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Carulli: "Écossaise" for Classical and Fingerstyle Guitar in Tab & Notation

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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.


An écossaise is a French musical dance form with rhythms that mimic Scottish country dance tunes. Several major composers, including Beethoven and Chopin, used the écossaise form in several compositions.

This classical guitar écossaise, unimaginatively titled "Écossaise", is by Ferdinando Carulli, a noted 19th century Italian composer and virtuoso guitarist. Taken from his "Opus 121 no.5", "Écossaise" is short and simple, and you don't need to be anywhere near virtuoso standard to play it.

Follow the score displayed in the video while listening to a 'MIDI to audio' rendition of the piece generated by the software that I used to produce the score. The display progresses line by line in sync with the music. Alternatively, you can view the score underneath the video.

Carulli: Écossaise from Opus 121

Écossaise from Opus 121 by Ferdinando Carulli

Écossaise from Opus 121 by Ferdinando Carulli

Study Notes for Learners

"Écossaise" consists of three 8-bar sections. As the repeat markings show, each section is repeated before proceeding to the next.


The distinguishing feature of this piece is the rhythm. Being an écossaise, it's full of short-long note pairs reminiscent of Scottish dance music. Play the piece at a reasonably fast tempo to get the best rhythmic effect. Count the beats as "1 e & a 2 e & a" etc.


The suggested fretting-hand fingering is marked using finger numbers 1 to 4. A typical picking-hand fingering is shown in the usual classical guitar style with letters, p, i, m & a just at the start to give you an idea of fingering, which avoids having to use the same finger twice in succession. See the classical guitar fingering chart if you're not familiar with the classical style of labeling fingers. Fingerstyle guitarists are more familiar with letters T, I, M & R instead of p-i-m-a. All fingerings shown are suggestions only and you can use any logical and practical fingering of your own.

Classical Guitar Fingering

Classical Guitar Fingering

Key and Chords

While it's not necessary to be aware of the chords that you're producing when playing the written notes, it's very helpful to know how the piece has been constructed musically. It makes for more confident playing.

The principal key is E minor and is the key that starts and ends the piece. Other keys are present, too, or at least, hinted at. The piece is in binary form, meaning it has two sections, A & B, which are repeated to provide the overall 'playing plan' as: A A B1 B2 B1 B2.

  • Section A (bars 1 to 8) is in the key of E minor throughout and consists of just two chords E minor and B major. The E minor chords are in root position, meaning the lowest note is E. The B major chords have D sharp (the so-called '3rd' of the chord) as the lowest note, which means the chord is in first inversion.
  • Section B, part 1 (bars 9 to 24) is in the key of G major and also consists of just two chords: G major and D7. Some D7 chords are incomplete because they don't have a '3rd', which would be the note, F#. It's also the chosen bass note, which puts it in first inversion. G major is the most closely related key to E minor, which is probably why it was chosen for a key change. It's called the 'relative major' key of E minor as they share the same key signature of one sharp (F#).
  • Section B, part 2 (bars 17 to 24) is the most interesting, musically. It starts off with the foreign (secondary dominant) chord, E major, in first inversion with G# in the bass. This leads strongly to the chord A minor, which in turn leads to the dominant chord D7. As before, D7 then leads to the tonic chord of the newly established key of G major. The final four bars are back in the home key of E minor to close the piece in the same key that it started on.

Chord Functions Explained

Tonic Chord

The tonic chord is the 'home' chord. It's the chord that is built on the first degree (note) of the scale belonging to the key. So, E minor is the tonic chord in the key of the section in E minor, and G major is the tonic chord when it changes key to G major.

Dominant Chord

The dominant chord is the chord built on the 5th scale degree. In the E minor section, the dominant chord is B7 and in the G major section, the dominant chord is D7. It's the most important chord after the tonic in key-based music. Its main job is to lead us naturally back home to the tonic.

Secondary Dominant Chord

Secondary dominant chords are foreign to the key. They are the dominant chords of other keys, which is why they're called secondary dominants. The secondary dominant chord, E7 in bar 17 contains the note G#, which neither the current key, G major, or the home key, E minor, contain. It's there to lead strongly to the chord, A minor. In other words, it's functioning briefly as the dominant chord of the key of A minor, even though we're still in the key of G major.

Supertonic Chord

The supertonic chord is the chord built on the second scale degree. As we're still in G major, that chord is A minor and occurs in bar 18. Supertonic chords have several uses, but the most common is as a 'pre-dominant'. That is, it leads to the dominant chord, which is exactly what it does here.

KeyChordsChord TonesFunction

E minor

E minor




B major

B D F#


G major

G major





D (F#) A C

Dominant 7th



E G# B D

Secondary Dominant 7th


A minor


Supertonic (Pre-dominant)


The music is composed by Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) and is in the Public Domain.

The score, audio track and images are by chasmac.

© 2014 Chas Mac