When it comes to playing the guitar, there are many different kinds of styles you can explore. Of course, you’ve probably heard of acoustic and guitar songs, but then there is also jazz, country, funk, and blues guitar music, among many other styles. On top of that, you may discover the world of classical guitar music. But what exactly is classical guitar music?
Classical guitar music most often refers to a style of guitar music that was popular in the 1700s and 1800s. To perform this style of music, guitarists will play a classical guitar and follow the appropriate techniques. The more you explore this music repertoire, the more you’ll uncover classical guitar songs that you may want to learn.
With so much amazing classical guitar music to choose from, how do you decide which pieces are absolutely essential to learn to play? Whether you’re in search of classical guitar songs for beginners or something a little more challenging, here, we’ll share our top picks for classical guitar students to study and play.
To study the classical guitar is a great and noble pursuit. Bringing back music that is centuries old is not an easy task, especially when the documentation and the preservation of sound was increasingly difficult the further you get from the 1900s. This makes the job of a classical guitarist not only a musician capable of reproducing the music, but also an interpreter, researcher, and philosopher! Embarking on this musical journey will open you up to a whole new world.
In light of this, we have literally thousands of pieces to play, not to mention that we can transcribe and also play the thousands of works that were written for the guitar’s older brother, the lute. So where do you start in deciding which pieces you want to learn?
Allow us to help! Below, we’ve outlined classical guitar tunes that will introduce you to this wonderful style of guitar playing. Some songs are easier to play than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work yourself up to the challenge. After all, practice makes perfect.
5 Classical Guitar Pieces Everyone Should Know
This list is comprised of easy classical guitar songs that every classical guitarist should know how to play. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced virtuoso, these are pieces which at some point, a classical guitarist needs to have played– or at least be familiar with! Dive into our list below to expand your classical guitar music knowledge in just minutes.
1. Gran Vals by Francisco Tárrega
This classical guitar tune is a beautiful piece written by a Spanish composer, Francisco Tárrega. His works are an absolute for the aspiring classical guitarist. I included this piece because besides being beautiful, it is also known as “the most popular tune” because it was used in a popular Nokia cell phone ringtone.
2. Fantasia No. 10 by Alonso Mudarra
This piece is originally written for the Lute. Composed in the Renaissance, before the invention of the guitar, this piece is very popular among the guitar standard repertoire. It is full of energy and it was a true breakthrough and innovation of its time for its contemporary (for the time) sounding middle section.
3. Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 9 by Fernando Sor
This is a wonderful piece written by one of the most important composers of the guitar. This piece uses a theme from a section in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, Die Zauberflöte, and develops five wonderful variations on it. It’s a great work that every classical guitarist should know.
4. Grand Overture, Op. 61 by Mauro Giuliani
The lesser known, but equally important composer Giuliani has truly spectacular works. From the classical era, his pieces can not be overlooked for the absolute beauty that they bring to the instrument.
5. Asturias (Leyenda) by Isaac Albéniz
This piece was originally written for the piano. However, being that the composer was intentionally trying to emulate the sounds of the guitar, in the end, this piece has become more popularly performed on this instrument. It’s Andalusian sounds paint a wonderful bridge of the true connection that Spain has with the guitar.
5 Pieces Every Classical Guitarist Should Hear
This is a list of pieces that every classical guitarist should listen to. These works are more difficult and require a very advanced skill level on the instrument, but don’t let that discourage you from taking a listen and trying to replicate them. Above all, they are important works for the guitar, and you should at least be aware of their existence. Add them to your playlist, and with some time and practice, you just may be able to work your way up to mastering these classical guitar songs.
1. Fantasie Hongroise, Op. 65 No. 1 by Johann Kaspar Mertz
This is an all-around great piece that is fun and exciting for any audience to listen to.
2. Chaconne from the Partita for Violin, No. 2 by J.S. Bach
This piece was originally written for the violin The great virtuoso Andrés Segovia made this piece a well-known work in the guitar repertoire and has even fooled audiences into believing this piece was actually written for the guitar.
3. Una Limosna por el Amore de Dios by Agustín Barrios Mangoré
This piece has a wonderful story behind how it was named. Also known as the El Ultimo Trémolo, or the Last Song, it was the last piece composed by one of the most important composers for the guitar, Agustin Barrios who composed over 300 works for the instrument.
4. Invocación y Danza – Homenaje a Manuel de Falla by Joaquin Rodrigo
This work is an amazing piece composed in the 20th century. It shows how far music for the classical guitar has come. Although, it is nearly impossible to play, you should at least listen to it. It is by the same composer who wrote the world famous classical guitar concerto, Concierto de Aranjuez.
5. Nocturnal after John Dowland, Op. 70 (1963) by Benjamin Britten
This piece is from another great 20th century composer. Britten made many works for the guitar and paved a road of sounds for the guitar composers of the present day. The piece was written for the legendary guitarist Julian Bream and is based on the piece Come, Heavy Sleep by the Lute composer from the Renaissance, John Dowland.
Ready to learn to play this beautiful classical guitar music? Now’s your chance! Sign up for convenient and affordable classical guitar lessons to learn the in’s and out’s of classical guitar music. No matter your age or current skill set, you will match with a qualified and dedicated guitar teacher who can help you refine your technique and develop your talent. What’s more, you can even sign up for online classical guitar lessons, which means you have the flexibility to learn where and when works best for you. As long as you have access to the internet, you can log on using your laptop, smartphone, or computer and web camera. It’s never been easier to learn a new style of guitar playing. Find your perfect guitar teacher today!
Christopher S. teaches guitar and composition in Jamaica Plain, MA. He received his Bachelors degree from Humboldt State University and is currently atttending New England Conservatory for his Master of Music degree. Christopher has been teaching students since 2004. Learn more about Christopher S. here!
Photo by Ken Dodds