There are countless examples of electric guitar masters’ attempts to learn classical guitar, but have you ever wondered why? The classical guitar way of playing is one that involves intricate synchronization of all fingers involved, making it an encompassing approach to guitar playing in general. Right hand techniques ranging from arpeggios, to two-finger and three-finger scales both played with rest stroke or free stroke, to strumming patterns and more, make learning classical guitar technique a basis for most other guitar playing techniques.
The classical guitar technique developed from two different backgrounds. Both arguably from Spain, but one heavily leaning on the Moorish culture invading Spain centuries ago, and the other one coming out of the traditional finger style approach. The first one drew influence from the oud-like playing that the Moorish people popularized in Spain, whereby a player would hold a feather and treat it like a pick on the guitar. This would allow for some very fast repeated tremolando effects, and something that later still stuck around on lute-like instruments. The finger style approach of early guitar playing would showcase itself in complicated strumming patterns found in the music for renaissance guitar or vihuela, and later baroque guitar.
By the early 19th century, all fingers save from the pinky were utilized on the right hand, allowing for players to play incredibly complicated arpeggios, fast campanella scales, and strums of great difficulty.
These two influences merging on and off throughout history gave birth to an array of repertoire for what is played today on classical guitar, encompassing techniques of incredible variety. In the time of classical and romantic eras, guitar playing became rather virtuoso, featuring total shredders on the early forms of classical guitars. By the early 19th century, all fingers save from the pinky were utilized on the right hand, allowing for players to play incredibly complicated arpeggios, fast campanella scales, and strums of great difficulty. When the 20th century kicked in, and the electric guitar concept came about, the ancient approach to string picking became popular again, closing a centuries old circle of development.
The reason why any non-classical guitarists learn classical guitar may simply be because the classical guitar has the age-old advantage on technique. Learning technique rooted in history is appreciating history that made the instrument what it is today. When learning classical guitar, the idea is that the majority of the technique acquired can be applied to any other guitar playing style. Whether or not that is true can be debated, but it very well could be the main cause why rock guitarists take classical guitar lessons.