Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.
This is an easy classical guitar composition by the 18th/19th-century Italian guitar virtuoso Mauro Giuliani. This one is nicknamed "Allegro" and is from his "Papillon" collection of easy classical guitar pieces (Opus 50) that he wrote for students of pre-intermediate level.
The guitar tab and standard notation for the piece are viewable in the video capsule line-by-line and accompanied by an audio track. View it in full screen mode (high playback quality) for best results. The score is also reproduced directly underneath the video.
M. Giuliani: Opus 50 no.6 "Allegro"
Study Notes and Info for Learners
This simple piece has two eight-bar sections, A & B, played in the order: A B A and then followed by a 6 bar coda starting at bar 24. It's a straight-through piece as far as reading is concerned. There are no repeat signs to deal with.
The time signature is 6/8. Keep in mind that 6/8 means there are two beats per bar or measure and that each beat equals a dotted quarter note. Most bars contain six 8th notes, (which equal two dotted quarter notes) so the ones to emphasise are the 1st and 4th notes, which correspond with beats 1 and 2 of the bar.
The title "Allegro" indicates quite a fast tempo of 120 beats per minute (BPM) or faster, but play it at whatever tempo you're most comfortable with. The tempo in the audio track is 98 BPM, which is slower than allegro. Don't forget you can slow it even further in the video by setting the speed control to half speed. It ruins the sound quality, but can be helpful for parts that you need to focus on to get the timing right. The speed control is part of the settings option in the bottom right-hand side of the video capsule.
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To emphasise melody notes and keep them well separated from the bass, you should use 'rest strokes' to play them. Rest stroke involves plucking the string and bringing your finger to rest on the string directly above. The greater force required to push through the string results in a louder note with a fuller tone. It's not practical to use rest stroke in all situations, though. It doesn't usually work well with arpeggios as you could inadvertently mute strings and cut off already sounding notes before their time. It's also not so useful for fast playing.
Although it's considered an easy classical guitar piece, the bass part (shown with stems pointing down) isn't quite as easy as it looks. Notice how many of the bass notes last only a quarter note followed by an eighth note rest. This means that the bass note should be muted by your thumb after sounding for a full quarter note while your fingers play the melody notes above the eighth note rests. It won't make much difference if you don't mute it and just let them sound through until the next bass note as it's part of the same chord, but the composer has done it to emphasise certain melody notes as unaccompanied notes, exactly like the notes in the pick-up bar.
The small notes in bars 1, 3 and 5 are grace notes (acciaccature) played as pull-offs and as briefly as possible (but strongly) onto the next note. These also serve to emphasise the first and second beats of the measures that they appear in.
A C E
E major (E7)
E G# B (D)
C E G
G major (G7)
G B D (F)
D F A
Key and Chords
The music is in two parts: melody and bass, and these two parts between them create the harmony or chords. It's not necessary to know what the chords are in order to play the piece as it's written, but most guitarists feel confident playing a piece when they understand how it's been put together.
The principal key of the music is A minor, which is the key throughout the A sections. The B section, (from bar 9 until bar 16) is in C major. C major is the so+called relative major key of A minor and it's a very common choice of key change in simple pieces like this. Both keys have no sharps or flats in their key signatures, but minor keys usually have a raised 7th note (scale degree). In the key of A minor that note is G raised to G sharp, and you can see lots of G sharp notes in the A sections of the score. This is a handy way of knowing whether a piece of music is in a minor or its relative major key as the key signature is no help in this case.
The chords are exactly what you'd expect in the keys of A minor and C major.
The A minor key sections have the chords A minor and E (occasionally extended to E7). A minor is the TONIC chord, the one built on the first scale degree and the one that we hear as the 'home chord'. E or E7 is the DOMINANT (7th) chord, the one built on the 5th scale degree and that leads us strongly back home to the tonic.
The C major key section has C major as its tonic chord and G or G7 as its Dominant chord. It also has the chord D minor (called the SUPERTONIC) whose job in this piece is 'pre-dominant'. That is, it leads smoothly to the dominant chord.
See the chart for the chord tones that each chord contains.
The music featured in this article is by Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) and is in the Public Domain.
The score, audio track and cover image are by chasmac.
© 2014 Chas Mac