement. He was supposed to be well known for his pure intonation anyway. Or maybe it's just my ears... Hmm...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Preparation of Pieces

It's time to start organising what pieces to add to my repertoire for next year's competition, exams and events. And looking at the level of this year's competition, it's time for me to work extra hard.

For next year's exam, I've chosen 3 main pieces with 2 backup pieces in case I can't find a pianist for the chamber music and concerto. So they'll be Bach's Gavotte en Rondeau from BWV 1006a, Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata (1st movement), Rodrigo's Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (1st movement). The two backup pieces will be Tarrega's Capricho Arabe and Falla's Homenaje pour 'Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy'.

As for the competition, I'm still deciding between Turina or Ronaldo Miranda. I've ordered the Appassionata by the latter from overseas just two days ago and I've yet to see the score, but from what the way it sounds, it doesn't sound too easy. And until now, it seems that only Fabio Zanon's recording of it is in the market and I don't like the way he played this piece very much. But anyways, I'll try to master both pieces before the first quarter of next year, so I can have a choice for the competition. Oh, not forgetting the guitar duet. Haven't chosen a piece yet, but we've decided to start combining at the end of the year, in order to be in time for next year's competition...

That's all for now and several of these pieces are almost done except for several aspects which require finetuning. And of course, there's the theory aspect of music to tackle as well...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Now, tonight is the highlight of this year's Guitar Festival. French guitarist Roland Dyens performed tonight. Now, for my review. If you haven't gone to his concert before, think of the best guitarist in your imagination, and I can only say that Roland Dyens is a much better guitarist than who you have in mind. I'm overly critical of performances most of the time, but the concert tonight has left me utterly speechless. Nothing I write would do justice to him.

Improvisation, musicality, technicalities, interpretation of guitar music at its peak. He didn't have a programme lined up, for he claimed that he wanted a spontaneaous concert suited for the atmosphere this night, with the element of surprise. I was skeptical about that at first, for how could some guitarist pick out random pieces that suit the atmosphere. I had actually shrugged it off as a promotional gimmick. But the concert tonight just made me feel so guilty of such thoughts I had. The music was totally spontaneous and natural, a quality lacking so badly in many professional concerts. Everything came out fresh and in the most special way...

The concert started off with a piece which he specially improvised for this concert in Singapore. It was totally magical, with its mystical and nostalgic mood, so often felt by one in a foreign land alone. Totally reflective of his mood I believe.

He just has this magical talent of producing the most beautiful musical effect out of the technical pieces which has practically no musical value in them at all. Somehow, from his concert, I have believed that no piece in this world is actually not musical at all... Oh well, guess that's something extreme I deduced from just one genius.

He's the first guitarist which will be listed under the section of virtuoso guitarists which I've actually met. He has managed to possess all of the diverse range of qualities used by the two schools of rational and intuitive performers . And yes, that pretty much makes him a prodigy. His music seems to be so well thought out and yet it still retains the natural, spontaneous quality to it.

Maybe all these may seem absurb to some. But I can only say that what I've written still doesn't do justice to his abilities... =)

A Night of Brazilian Music

Classical guitarist Fabio Zanon was on tonight. He started the concert wonderfully with 3 Latin-American pieces. The first piece is Triste no. 1 by composer Eduardo Fabini. An emotionally-charged piece of music to start off the evening and Fabio Zanon's style of playing brought out the spirit of the piece of music in the most wonderful way. The air resonates with the full spectrum of tone colours which he caressed out from his instrument, doing so with limited string noise. Such brazilian and Latin-American pieces fit just nicely with his personal style, though insufficient to recreate the atmosphere of Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro in the concert hall, but nonetheless enjoyable.

Also performing tonight is also special guest violinist Betina Maag Santos, who currently resides in Singapore. They performed the Sonata Concertata in A by Niccolo Paganini. Very lovely piece of music with its heartwrenching melody and warm harmonies. That sure inspired me to play some chamber music in the near future. And I've gotten quite some interesting chamber pieces to prepare for the exams and competition next year. Anyways, I was surprised to learn that Betina Maag Santos learned under the legendary violinist Nathan Milstein.

After the interval, 6 of the 12 Studies by Francisco Mignone was on. I have always been skeptical of studies or etudes being played in performances and recordings, for the intentions for which they are written for should restrict them to the practice room, unless the mastery of the particular technique involved creates a most beautiful musical effect. Stefano Cardi had played 1 of the 12 Etudes by Villa Lobos the day before and I thought it'd be better substituted with a standard performance piece. Yet tonight, the 6 Studies were mostly well chosen, and reflects aspects of the Brazilian musical culture.

The finale program piece was marred by the artiste's excessive emotions. Ever tried practising a romantic piece of music and attempting to make it more emotional by trying out different ways to express or shape the phrases, but end up with a repulsive version of it? That's what happened to Ronaldo Miranda's Appasionata. The excessive rubato and dynamic changes were too much and even though Fabio Zanon seemed to be totally immersed in the music, the music which had been produced was outright repulsive. Simplicity is the idea, and that's what the piece lacks. From what I deduced of the music from his playing, the melody line could have been really passionate if he had taken extra care to control the dynamic difference of his melody and harmony. That's also what I've observed from his style. The melodies of some of his pieces had been obscured due to the almost similar volume he plays his harmonies and as a result, sounding a little messy. IF one had sang the melody out mentally, he or she would have realised how musically beautiful the piece could be if several aspects of his playing could be refined.

I really wished he didn't play the two encore pieces, Torre Bermeja by Issac Albeniz and Serenata Espanola by Malats. He made us feel as if he was rushing to end this concert and the beauty of two Spanish impressionistic pieces were thus utterly destroyed in his hands. What a pity. If he could have sticked to the way he played at the first half, it would be a much better concertgoing experience for the audience who were present...

Somehow, his music didn't touch me as much as the previous two guitarists, but his technical capability impressed me the most, which is something very superficial... Nevertheless, I did enjoy tonight's concert. =)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

20th Century Guitar Music

An Italian guitarist, Stefano Cardi performed at the DBS Auditorium tonight. I'm glad it wasn't the concert hall, or probably more than half of the audience would not be able to hear such exquisite sounds of the guitar due to his light touch. Of course, when one talks of 20th century music, terms like atonality, avant-garde, experimentalism etc will come into mind, but nope, not for the classical guitar, which hasn't progressed as fast as the rest of the music world. Most of the music presented tonight was mostly tonal, except probably for one by Toru Takemitsu...

He started off with a pretty traditional piece by Manuel Ponce. It was a piece which was written in a Baroque dance style, for that's what Manuel Ponce was famous for, writing in the different styles of music back in history. The beginning of the performance was a little unsteady, but he settled pretty fast into the third piece. I was expecting music which were more dramatic and nonconventional, but was treated to a night of largely harmonious music. I really like his light touch, which was really pleasant to the ears.

It was Toru Takemitsu's kind music which I had been expecting. Mostly dissonant sounds, but it's truly a pleasure to listen intently into how the vibrations interact with each other to bring out the atmosphere. Seriously, if I had just switched off because of the dissonances, I wouldn't certainly have dozed off. Thankfully, I have listened to sufficient modern music to be able to appreciate such pieces. I sincerely enjoyed that piece, but I also happened to notice that the applause wasn't that enthusiastic after that. Guess the audience tonight wasn't able to connect as well... Would it be the same if he had played that piece in Europe?

Stefano Cardi also played two pieces by this Chinese composer Shih Hui Chen. Either he couldn't bring the oriental side of the music out well, or that the composition itself was problematic. But since he was reading from the score for this piece, I guess he wasn't too familiar with it as well...

Most of the pieces he played were written by great melodists in the 20th century and Stefano Cardi has certainly brought out the lovely melody lines with the most crystal clear tone. The problem he had was the boisterous string noise which sticks out like a sore thumb in his music. It has been possible to reduce, if not eradicate the string noise which is extremly unmusical. I don't know, but classical guitarists ought to start spending some effort on taking out this problem before we can even start comparing ourselves to the other classical instruments.

Another problem he had was the slight articulation problem in selected parts of the pieces. And towards the end of the concert, he didn't quite give the music time to breathe. At points where a fermata is needed, he just went straight on to the next section. It was a crucial pause which allows the audience to indulge in the emotions they're feeling at the point, and would have been so much more perfect if he had given the music a little more time to breathe.

Stefano Cardi played two encores, the first is his composition for Fritz Kreisler. A sweet and wonderfully tonal composition. The next is his transcription of Fritz Kreisler's famous Joy of Love. Yes, I can probably guess that he is a fan of Fritz Kreisler. =)

First Night

It was a night of stylized nostalgia. Guitarist Oscar Herrero was able to bring out the full intensity of the spirit of his compositions in the style of flamenco. Throughout most of the concert, neither did he explain his pieces nor attempt to spice up the mood through words, but his music spoke volumes of the intense melancholic passion he had when composing such pieces. He did speak before his last programme piece, but well, it was in Spanish. Of course, most of the audience probably wouldn't understand, including me, but I somehow made it out that he thanked various people for the chance to perform here. Nonetheless, despite the presence of an audience who didn't understand his language, he indulged himself in the music and didn't show any hint of nervousness.

It did bother me at first when he played into the first few bars of his music. I went into the hall, expecting to immerse myself with the deep Spanish culture and mood, after all, his concert was publicised as a flamenco concert. Yet, what visual images his music brought was not at all Spanish in any nature. It wasn't in any way faithful to the flamenco culture. The excessive rubato which will embarrass romantic performers is totally unacceptable in flamenco culture. What he played was clearly a fusion between flamenco, jazz and classical styles, and I really had a problem identifying what genre of music was I listening to. But to brand himself as a flamenco guitarist is totally ridiculous for the very essence of the flamenco culture is gone. It's pretty near to impossible that a flamenco dancer or singer can accompany a guitarist who takes so much liberty with the rhythm. I was absolutely repulsed by the fact that he actually attempted to sell his hybridized music as flamenco music to people like us, naively believing that we are unaware of the music culture in another place. If he had just termed himself as nuevo flamenco guitarist, I truly wouldn't have minded so much. I could see that my teacher was slightly disappointed, or was he just tired? And it's been such a long time since I've had a lesson with him. As for the guitarist, what a pity, can you hear the Spanish world who is so deeply rooted in the pure flamenco culture lamenting out loud?

What had God done to my day? I didn't even intend to buy the tickets for this concert at all. In the afternoon, I just felt an irresistable urge to make my way down to the concert hall to take a look at the merchandise they had there. Upon reaching there, I was just offered a ticket at a highly subsidiesd rate, which was too good a deal to reject. And at that particular seat, it was just one of the best seats available, with the full dynamic range of the guitar audible to me. He didn't play very loud and I really doubted if those at the back of the concert hall could hear at all. All of his choice of repertoire was directed at stirring up a particular visual picture in my mind. After which, the first bus I took at random went through just that particular route we took that night somewhere around this period last year. I've gotten enough emotions to handle from several happenings these week and now that flood of emotions came. And what intrigues me most is that how the happenings of the day flow so smoothly from one to another just to ignite this particular sentiment...

Tonight, it's going to be Stefano Cardi who'll be playing 20th century guitar music. Now I'm really interested to know how it'll turn out for me. It's nice to know that he has quite a wide range of the type of 20th century guitar music for this performance in Asia tonight - Astor Piazzolla, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Toru Takemitsu, Heitor Villa Lobos and Manuel Ponce. (The last composer is of course a modern composer who was borned in the wrong era, like Brahms, but well, his music is beautiful in a very traditional tonal way.) And he's also playing pieces by composers which I have not heard of at all - Shih Hui Chen (Chinese guitar composer?), Alber Harris, Ferdinand Morton. Let's just see how the concert tonight turns out...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Striking Similarity

Now, after so many entries on Bach, I guess it'll be nice to write a little about modern music for a change. A pretty drastic one, but well, that's what I've listened to recently...

There's this surprising similarity in one of William Duckworth's pieces of music, Dancing the Maze, featured under the Cathedral section (Moments) of the Monroe Street Music website and a track, Land of the Dead, from Philip Glass's CD, Music of The Screens, where he collaborated with Foday Musa Suso. The main theme of Philip's Glass piece has formed the background of William Duckworth's music. The latter's music seems to have a more complex and intricate structure. Does postminimalism simply means the evolution of minimalism into a more sophiscated form? I doubt so, there seems to be something more which I can't find the exact words for. Oh well, slowly, when I'm exposed to more of such music. When listening to such music, I find myself in a world of huge, towering yet obscure structures of sounds which interact with one another in the most mystical and enigmatic manner. Maybe my ears haven't gotten used to just intonation, but at least I can connect so much better with such music instead of feeling strange thinking that they're Indian classical music.

Nuance, nuances and nuances...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Elusive Beauty

That was no doubt the most special moment in my guitar practice for the past few weeks. I have been just focussing on one of the movements in Bach's BWV 1006a, the Gavotte en Rondeau in particuar and it is basically a Rondo with the structure ABACADAEA. Of course, for those who are familiar with the piece will not have any problem with recognising that subsidiary theme E is the climax of the whole movement. But I had a special revelation when I was studying the subsidiary theme D. Bach has wonderfully masked such intense emotions within this playful rondeau. After listening to all of my professional recordings, it was really only those who didn't play in the traditional détaché baroque style that brought the exquisite beauty of the section out. The intense heartaching sensation in the modulation to F# minor in that section really got my adrenalin in my body rushing. From my observation in the facsimile version, if Bach hadn't written extensive slurs in that portion, I suspect even lesser people would have discovered such a heartwrenching beauty. It isn't just playing according to Bach's phrasing but also due to the rich harmonic structure when the basses are deliberately sustained.

Goran Sollscher has managed to capture such this gem in her fullest glory, whereas for the other guitarists, the intensity of this emotion has been reduced significantly due to the lack of sustenance in the basses in that particular segment of the theme. As for the violin recordings, I'm baffled by the absence of the basses in just those few short bars. Yes, the basic mood of the theme was there, but I really thought that it is the basses in the few particular bars of the theme which brings the theme to a climax. Did Bach leave the basses out in the violin version of it due to technical constraints of the violins? Probably so, but I certainly gained so much by studying into the intricate musical details of this movement.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Facsimile Edition

I've been studying the facsimile editions of Bach's Lute Suites and it sure is interesting to learn the now obsolete notations in the Baroque era. Not forgetting the fact that I'm proposing reading such scores as a good method to get a headache. There're lots of ambiguities at first sight and he isn't exactly very tidy. I know Beethovan's worse, but stop bringing him up. The way he wrote his slurs for his instrumental works isn't very clear in the exact notes which are slurred. I just thought this is good as well, at least I can experiment a little on the interpretation of the work and exercise a little discretion on my own in being faithful to the composer. Of course, after all these tedious work, the feeling is just wonderful to be able to bring the whole piece of music alive, especially after adding the tone colour and dynamics to make it sound just the way it ought to be in my opinion.

There're still a whole tonne of information on the interpretation of Bach's music on my table to be studied. Yes, I do get a headache, but there's also this anticipation, thinking of the kind of gems I may be able to extract out of the mine there.

And amidst of these work constantly remind myself that the natural feel of the music must not be lost, which is so common of some of the recordings of Bach out there...

About Bach

Bach's music seems so easy to appreciate on the surface, yet everytime I listen to his pieces another time, they never fail to reveal something new to me. Every single piece of Bach's music recorded by decent artists strikes deep into me emotionally and spiritually, especially his vocal music. Yes, the sacred cantatas consists of mostly sermons and teachings of Christ in another language which I don't learn, yet they affect me much like a good sermon does. This really is the magical quality in the music of this legendary composer. I know that I'll never regret my choice of specialising in Bach's music, even though it is the most taxing on my brain cells. There are just so much aspects to take care of to master his music, like his musical shape, phrasing, articulation, ornaments etc. Interpreting his music in the most faithful way is really the hardest as compared to interpreting music by other composers. I've spent weeks going to the arts library to study on every single aspect regarding this composer and his contemporaries for the whole day, yet I felt that it was never sufficient, probably due to the fact that much was lost over the centuries.

Yes, I do know that Bach's music is acceptable when played without much research on him, but such performances lack a certain important quality which brings his music to life. It really is easy to differentiate performers who really study Bach's music intently and faithfully with those who just play as if it's just another musical piece. It is the X factor which brings the music alive, with the audience being able to feel the quintessence of the music, exuding this magnificent godly quality, yet not void of the fragile humane quality so essential in all good music.

An authentic performance doesn't mean playing on period instruments at all. In fact, I've come across certain performances of Bach on modern instruments more honest than those on period instruments. Of course, some superficial effects of modern instruments will overpower the music sometimes, like the volume and quality of the sound, but the faithfulness of the performers to an authentic perfromance does shine through eventually...

There're just so many aspects of Bach's music regarding temperaments, interpretation, instruments, the connection between rhetoric and music, intrinsic value of his music etc to address and I doubt a whole life dedicated to his music will ever be sufficient.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
And no doubt, Bach had glorifed God to the best of his abilities.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Editorial Scores

I realised that editorial publications of sheet music really attempts to shape how the music would sound, not just editorial phrasings but also fingerings as well. Things would probably be alright if I hadn't gotten an idea of how the music ought to sound before I started reading the score. But I really had that perfect music in my mind before I start practising that piece of music, and I find that if the editor has a different concept from me, the technical level would be a few notches higher if I follow the fingerings on it, as compared to when I just play according to how the editor shapes the phrases and devise the fingerings. I have learnt the importance of having the original manuscript of the music beside me. Yes, there may not be as much details as the editorial versions, but at least I know how much of the phrasings and fingerings are the editor's ideas and not the composer and that gives me more space to change fingerings and phrasings to make that piece sound more musical to me.

On the issue of fingerings, modern guitarists have advocated using fingerings that suit you the best, contrary to Segovia's teachings that a guitarist ought to follow the fingerings of the score closely, especially his. In fact, fingerings do play an important part in shaping the piece of music. It's really not about just getting the correct notes out. Sometimes, a phrase has to really convey that sense of huge geographical distance of the notes and it really spoils the phrase when the guitarist takes the easier way out and opt for an easier and less demanding fingering. Therefore, it's not really about using fingerings that suit you the best, but using fingerings that suit the music the best. Segovia was probably right about it, except for that fact that he has this absolute notion that his fingerings were the most musical and therefore the best. However, Segovia's rendition of a lot of pieces doesn't exactly sound musical to me, especially when it comes to baroque pieces. Well, devising good and musical fingerings really isn't easy and takes a lot of effort and knowledge of the music and the instrument, but it's an essential skill that most instrumentalists ought to pick up due to the huge number of scores that have substandard fingerings on them and they're most likely to be regarded as infallible by the inexperienced musicians.

Playing music has been tormenting due to some existing intonation problems, especially when a chord requires some notes on an open string and notes that needs to be held down onto the frets. I decided to forget about keeping those new strings and attempt to fix that intonation problem again. (As you know, when taking out the bridge to make some changes, you need to release the tension on the strings and that'll spoil the strings) Well, it's definitely much better now, maybe because the improvement of my filing technique after a few attempts at fixing that intonation problem on my guitar. At least the filing was much more even throughout the length of the bridge. Now, most of the notes wouldn't be more than 5 cents off their original equal temperament. I was right when it was the problem with the bridge and not with the spacing of the frets. I wouldn't be able to do much anyway if it was really the latter. Thank God, now I'm at least starting to love my guitar a little more...