Carcassi: Classical Guitar Etude in A, Opus 60 No.3 in Standard Notation and Guitar Tab

Updated on April 4, 2019
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Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.


Although not a beginner guitar piece, Carcassi's Etude in A (also known as Study in A), isn't too difficult for those with some classical or fingerstyle guitar playing experience and who can play barré chords halfway up the neck. It's a well-known piece in the classical guitar student repertoire and is worth the effort required to learn it.

See the score displayed line by line accompanied by a MIDI generated audio track, and view the video in full-screen mode with a high quality playback setting to ensure maximum clarity. The individual lines of music under the video can also be seen enlarged by clicking on them.

Carcassi: Etude in A Opus.60 No.3

Carcassi: Etude in A Opus 60 no.3
Carcassi: Etude in A Opus 60 no.3 | Source

Download Etude in A as a PDF

Click to download Etude in A as a free PDF file (two pages) for offline viewing and printing.

Solo Guitar Playing - Book 1, 4th Edition
Solo Guitar Playing - Book 1, 4th Edition
Improve your ability to read the standard notation staffs of Carcassi's Etude in A and other pieces instead of using tab with its many limitations. Solo Guitar Playing by Frederick Noad is an excellent teaching resource that I've used for teaching notation to my fingerstyle and classical guitar students. It takes students from complete beginner level to sight reading intermediate level pieces.

Study in A - Playing Tips

Classical guitar 'studies' or 'etudes' are compositions that, unlike boring scale and arpeggio exercises, are designed to offer practice in a particular technique while also being musically rewarding in their own right. This is Carcassi's 'appoggiatura' study. An appoggiatura is an accented non-chord tone that is placed in a chord and then falls to the nearest chord tone. Look at the first bar. The arpeggio forms the chord A major, but the chord tone E is missing, and the non-chord tone F# is played instead. Being a non-chord tone, the effect is mildly dissonant. It's a brief dissonance, though because it then resolves to the consonant chord tone E. Appogiatura literally means 'leaning note'. That's a reference to its tendency to resolve down to the nearest chord tone. It's not simply a non-chord tone like a passing note; it's a non-chord tone that is usually approached from below by a leap and then resolved downward by step to the chord tone. The whole piece is based on appoggiaturas (or appoggiature if you want to be totally correct).


There are two sections separated by repeat marks. The second section is longer than the first because the theme of the first section is brought in towards the end of the second section. That's a very common practice of this style of composition. It ensures the main theme will be heard again before the piece finishes.

Timing Matters

This a triplet-based piece. Eighth notes are grouped in threes and squeezed into the time normally taken by two. As the time signature of 'four-four' indicates four quarter note beats per bar, each beat is filled with three 8th notes instead of two, and each bar is filled with twelve 8th notes instead of eight. A contrasting effect is heard at bar 16 where the expected triplets are replaced by standard eighth notes. The rubato sign indicates that you can take your time over these before the 'a tempo' sign gets you back to the starting tempo and back into the triplet rhythm for the rest of the piece.

Classical guitar fingering chart
Classical guitar fingering chart | Source


Suggested fretting hand fingering is indicated by the numbers 1 - 4 placed next to notes. Picking-hand fingering isn't shown as it's typical arpeggio fingering for most of the time and the score is already crowded enough with all those triplets. Use your thumb (p) for bass notes (that's the low notes with downward pointing note stems) and your i, m and a fingers in succession as you cross the strings. See the chart above for classical guitar fingering terms if you're not sure.

Fretboard Hand Positions

These are shown by Roman numerals and indicate that your first finger is placed across the numbered fret, either completely or half-way. Again, these are suggestions based on what's reckoned to be the easiest way to reach those notes. In some cases there are alternative positions you could try, but most of the time it's necessary to use the positions shown in order to physically reach the required notes.

Key and Chords

Knowing the chord structure of the music that you're playing isn't necessary, but it helps you play with more conviction.

As the primary key is A major, the two most important chords are the ones built on the 1st and 5th notes of the A major scale. That's A major and E major (or E7). The 7th is often used because it contains a dissonance and makes the return home to A major more urgent and satisfying.

A major is the tonic or 'home chord' and E major is the dominant or 'heading-home' chord. Other chords are used for tonal variety and also to lead into other chords as well as to effect some key changes.

While A major is the primary key, E major is a secondary key that the music 'modulates' to. The first section of the study starts in A major and modulates to E major - a new key. The second section section starts in the new key of E major and gradually makes it way back through some interesting chords to the primary key of A major.

Matteo Carcassi

Matteo Carcassi (1792 – 1853) was a renowned Italian classical guitarist and composer of guitar music. He travelled widely in Europe giving performances and also guitar lessons. His teaching method for guitar (Opus 59) is recognised as a significant contribution to the development of classical guitar technique.


Etude in A Opus 60 no.3 is composed by Matteo Carcassi (1792 – 1853) and is in the Public Domain.

The score, audio track and images are by chasmac using Finale, Goldwave and Photoshop

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