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May 16, 2006

Spanish Guitar

I bought a book on Spanish Guitar about a year ago and decided to dust it off and give the songs a go.

The collections in this book have a true Spanish sound or character and some of the songs I recognize. I decided to try and play Lagrima by Francisco Tarrega.

Tarrega, considered by many to be the father of modern classical guitar, was born in Barcelona in 1854. Long before the British nanny's held the title for abusive and neglectful caretakers, Tarrega's nursemaid allowed young Tarrega to fall into a polluted irrigation ditch. This caused almost permanent blindness to the young boy. The word Lagrima means "tear" or "teardrops", and this piece obviously had a deep meaning for Tarrega.

In the 15th century Spain gave birth to what would be known as the modern guitar. The typical Spanish chord progression- E Major, F Major, G major, F major, E major- is derived from the Phrygian mode and strengthens the natural tones of the guitar. The E Minor and A Minor is a favorite progression of mine and captures the essence of the flamenco when I play it reeeeeeally fast with a pick.

Gypsy, Hebraic and Moorish influence combined with the Fandango, Soleares, and Buleria rhythms made Spanish guitar an easily identifiable sound. A great example of this influence can be heard in both jazz and rock- the Eagles' Hotel California on the Hell Freezes Over album is genius and I have been trying to learn the opening for 3 years now.

Nobody has done more with the guitar than the Spanish and, in my opinion, the last 500 years have seen the greatest guitar makers, composers and performers carry Spanish surnames. It has been said that the guitar is the heart and soul of Spain, and Spain is the heart and soul of the guitar.

Tarrega's Lagrima is done in 3/4 time and is light and wistful containing only 16 measures. I have the first 4 measures down so far but I had to find a recording of this piece so that I could hear what it is really supposed to sound like. I am thankful I did because the open B string played in the first four measures as accompaniment and then again in the 13th measure is not played as loudly as the melody. When listening to the song the open B is barely distinguishable.

I don't plan on cutting my fingernails down to stumps as Tarrega did but I still hope to play the piece, if all goes well, as a recognizable arrangement of the master's work.


  1. Great post on Spanish Guitar. I'm a gee-tar player as well. Acoustic Steel string 'Heavy Wood' kinda guy though (and electric for the most part).

    Wanna hear Canada's greatest fingerstyle guitar player? (at least IMHO)

    Have a listen to "Dracula and Freinds Part 1"

    If that's too funky, scroll down to the Bearing Straight CD and have a listen to "The First Ride".

    Both Masterful compositions.


  2. Nice arrangements, one more artist that makes me feel like crap!

    Seriously though I will be looking for that guy now to add to my music collection. Since you like strumming the 6-string, have you ever heard of slack key guitar? It is very popular out here.