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Tarrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra

David Raleigh Arnold

This document relates more to interpretation than technique. The tremolo voice should sing. Much smooth dynamic is appropriate, but there should be no roughness or harshness.

Recuerdos is not very suitable for beginning to learn tremolo because it cannot be performed successfully very slowly. If you learn to play Spanish Nights well enough before starting on Recuerdos, you will not face any relevant right hand issues.


The reference source is in RIBS, in the Royal Danish Library. I count 57 measures.


It should be faster than MM 120 but it is possible to play it too fast.[1] The tiny tremolo notes are supposed to suggest the intricacies of Moorish architecture. Most players make far too much of the ritard at the end. With a decrescendo, no ritard is necessary there, but after the twice played (bis) measure 49 a broad and forte measure 50 is very desirable because the melody ceases to move at measure 52. Everything that follows 51 should be appropriately anticlimactic, whether or not there is ritard.


Use Tarrega’s printed fingering without alteration.

At measure 3, keep the 2nd finger on the string even though you use the 4th finger on the note. Such a hidden guide or pivot is the best kind, because you don’t have to be concerned with hearing the slide.

At measure 10, straighten the fingers and bend the wrist outward to tuck in the 2nd finger.

At 23, Tarrega apparently used the 4th finger on the c♯. That fingering avoids two unnecessary changes in position, and it gives the first finger a hair more time to move. It doesn’t make much difference, but why not play it Tarrega’s way?

Two specific problems prompted the creation of this document. First, at measure 9, how can you sustain the bass “f,”?

The best way is to develop the finger strength and skill to retain the bass note while sliding the first finger one fret down the ① string, the way Tarrega surely did.[2] This is called a “bent barre”.

Second, why did Tarrega use the 4th finger at 40 and 48 instead of the open “b”?

Pickup or lead-in notes were considered part of the previous phrase, and the new phrase began on the downbeat. This makes no sense rhythmically but it makes perfect sense structurally. You will find that many Romantic guitar pieces depend on this interpretation, and you can be sure that this interpretation is correct whenever you see slurs with a crescendo in a pickup, because that can only be done very quietly. If a dynamic is on a scale from 1 to 9, you see patterns such as 123|6 or 222|9 or 321|8 or 778899|1. When you consider lead-ins in this way, you don”t make much of the beginning of the lead-in.

This does not change the way you play it rhythmically. You will prefer this way of phrasing, and your audience will too.

So in this case, there is a crescendo, but the downbeat forte is sudden.

End Notes:

§1 I once could do tami tremolo at over mm208 without warming up. This braggadoccio is only to reassure you that there are no sour grapes here. My own preference for best tempo is around mm132-138. That may not suit you, but this piece ought not to feel fast. It must not be danceable or frantic, but rather sweet and nostalgic.

§2 I gave an alternative fingering to a student of mine when I realized that it was a problem. It can be played by playing the “b” on the 2nd string with the 4th finger. I promptly forgot about it until the student reminded me of it decades later and I saw Narciso Ypes using “my” fingering! It’s better to do that than to cut the bass note short.

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©2012 David Raleigh Arnold - http://www.openguitar.com