Preludio en Do Menor by Agustín Barrios

Classical guitar Preludio en Do Menor (Prelude in C Minor) is one of Barrios's later works, written in 1940. Although Barrios wrote it in 2/4 time with 16th note sextuplets, I have changed the time signature to 6/8, preserving the duple meter and obviating the need for sextuplets.

I've spent much time researching the piece and believe my transcription to be more accurate than those used by all of the performances I've heard (with regard to the notes, not the fingerings). I say this because there are one or two notes you never hear on recordings that my research indicates are present in Barrios's last draft. After playing the piece with those notes, all performances that omit them sound as though they are missing something. One of those notes, the second string E♭ in measure 30, may present some difficulty to some players. You have to make a so-called hinge or pivot barre with finger 2, covering only the second and third strings. The finger starts off on the third string, so all that is required is to bend the fingertip to stop both strings.

Although I believe I've added something essential missing from other transcriptions, I may be missing something as well. I have heard a world-renowned guitarist play a G for the ninth note of measure 17 instead of an A♭. I don't know if that was deliberate or a mistake, but it is preserved permanently on a popular recording, making many listeners expect to hear that G. I have not been able to find any evidence Barrios intended the note to be played as a G.

The piece presents many different fingering choices. I have made some unconventional ones in measures 3, 5, 21, 30, 31, and possibly a few others. My choice for measure 31 is a more difficult fingering requiring a fourth finger stretch. I chose to play it this way because the simplest alternative (which I include in an ossia) causes an A♭ to inadvertently sound on the still-ringing third string when you execute the half-barre (causing an unintended hammer-on). Even though an audience may not notice it, I can hear it and it is more difficult to work my fingers to stop the third string ringing to avoid the hammer-on than it is to use the primary fingering I notated.

Measure 21 makes use of a two-string barre on strings 1 and 2 with the fourth finger to play the B♭ F sequence. I find this very natural, but you may wish to devise another way to play that measure, such as playing it at the eighth position. Similarly, measure 30 makes use of a two-string barre on strings 2 and 3 with the second finger to play the E♭ B♮ sequence. In this case, I strongly advocate playing it that way. Also, I make use of a third finger barre for the E♭ chord pattern because I find I can execute the position shift more quickly that way; but it may be considered poor form by pedagogues.

I've explored many different fingering options for this piece and have presented the ones that work for me. That doesn't mean they'll work for you. Play whatever suits you best.

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Revision History

Reformatted measures to two per staff system and increased width of margins.


Changed measure 19 barre to start when you actually have to drop down the rest of finger 1 to play the A♭. With the notated fingering, as you play the first four notes, you place finger 1 down for the first note, then fingers 2 and 3 for the second note, and finger 4 for the third note. Finger 3 is already in place for the fourth note. Before playing the fifth note, you drop down the rest of finger 1 to form the barre.


Renotated using LilyPond. I changed the F♯ in measures 6 and 7 to G♭ because the chords being arpeggiated are A°7 and A♭7, implying the note should be flat and not sharp. Right-hand fingering is now shown only when the pattern changes. Instead of using a third-finger barre in measure 19, the measure now uses a more conventional fingering using the second and third fingers to stop the E♭ and G. Measure 27 still uses a third-finger barre, but you should use the conventional 2, 3, 4 fingering if that's more to your liking. Measure 21 now uses a bracket to indicate the fourth-finger two-string barre. Measure 27 also uses a bracket to indicate a third-finger three-string barre and measure 30 uses a bracket to indicate a second-finger two-string barre. Minor errors have been corrected (e.g., erroneous open strings in measures 24 and 28). The tempo is now listed as Largo instead of Adagio, which is associated with a faster tempo than intended.

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