Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.
Fernando Sor's "Study in E Minor"
This is a fairly easy classical guitar piece by the great 18th/19th-century Spanish guitar composer and virtuoso performer Fernando Sor. It's No.14 from his Opus 60—Introduction a l'étude de la guitare. The score is shown below and can also be seen line by line in the video capsule synced with an audio track of the music. The score contains the music in standard music notation plus guitar tablature.
If you want an idea of how Study in E Minor should sound, here's a software-generated 'MIDI to Audio' track of this study. You can see the same score line by line while listening to the track. View it in full-screen mode with high playback quality to get the best display.
Notes for Learners
Sor's "Study in E minor" is in two sections: A & B.
- Section A consists of eight bars, which are repeated with alternate endings. Play up to bar 8 (the 1st ending) and then repeat from the beginning. Omit bar 8 on the second pass and play bar 9 (the 2nd ending) instead.
- Section B is sixteen bars long and the whole section repeats from bar 9. Section B is twice as long because it also contains a modified version of the A section (A2) starting from bar 18. So, while on paper (or screen) it looks like A A B B, musically, what we hear is the piece played as A1 A1 B A2 B A2.
Fretboard Positions for "Study in EMinor"
Like most easy classical guitar pieces, this study is played in the first position of the fretboard, apart from a couple of very brief trips to the 2nd and 3rd positions at:
- Bar 11 - To play the B and D notes at the same time, B needs to be played on string 3 fret 4 along with D on string 2 fret 3 (as the tab shows) with your 2nd and 1st fingers (as the notation staff fingering shows). These two fingers then slide down to play the A and C notes that follow on the same two strings.
- Bar 17 - Play the B bass note with your 1st finger after sliding up from the previous bass note, A#, on the same string.
Fretting-hand fingering is shown with numbers 1–4 where it's useful, especially at bars 12 and 23, where it's a bit trickier than usual.
Picking-hand fingering is shown as p-i-m-a, etc., just for the first line as an example. Feel free to do it your way, but try to keep it practical and logical to achieve better fluency of finger movement of your picking hand.
See the fingering chart above if you don't understand the finger symbols used.
E G B
B D# F#
C E G
E G# B
Dominant of subdominant key (V/iv)
A C E
D F A
Subdominant of subdominant key (iv/iv)
A# Diminished 7th
A# (C#) E G
Leading note of Dominant (vii/V)
"Study in E Minor"—Key and Chords
The principal key of this study, as the title makes clear, is E minor. That's why the key signature of one sharp (F#) is used. That's the key signature used by E minor and its relative major key, G major. In this piece, even without the title, we can see that the key is E minor and not G major, because:
- The piece ends on E minor (notes E G B). It also starts on E minor, but the starting chord is a much less certain indicator. There are also many E minor chords throughout the piece.
- There are a few D sharp notes. Although D sharp isn't in the key signature, it's a note that is commonly used in the key of E minor, but not commonly used in G major. The scale of E natural minor doesn't have it; it has D natural, but the scale of E harmonic minor does. Music in minor keys frequently features a raised 7th note. It makes for stronger chord progressions that strengthen the tonal centre (home note & chord).
While E minor is the principal key of this study, it's not the only key. The music in section B hints at different keys and passes briefly through the keys of A minor and B major before the reprise of the A2 sub-section comes in at bar 18 in E minor. The modifications in this sub-section are to ensure the piece ends on the chord E minor, unlike at the end of the A section, which ends on a B7 chord.
The chord functions are the technical names given to the chords depending on which scale degree (note) they're built on, or if a chord is foreign to the key, its relationship to the next chord. The Roman numerals indicate the scale degree and chords using lowercase for minor and diminished chords and uppercase for major chords and (if present) augmented chords too.
Study in E Minor (Opus 60 No 14) is composed by Fernando Sor (1778-1839) and is in the public domain.
The score, audio track and images are by chasmac.
© 2014 Chas Mac