Matthew Grasso, classical guitarist, composer, arranger, musical instrument innovator and improviser, performs on extended 7-string guitars built by luthiers Gregory Byers and Waylin Carpenter, as well as a 25-stringed guitar built by Scott Richter.
The extended 7-string guitar has an additional bass string and 22 frets on the first-string. This instrument has one octave more melodic range and greater harmonic/contrapuntal possibilities than the traditional 6-string guitar. The 25-stringed guitar called “Raga Guitar” is a unique innovation of Matthew’s. This instrument is a hybrid of an extended 7-string guitar and the Sarod, an Indian instrument. There are 7-playing strings, 12-sympathetic strings, 2 chikari and 4 jawari strings. This instrument utilizes a just intonation (5-limit) fingerboard. These instruments provide Matthew with myriad possibilities for transcription, composing and improvising.
Born in 1972 of Chinese and Italian ancestry, Matthew began playing guitar at the age of twelve. He attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied with Scott Tennant, Dusan Bogdanovic, and Lawrence Ferrara. Matthew participated in master classes held by artists including Eliot Fisk, David Russell, and the L.A. Guitar Quartet. Matthew complemented this training by studying the classical music of North India at the Ali Akbar College of Music with the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
Matthew has contributed to the classical guitar repertory by transcribing numerous works for the Extended 7-String Guitar, including Barber's Adagio for Strings; Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite; Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun; Rachmaninoff's Symphony no.2; Bach's Chaconne; and other works in the pop vocal genre.
As a composer, Matthew has contributed works for solo guitar and guitar ensemble. Matthew has also composed chamber works for guitar and strings, women’s choir and his Guitar Concerto for Extended 7-String Guitar and Orchestra. Matthew’s music has been set to dance and film. Matthew receives commissions from many artists.
Matthew’s improvisational skills have taken him from the jazz world, to world fusion and back to Indian Raga. His understanding of the music of the east and west has created a tremendously flexible creative voice in improvisation. Matthew developed a new style of playing he calls Indian classical fusion. In this style he has conceived new talas (rhythmic cycles) such as 10 ½, 27 ½, 9 ¼, and 5½, as well as original ragas (melody forms). This music can be heard on his "Raga Guitar" with his group, Nada Brahma Music Ensemble.
Matthew performs and lectures throughout Northern California. He was a soloist with the Solano Symphony, Davis High School String Orchestra, American River College Orchestra, Solano County Youth Symphony and has played with the Sacramento Youth Symphony Premier Orchestra. His recordings include two CDs of original compositions, Intimate Settings (1995) and Echoes of a Lake (1999) as well as his transcription of Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (2001), and Music for the Extended 7-String Guitar (2006) and The Five Deadly Talas (2008). In addition to recordings, Matthew has published music scores of his own compositions and transcriptions, and has published, "Playing the Extended 7-String Guitar" in Mel Bay's Guitar Sessions.
Matthew is on the faculty at Sacramento City College, American River College, California College of the Arts, The Experimental College of U.C. Davis, and he teaches privately. He currently resides in Davis, California. Matthew's website can be found at: http://www.matthewgrasso.com
Matthew Grasso is the high priest at the 7-string guitar church on 7th avenue in Davis, California.