Very little has been written on the topic of idiomatic composition for the guitar. Orchestration textbooks do not normally include discussions of the guitar, or do so in a very minimal way. This has been the case throughout the history of the instrument. As a result, most of the music that was composed for the guitar was written by guitarists who were also composers rather than by professional composers who wanted to write for the instrument.
The purpose of this paper is to address the topic of how guitarists compose by studying selected pieces of four leading Canadian composers who are guitarists. Being a Canadian guitarist myself, I have chosen to focus this study on four leading Canadian composers whose instrument is the guitar. These four composers are Roddy Ellias, John Oliver, Clark Ross, and Partick Roux. In doing so, I hope to introduce the reader to new guitar music from Canada, which has not yet been discussed in an academic paper. Thus, this paper has the dual purpose of introducing important Canadian guitar music, and illustrating how composers who play the guitar create idiomatic and effective music for this instrument. A non-guitarist composer wishing to write new guitar music for the first time might look to available orchestration textbooks for advice on how to go about tackling the challenge of writing idiomatically for the guitar. Unfortunately, as Tom Schuttenholm demonstrated, such textbooks are very unlikely to help a non-guitarist composer…)