Matthew Grasso is classical guitarist, composer, arranger, musical instrument innovator, and improviser who began playing guitar at age twelve. He attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, were he studied with Scott Tennant, Dusan Bogdanovic, and Lawrence Ferrara and 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 sarod master Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
Matthew performs on an extended 7-string guitar, 25-stringed raga guitar, and a 18-note octave just intonation guitar. The extended 7-string has an additional bass string and 22 frets on the first-string. This instrument has one octave more in melodic range and greater harmonic/contrapuntal possibilities than the traditional 6-string guitar. The 25-stringed raga guitar is a hybrid of an extended 7-string and the sarod, an Indian instrument. There are 7-playing, 12-sympathetic, 2-chikari, and 4-jawari strings, plus a just intonation fingerboard. The 18-note octave guitar has 6-strings and is set in a 11-limit just intonation microtonal tuning system. Matthew has worked with luthiers Greg Byers, Scott Richter, and Waylin Carpenter to design these instruments, which provide myriad possibilities for transcribing, composing and improvising.
In his quest for new guitar literature, Matthew has contributed to the classical guitar repertory by transcribing numerous works for solo 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 from the 60’s and 70’s.
As a composer, Matthew has contributed works for solo guitar, guitar ensemble, chamber works for guitar and strings, women’s choir, music in just intonation tuning, and his Guitar Concerto for Extended 7-String Guitar and Orchestra. His music has been set to dance and film, and receives commissions from many artists.
Through his understanding of musical systems of the east and west, he has created a flexible and creative voice in improvisation and has developed a unique style of rendering classical ragas. In addition to keeping with Indian tradition, he has conceived new talas (rhythmic cycles) such as 10?, 27?, 9?, and 5?, as well as original ragas (melody forms). This music can be heard on his 25-stringed raga guitar with his group, Nada Brahma Music Ensemble.
As a founding member of Trio Seven, the group has established a distinctive sound in the classical guitar ensemble genre. The group performs on three extended 7-string guitars and presents the works of Debussy, Rachmanioff and many other composers leading to groundbreaking transcriptions never imagined on guitar. Trio Seven also specializes in rendering their favorite movie themes.
Matthew performs and lectures throughout Northern California. He was a featured soloist with the Camellia Symphony, Solano Symphony, Davis High School String and Symphony Orchestra, American River College Orchestra, Solano County Youth Symphony and Auburn Symphony Chamber Players under the baton of the late Maestro Michael Goodwin. His recordings include seven CDs: Intimate Settings (1995), Echoes of a Lake (1999), Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (2001), Music for the Extended 7-String Guitar (2006), The Five Deadly Talas (2008), Past, Present, Future (2010) and “Invocation to the Extended Seven String guitar” with Trio Seven. In addition to recordings, Matthew has published,”Playing the Extended 7-String Guitar” in Mel Bay’s Guitar Sessions, as well as his own compositions and transcriptions.
Currently Matthew is on the faculty at Sacramento City College, Yuba Community College, American River College, California College of the Arts, and he teaches privately. He has designed college courses in the area of North Indian and western music, and resides in Davis, California.