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Getting Started in the Carcassi Method Op. 59

David Raleigh Arnold

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About the “Carcassi Method”

Matteo Carcassi’s Complete Method for Guitar has been in print since 1836, and deservedly so. It helps to understand what Carcassi had in mind if you regard all of the music in the first two parts as a single composition.

There is a lot of information in this book. I have an English/French version probably from an 1859 stereotype. Carcassi’s English is impressive considering that it was his fifth language. (There is no reason to think that he relied on a translator.) The language is not the problem. There are a few inaccuracies, but that isn’t the problem either. The problem is that it is terse to a fault. I don’t think that just typing out the English version would be that helpful, so I’m just going to quote it here and there rather than mess with it.

He used “x” for the thumb and dots for the fingers, “.” for the index, “..” for the middle, and “...” for the annular (ring) finger. Of course it is impossible to stick with that today, but in his day, with this dual language edition, the French would expect “i” for index and the Germans would want “z” for zeigefinger. Fortunately, today “i”, “m”, and “a” are standard for right hand fingers, and “t” and “q” ought to be for the rest.

The rudiments in the beginning are good. The introduction to slurs is sensational, much better thought out than the work of Tarrega, Segovia, or any of the rest. All it lacks is my “power slur” exercises. After that, the trills, turns, etc., are an excellent reference and scholarly resource.

Do not put your pinky on the top! Please.[1]

Lessons and Exercises

Part I

If you go too much farther you are in danger of losing your beginner status. ☺

End Notes:

§1 The pinky on the top deserves a more thorough discussion, but briefly:


  • It steadies the hand. That is extremely helpful in the beginning.


  • It prevents good access of the fingers to the lower strings. That is intolerable if you intend to play anything other than Carcassi, and I hope you do.
  • It interferes with many techniques.
  • It slows you slightly.

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©David Raleigh Arnold