Russian Guitar

If there is a gaping hole in the classical guitar repertoire, it must surely be filled by the unjustly neglected 19th and early 20th-century Russian school.

The repertoire which survives from this period is of the highest quality, equaling and sometimes bettering the compositions we are more familiar with. It’s high time we took a closer look at this treasure, much of which is available for free and legal download online – more on that later.

My first encounter with the Russian guitar came almost thirty years ago, at a guitar conference in the German city of Michaelstein, where I had been invited to deliver an academic talk/paper on the guitar in Scotland. I was sitting in my room, when I heard the most beautiful guitar playing coming from next door. After introducing myself, I found I was bunked next to Oleg Timofeyev, the foremost authority on the Russian guitar.

Oleg informed me that guitar’s tuning was related to the 18th-century wire-strung guitar, which I was familiar with, though at a different pitch, and with one extra bass string.

Please do visit Oleg’s website:

He suggested I should buy a Russian guitar, and explore this extensive repertoire. I was very tempted, and at numerous stages since that meeting I almost made the plunge. But I always have a pile of projects to explore, and finding a good Russian guitar was not an easy task. So, for one reason and another, not least cost, I kept putting it off.

However, recently, my good friend, Mårten Falk – a wonderful musician who also plays Russian guitar music brilliantly – informed me of a really inexpensive guitar I could test the waters with. So I bought one…it cost only £300. The company is called D’OFF, and are based in Saint Petersburg. Here is their website. I have the model RGV – if you order one, do ask for it to be sent with nylon strings, not metal.

My first performance of a Russian 7-string guitar piece (a beautiful tune from Morkov’s method) with a review of the Doff RGV: