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Flavoring the Classical Guitar

This is part one of a two part series of articles about the various flavors of classical guitar music.In this part I show you some of the great music for guitar as it changed over the centuries and through the different periods of music. In the second part of this series I take a look at music for the guitar as it varies from country to county.


Ok, you might be wondering exactly what I mean by "Flavoring" the classical guitar. I chose this heading because it very closely defines what I am trying to say here. When we think of flavoring we think of food and cooking. There is spicy food, cajun food, country cooking, and well all these wonderful styles of cooking that each have a unique sense of flavor.

And that is exactly what this article is about in terms of classical guitar. There are so many wonderful (and delicious) flavors that can be expressed by the classical guitar and in this article I am going to give you some great suggestions on what they are. And I will make some recommendations about pieces you can play so you can reach into these wonderful flavors. So, let's spin the spice rack and see what we come up with! It will be a great way to extend the range of your repertoire.


Spanning the Centuries: The Periods of Classical Music

The first thing to think about is that traditional classical music spans hundreds of years and over these centuries there were many distinct types of classical music. And all of these types are very well suited to guitar.

The Medieval Period - (500-1400) The lute, dulcimer and zither. You can find some transcriptions for work in the medieval period but it is often written in medieval notation.

Sound of the Medieval Period: Here is a great little piece from the 14th century called Salterello Saltarello

The Renaissance Period - (1400-1600) lute There is no mistaking the Renaissance period. Much of the music that survives from this period was composed for the Lute and it all has a very lute sound to it. Quite wonderful! The composers are not well known but the music is quite wonderful. A good sample piece that is a bit challenging would be Aria Detto Balletto. And another would be the Fantasia for lute by Francesco DaMilano . And of course if you want something very famous that comes out of the Renaissance period you have got to try Greensleeves. It is a perennial favorite: GreenSleeves

You can listen to a great Renaissance period piece: April is my Mistress' Face

The Baroque Period (1600- 1760) The Baroque period is really quite amazing. From this time you have the absolutely beautiful and almost mathematical compositions of Bach contrasted against the wonderful music of Vivaldi. A terrific and very famous piece from this period would be Bach's air on a G string. another couple of Bach pieces that are great for guitar and reasonably easy are Bach Prelude for Lute and his Violin Sonata #3 Largo From Vivaldi there is of course the wonderful four seasons work and here is an easy transciption of Spring which is a very recognizable piece. And here is a more challenging arrangement of Spring.

Here is a nice Bach Piece that you can listen to: Wachtet Auf

The Classical Period - (1730 - 1820)Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert are among the most well known composers from this period. Chances are good that you are familiar with a lot of work from this period and your repertoire probably already has works from this list but here are a few recommendations. A wonderfully moody and beautiful piece from this period is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

During the Classical Period the Guitar came into its own as a solo instrument and there are many fine examples of music written specifically for solo classical guitar. These were often written by the performers themselves. Some famous names are Virtuosos like Matteo Carcassi (Six fantasies), Ferdinando Carulli -(La Folle. Romance d'Albert Grisar, arrangée en Fantaisie ..).both well as the Spaniards Dionisio Aguado and Fernando Sor(Andante).

The Romantic Period - (1815-1910) Liszt, Mendelssohn, Chopin (The Raindrop opus 28), paganini, schumann , Tchaikovsky, dvorak and many others. Here is an easy piece by paganini Waltz . Tchaikovsky has a wonderful series of compositions for children This one is an easy arrangement for guitar: In Church . A famous classical guitarist and composer of the Romantic period was Francisco Tarrega: Pieces for Guitar , Capricho Arabe

. A classical guitarist and composer of the period was Francisco Tarrega. Two of Tarrega's most famous and easily recognized pieces are: Adelita and Recuerdos de la Alhambra

The 20th Century Debussy, Mahler, Sibelius, Ravel, Strauss , John Williams.

Here is a piece by Dvorak, written in the 20th century but very much in the Romantic Period Tradition: Andante


Part 2 of Flavoring the Classical Guitar (The countries and regions of the guitar)

RESOURCES: Books and Sheet music


The Baroque Guitar

50 Baroque Solos for Classical Guitar

50 fantastic guitar solos in notes and tab from 18 Baroque composers, including Bach, Corelli, Couperin, Handel, Purcell, Rameau, Scarlatti, Telemann and others.



Renaissance Solos for Classical Guitar

50 Renaissance Solos for Classical Guitar (Book & CD)

This book/CD pack features 50 classical solos arranged for solo guitar with tablature. Includes music by composers such as Thomas Campian, Francis Cutting, John Dowland, Orlando Gibbons, Michael Praetorius, and many others.


Romantic period classical guitar

Romantic Guitar Anthology Vol. 1 BK/Performance CD (Schott Anthology Series)

A collection of 19th century works for guitar by 13 composers and didactic works by the 19th century's leading guitar composers. Includes previously unpublished material by Johann Kaspar Mertz together with rarely available works by Jaime Bosch, Jose Ferrer, and Franz Tucek. The CD features all of the pieces played by Jens Franke. The pieces are graded and presented in a progressive order. This comprehensive resource also includes composer biographies.


Medieval and Renaissance

Mel Bay Presents John Renbourn's Complete Anthology of Medieval & Renaissance Music for Guitar (Mel Bay Archive Editions)

A collection of 28 fingerstyle guitar solos and duets by fingerstyle guitarist John Renbourn. These solos are drawn from Medieval and Renaissance lute dance tunes and solos. All solos are in notation and tablature. The online audio contains 17 of the solos from the book.



Baroque Guitar by Julian Bream

Baroque Guitar





Renaissance Guitar

Renaissance Favorites for Guitar