Walter Biel, a solo classical guitarist from Sugar Hill, plays anything from the classics to popular tunes.
He will bring his strumming skills to Scott’s on the Square in Gainesville this weekend.
Biel began playing guitar when he was 13 when his birthday gift from his parents was a Memphis Les Paul. His love for guitar continued into college, where he received a degree in music performance from Southern Illinois University.
Today Biel plays local venues on the weekends along with teaching guitar lessons and playing private functions, so we recently caught up with him to see what he has in store for Saturday’s performance.
Question: What makes playing classical guitar different from traditional rock-band style?
Answer: Classical guitar is more on my right hand, and you use finger style. It’s more technical than the typical strumming of a chords and singing, like, “Margaritaville,” where you are playing a couple chords and singing to it. There is no singing in what I’m playing just all finger style. I do songs like “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher; the melody is in the music and you can hear the chords and the melody all as one.
Q: When you got your first guitar on your 13th birthday, were you already interested in the instrument? And did you head straight to guitar lessons from there?
A: Me and my best friend in my first band, neither of us had guitars and we wanted to learn together and start a band. He still lives up in New York and is a singer and pretty successful at it. Actually, what happened is my dad had a guitar and I would take it out and play it every now and then and he said, “If you want I will get you one for your birthday.” So I talked to my buddy and it was going to be his birthday coming up ... He got a bass and I got a guitar.
Q: Who is your favorite modern artist?
A: It would be a classical guitarist, probably. There’s a number of people; most people wouldn’t have heard of who I would name. I don’t listen to much of today’s rock music or rap or anything like that.
Q: Why have you chosen the Carvin guitars for what you do?
A: They are American-made for 60 years, and all my guitars are custom made from that company.
Q: What do you have planned for the show at Scott’s on the Square this weekend?
A: It really ranges, (depending on) what I’m feeling that night, to be perfectly honest. I’ve got about five to six hours of music that I bring with me and then (I) see what the audience is like. If there’s a lot of seniors in it, I probably wouldn’t play “Celebrate Good Times” I would probably play Bach. This week probably some Spanish guitar, some Brazilian jazz and then some popular music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.