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Alexandra Whittingham

Alexandra Whittingham

Classical Guitarist
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Alexandra Whittingham

Having recently graduated from London’s Royal Academy of Music with First Class Honours, classical guitarist Alexandra Whittingham has already sold out venues in Germany and the Czech Republic, won the Edinburgh Guitar Competition as well as being named Gregynog Young Guitarist of the Year in 2015. Now with Aston mics in her arsenal, she’s set to take the world by storm…

Alexandra Whittingham
Video made a classical star

I got into classical music because it was a world of sound that I’d never heard before. All these interesting harmonies and the sort of stuff you hear in the backgrounds of films…I have always been a film buff so maybe that’s why. I started playing when I was around 7, just making random noises on the guitar. My dad could see I had an interest and taught me the basics before I moved on to having lessons. I was playing rock and pop songs that I was into (and still am!) for a couple of years until one day I walked in and the teacher was playing some classical Spanish guitar music. That was it, from then on I just wanted to learn to play that way. I went through my Classical grades, auditioned for Chetham's School of Music in Manchester when I was 10 and went there from age 11 to 18.

My Dad’s friend is a photographer and he was hired to do a lot of the Chethams School photography. He asked whether I’d like to work on filming some videos for pieces I was playing at the time. I agreed and we ended up filming a Piazzolla piece in an old mill in Bolton of all places! I never expected anyone to want to watch it, so when it quickly surpassed 10,000 views I thought “Oh my gosh, this is insane!”. That same video has recently reached 1 million views which is even more surreal! My parents moved out to France so we were lucky enough to film some beautiful videos there. It’s always been more for our own satisfaction and has become a big project that we do as and when we can.

I’ve had a few people approach me to play concerts after seeing some of the videos. I was thrilled to be invited to play a sold out concert at Swaledale Festival; it really amazed me how many members of the audience I spoke to afterwards had seen one or two of my videos.

Make it your own

Having spent a lot of my life around musicians of different genres, I've heard many people say things along the lines of “If all you do is play the notes written on the page surely it'll always just sound the same”. The more I hear that, the more my aim is for that to not be the case, though it all depends on what you’re playing. Making my own interpretation of a piece of music that I feel connected with is the reason I play music, it feels such a natural way to express myself.

The main guitar I use is a Christopher Dean, which is modelled around a Hauser guitar. It’s punchy and has a very quick response. For my performances, I barely use any gear at all. I’m starting to use amplification where I can because when you’re put on a stage in a big hall or a church you really have to project, so you end up putting way too much energy into playing. If you’re doing that over a number of years, it can easily lead to injury.

 

Projecting into the future

My first step into recording by myself was a small Focusrite interface, which served me well and got me in to the basics. That’s when Aston came into play. I’d seen the mics online so started asking around, and everything I heard about the company was really positive.

I tried the Starlights in stereo, one on the Fretboard and one down near the sound hole. That was really cool to hear as I normally only use one mic out front. I love using the Spirit, it works really well for how I currently record. I can get the detail I need and also a nice amount of room ambience. The beauty of recording classical guitar is that I can pretty much go anywhere with a minimal setup.

Now I’ve finished my degree at the Royal Academy of Music I'm away from musical education for the first time in 11 years. The next step for me is moving to Switzerland in September for the academic year having gained a music position in a boarding school there; after that I'd love to study for a masters degree. Throughout all of this, performing solo and chamber concerts and continuing making recordings and videos is high on my priority list. Upcoming dates can be found on my website!

Capricho Arabe (F. Tárrega)

Outtakes

Q. Who are your favourite artists? 
A. Julian Bream's recordings influence me a lot. I’ve been very lucky to have some lessons from David Russell and Fabio Zanon who are both incredible players. Polish guitarist Marcin Dylla also has to be one of my favourite performers.

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. I probably would be studying languages. I really enjoyed studying them in school. It always felt really quite arty to me. 

Q. What would your fantasy mic be? (i.e. not one currently in existence!)
A. You get tons of different noises when recording the classical guitar – string and finger noises. So something that would give you the clarity without picking up those bits.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand
A. Sophisticated, reliable, sleek and versatile

Q. What was the first song that made you cry? (plus a line or 2 on the story behind this!)
A.Although it probably wasn't the first song, I have a massive obsession with The 1975 so I’d have to say ‘Somebody Else’. I think their music just has the perfect combination of musical genius and pure emotion.

 

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