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Key of C Major: Pages 20 and 21 from “Part One” of the Carcassi Method

David Raleigh Arnold


A guitar method which is the best for teaching oneself is the best with a teacher too. Carcassi’s is still the best in many important ways. The surest way to exceed it is to include it.

Carcassi had every right to think that these pieces would be the first music, except for the “Exercise with Sharps and Flats” on page 13, that the beginner would play on the guitar. This writer pretends to read Carcassi’s mind, but much has changed since his day. Please learn some of my easy pieces before starting here. In recent years it has been rare indeed for a student to begin initially with Carcassi. I hope that the beginner starting here is slightly more advanced than Carcassi imagined he would be.

All beginners miss a lot. I hope that those who are not still beginners may pick up a few things they missed in their first pass if they had one, or at least come to appreciate that the Carcassi Method is far from useless.

Please verify all the many assertions here by playing everything and listening carefully, weighing the pros and cons, and considering all alternatives. Carcassi is the teacher today, not I.

If you choose to record any of these on YouTube, please format the title “Carcassi Op.59:I:n”, where n is a number from zero to 22, so other interested people, whether students, teachers, or neither, can easily search and find your efforts.[1]


[ page 20 ] 113K

[ page 21 ] 95K

[ The Prelude Only ] A slight error in the original is corrected.

Prelude (Vorspiel)


This little exercise is well worth practicing as written, but a number of right hand patterns or chord arpeggios (e. g.: timami, tmiaim, tmai, etc.) can also be applied without requiring any left hand finger to move instantly across several strings.[2] Therefore, the instructions below for this piece can also apply using other right hand patterns of similar type.

The thumb plays appoggiato strokes[3] to enhance the tone and power of the note. The thumb is kept in place to help steady the right hand until it must be moved.

The piece is marked forte because it is intended to develop strong, confident playing. Nothing wrong with that, but if you play it with other right hand finger combinations do a little bit at other levels too.

At the end of every measure, and in the middle of measures 5, 7, and 8, the right hand fingers (ima) should be placed on the strings which they just played to silence them as the thumb plays the next bass note. In other cases the fingers should not be replaced on the strings, in order that the strings may be left to sustain the prevailing harmony. Either sustaining or not sustaining as described is a very bad habit. It should be purposeful action, not habit. The left hand should retain any note that is to be played again, whether or not it is to be heard to sustain.[4] Do not play this exercise too fast. Keep it even and completely under control.

1. Andantino


It is easier to learn to play two notes together with finger tirato and thumb appoggiato when the notes are on strings well separated[5] but millions have learned to do it with this piece, so it is surely possible. I don’t want to minimize the difficulty of getting both notes to sound at exactly the same time. You may find it necessary to play the bass a hair before the higher note, but keep trying very hard to reduce the gap between them until there is absolutely none. The guitar can be an orchestra, more so than any other natural instrument. Any inappropriate arpeggiation of chords destroys that impression utterly.[6] Except for three and four note chords, every note played with the thumb in this piece is played appoggiato.

Numbering the measures, the measure starting at the first bar is the first measure. Two beats, 3 and 4, precede the first measure. For easy reference, the first two bars are those counted 34|1234|12.

This is a song form, AABABA, which Carcassi used frequently.[7] Always do the repeats when practicing. Assume that they are part of the way the piece is supposed to go, not something added on. There is no legal way of writing this song form with repeats such that the “A” part does not have to be written out twice.

Carcassi did not provide dynamics for this piece. That was the right decision, because the dynamics required to play it best are not typical.

The First Four Measures, the “A” Part

Until you get to the 3rd beat of the second measure, the g’s are quieted by the thumb contacting the “g” string. After that, the thumb does not reach that string, so the “g” lives until the c’s before the repeat sign.[8] To my mind, the change in sonority caused by the persistent “g” calls for a change in dynamic. Make a positive thing out of it by playing the second two bars of “A” more forte than the first two. The annular finger should play the notes on the ① string during “A”.[9] In sum briefly, play the first two bars mf, that is media forte, and the next two forte.

Do the repeat less forte. Make it piano and then mf.

The Second Four, the “B” Part

The second four, beginning at the repeat signs, also has a difference between the first two and the second two bars, but you also have a crescendo from the repeat sign to the chord <g b g'>, fingered tim.

Start media piano the first time and piano the second, but play the <g b g'> forte, at least, in both cases.

The thumb must mute the note it just played exactly when the following two notes are played with im. Carcassi explicitly indicated that by adding extra eighth note stems.

The Last Four, “A” again

Apply the same dynamics as to the first four, but make the first time less forte and the repeat more forte. Do not slow down at the end. The beat at a fixed tempo is the most unifying element in music. It should not be trashed without good cause being found in the music itself.

2. Walzer


This piece has the song form AABBCCAB. The “C” part, which is the third part, is called the “trio”. The dynamics in this piece are typical, which was not the case in the previous piece. You should take special note that, as a rule, “B” begins more forte than “A” in song forms.

The First Strain “A”

Notice that the dynamics in “A” are not optional. The p’s and f’s are an integral part of the music, not tacked on, and they are completely indispensable. This is Romantic music. “Classical” guitar is a creature of the Romantic period. That’s how it is.

A player steeped in 20th century style might play the first phrase, marked p, over the sound hole to get the timbre indicated in guitar music by dolce or dolcissimo. He might imagine that a dolce timbre would be a substitute for playing quietly, so he could play louder and more people could hear. His TA[10] might sum it up with “This is for loud; this is for soft.” It doesn’t work. There is no substitute for playing piano, no matter what the timbre. Don’t take my word for it. Try it.

Again we have unquieted “g’s” changing the sonority when starting to play forte. Orchestrators do it all the time.[11]

The Second Strain “B”

Crescendo to forte on the second beat of measure 5. Diminuendo subito (at once) continuing to the repeat sign. The “d” at bar 14 is played tirato while muting the “a” with the side of the thumb to make the bass voice legato, or at least not staccato. End piano, and begin the repeat piano. Crescendo again the same, but end the line media forte.

The Trio “C”

Playing the trio dolcissimo is a very nice enhancement. Try it. Try it first thing at the beginning of every trio in the book.

This is basically four bars played four times, so loud and soft with four bar chunks doesn’t do much. Play the eight bars media piano the first time and piano the second. A bit of a crescendo to the middle of the line and diminuendo to the end will work too. Try it.

There is an interesting problem at measure 23. The sixteenth notes are played with harp legato.[12] If played fast with harp legato, the six notes tend to be heard as two voices, and ending on the two a’s sounds awful. The notes actually constrain the tempo of this piece. The sixteenths must sound as one voice, so they must not be played too fast. Consider this piece a slow Mazurka or very slow Waltz.

The right hand fingering “m” followed by ima is to make it more likely that you will be set to start the 16ths with the index. It has nothing to do with alternating fingers on anything but 16ths.

The bass notes must be muted at the end of their time, two with the side of the thumb while playing tirato, as in the previous strain, and the rest by replacing the thumb on the string as in the “B” part of the Andantino #1.

“Da Capo”

When playing 'da capo' (from the top) play the first two lines each the third time in the same way you did them the second time.

A waltz has an accent on the second beat. This is not dance music, but there are several places, such as in the 4th measure, where a bit of emphasis on the second beat is appropriate. At the very end (at fine), a bit of ritardando or rallentando (both mean slowing down) would be good, because slowing down is a clue to the dancers that the music is going to end so that they won’t fall down. Again, this is not dance music, but it is called a waltz, so it should be expected to partake of some of the character of a waltz.

3. Allegretto


Again the song form is AABABA. The rest in the first measure looks like a whole rest but it is actually a measure rest.[13]


“A” is two four measure phrases. The first starts before the first beat, the second starts on the first beat. This irregularity keep things moving in the middle of the line. I call the former a rhythmic phrase and the latter a structural phrase. It has some importance because the ancients wrote and interpreted music in structural phrases often, and we don’t. The player steeped in 20th century style might want to make the two phrases completely the same and make the middle of the line the same as the beginning. But you might not want to change this line.

Crescendo slightly to the 5th bar, and start even more forte subito right on the first beat. Then diminuendo to the repeat. The second time, do the same thing but begin and end more piano.

Begin with the thumb laid across the last (2-6) five strings. Lift to play the “c”, appoggiato of course. Lay the thumb down again just before the 5th bar and well after the last note in the 4th measure. 20th century guy might want to play the first 5 notes appoggiato. It doesn’t work either, because the change in timbre does not allow the music to flow. This doesn’t have the call and response going that the Waltz #2 did. Maybe I’m wrong. Try it. See what you think.


The second 8 bars begin explicitly divided into 2 measure phrases. The top voice is a scale from “b” to “g'”. Maintaining a steady crescendo starting forte is problematic, so crescendo in steps. Diminuendo to the 2nd beat of measure 10. As you play the following 8th note, quiet both previous notes by lifting the left hand fingers. Play <b, d’> forte with the 2nd and 4th fingers and diminuendo to the second beat of the 12th measure. Play the last 8th “e'” in the measure as you lay your thumb across the five lower strings as at the beginning of “A”.

Measure 13 is played as in measure 6 of the Andantino #1. You even have exactly the same notes. Carcassi doesn’t provide any more double stems exactly like these but you still have to do thumb muting in measures like this in the future. (e. g.: #4, the next piece)

After the first beat of measure 14, diminuendo. Lay your thumb across on the second beat of measure 15.

“A” again

The rest is the same as the beginning. In the last measure, lay your thumb across all the strings on the 2nd beat.

The “fin.” is not necessary, but when there are several pieces on one page, it may prevent confusion or unduly hasty page turning. It is not a hint that there should be a da capo or dal segno.

End Notes:

§1 The pieces in part III are already numbered. e. g.: Carcassi Op.59:III:n.

§2 I have not numbered the “preludes” because Carcassi did not continue to finger the other “preludes” in “Part One” as usefully as this first one.

§3 If you are playing a 12-string guitar or playing on steel strings, appoggiato doesn’t get you much. 19th century guitar music, with unusual and interesting exceptions, is best played with a “classical” guitar, whether of ancient or recent make or design. The instruction to play appoggiato with the thumb whenever practicable is the advice of Carcassi, Segovia, and many many others. Appoggiando, apoyando, and appoggiato all mean that when you play a note the thumb comes to rest (or lean) against the adjacent string.

§4 Of course the finger does not need to maintain pressure if the string has been silenced, but neither should it move away if the note is to be played again. Consider retaining a finger placement without pressure to be an advanced technique for now. I have never seen a beginner develop a problem from keeping pressure on a string a bit longer than necessary.

§5 That is, strings having many other strings between them, as the ⑥ and ① are separated by four others.

§6 Carcassi wrote the contrary. He was a touring concert artist, and, like Segovia, his style of playing was constrained by the reality that he had to be heard in large halls. Amplification which changes the environment, not the instrument, makes practical a greater range of dynamic and timbre than ever before and makes possible further subtleties of expression inaudible and unthinkable in the days of those masters. Amplification which changes the instrument by being physically attached to it insidiously degrades your ability to play unamplified, because you adapt to an instrument which necessarily sounds different and responds differently.

§7 For example, in #3 below.

§8 Muting those g’s can be done, but it’s not for today. Mute the last “g” (at the two c’s) any which way you can. The best way is with the index.

§9 It is a basic principle of all fingering that which finger is used is twice as well remembered as where the finger should go.

§10 Teaching Assistant

§11 The low “g,” hides the higher “g” somewhat, but it is usually best in similar cases to find a way to mute the eighth. Again, not today.

§12 When you play notes over several strings without muting anything, the result is harp legato. The alternative is to play the 16ths entirely on the ② string, playing all the e'’s at the 5th fret. Not today.

§13 The measure rest is always centered. That can help prevent a jam on the first beat when there are more voices, so it is a good practice to center it.

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