The sound of the classical guitar is familiar to virtually everyone, but classical guitar music is far less well known. Most people associate it with Spanish traditional music such as flamenco and indeed the composers who have most often used it in the orchestra have been Spanish.
The main reason the guitar has not become a regular member of the orchestra is that it doesn´t have the strength of tone necessary to hold a melody alongside or above the other orchestral instruments. However, when used sensitively in a solo context, its distinctive tone, percussive nature when strummed and ability to create any harmonies can make it a very successful addition to the orchestra. Perhaps the best known piece for guitar and orchestra is Rodrigo´s Concerto de Aranjuez which is favourite of classical radio stations.
The electric guitar has been used orchestral pieces, but as with other electric and electronic instruments, composers for orchestra have not adopted them wholeheartedly. One reason for this is the impossibility of knowing exactly how an electric guitar will sound, whereas composers can be fairly sure of the tone and volume relative to the rest of the orchestra that a clarinet will produce.
The Mandolin, Banjo and Ukulele have also been used in the orchestra, and the mandolin in particular has had a notable role in several symphonic and operatic works. Vivaldi also wrote a number of wonderful mandolin concertos.
In these pages various aspects of fretted instrument techniques are demonstrated by Forbes Henderson. You can watch clips from a video interview with Forbes and there are also written explanations, photos, notation examples and audio clips to listen to.