Arrangements for Classical Guitar

G Clef Even though traditional songs and compositions predating copyright laws are in the public domain, arrangements of those songs are subject to copyright. Therefore, you must respect the copyright of the works on this page. You may copy and perform the works for personal use. You may perform and record the works as provided for by fair use. You may not redistribute these files on your Web site. Instead, you may provide a link to this Web page.

Classical Guitar Transcriptions

Classical guitar These arrangements are based on pre-copyright, expired copyright, or uncopyrighted manuscripts of songs by composers both known and anonymous. There are inevitable similarities to other arrangements, as they are all likely drawn from the same sources. Nevertheless, no two arrangements are ever quite the same, reflecting both technical and aesthetic differences of opinion between arrangers.

You should never use copyrighted source material when notating a piece of music unless you have obtained permission from the copyright owner or you are certain doing so falls under the fair use doctrine (see Note that redistribution on a Web site does not constitute fair use.

Agustín Barrios is the last composer of note for the guitar whose works remain in the public domain. Therefore, you will not find anything later than Barrios here.

12thDum Pater Familias (The Song of Compostela)AnonymousMedium
16thDove Son Quei Fieri Occhi?Anonymous (published by Oscar Chilesotti in 1890)Easy
16thItaliana (No. 59)Anonymous (published by Oscar Chilesotti in 1890)Medium
16thMadrigaleAnonymous (published by Oscar Chilesotti in 1890)Easy
16thPackington's PoundAnonymousEasy
16thSe io m'accorgo ben mio d'un altro amanteAnonymous (published by Oscar Chilesotti in 1890)Easy
16thOrlando SleepethJohn DowlandEasy
16thGuárdame las vacasLuys de NarváezMedium
16thGuárdame las vacas (Otras tres diferencias hechas por otra parte)Luys de NarváezMedium
17thCanariosGaspar SanzMedium
17thTanzAnonymous (published by Georg Fuhrmann in 1615)Medium
18thMinuet in G Major (BWV Anh. 114)Christian PetzoldMedium
18thMinuet in G Minor (BWV Anh. 115)Christian PetzoldMedium
16th–19thScarborough FairAnonymousEasy
19thOp. 114 No. 4 (Prelude in A)Ferdinando CarulliEasy
19thWaltz (Waltz in E Minor)Ferdinando CarulliEasy
Late 19thRomanza (Spanish Romance)AnonymousEasy
Late 19thAdelitaFrancisco TárregaMedium
Late 19thLágrimaFrancisco TárregaEasy
Late 19thRecuerdos de la AlhambraFrancisco TárregaHard
20thPreludio (en re mayor)Miguel LlobetEasy
20thEl Noi de la MareTraditional (arranged by Miguel Llobet)Medium
20thLección 61Julio Salvador SagrerasEasy
20thLección 75Julio Salvador SagrerasEasy
20thLección 84Julio Salvador SagrerasEasy
20thLa CatedralAgustín BarriosHard
20thLas AbejasAgustín BarriosHard
20thPreludio en Do MenorAgustín BarriosHard

Traditional Song Arrangements

Classical guitar These are entirely original arrangements. For each, I started with the bare melody recalled from memory and embellished it for playing on the guitar.

SongCommentsSheet MusicSheet Music w/o Tablature
Twinkle Twinkle Little StarI arranged this in 2003 and recorded it in 2004 with piano and electric guitars for my baby niece. The sheet music contains only the basic guitar part; play it with your fretboard hand forming an open E chord and move only your little finger.babysong.pdf
Happy BirthdayThis version stays true to the melody, but changes the meter. Don't confuse the 6/8 meter with the original 3/4. In effect, I've changed the meter to 2/4 with triplets, equivalent to the easier to notate and read 6/8 compound meter. If you feel strongly that it should be notated differently, please contact me with your suggestions.HappyBirthday.pdfHappyBirthday-notab.pdf
Happy Birthday (Variation 1)This version changes the melody somewhat.HappyBirthday-v1.pdfHappyBirthday-v1-notab.pdf

Notes About Notation[1]


Fingering notations should be taken as suggestions, not as mandates.

Although I agree in general with the philosophy espoused by John Williams of choosing the simplest possible fingering for a passage, I do not follow it religiously. First, what is simple for one person may not be simple for another. Second, two or more fingerings may be of equal difficulty, requiring additional criteria to make a decision. Third, a more difficult fingering may sound better. Fourth, when different fingerings produce different tones and textures, one may choose a fingering depending on how one wants to interpret a piece on a given playing. Finally, different guitars produce different tones and one guitar may be more difficult to play than another, causing one to choose a fingering based on what guitar one happens to be playing.

The fingerings I provide usually match how I play a piece and are therefore only suggestions. Sometimes I include a second fingering when the way I play a part is likely to cause most players difficulty.


I use C to indicate a barre across five or six strings and ¢ to indicate a barre across up to four strings. Eventually, I'd like to be more precise about barres as well as the variety of barres (e.g., pivot/hinge barres), but have yet to settle on a notational convention. I'm leaning toward the use of fractions (e.g., 4/3 means three strings are stopped with the fourth string being the lowest string, meaning strings 2–4 are stopped). Still, that does not account for how to notate concurrent barres with multiple fingers (usually just two).

Time Signatures

I usually preserve the original time signature of a piece. Whenever a piece consists exclusively of tuplets (e.g., Romanza or Preludio en Do Menor), I always transform the time signature to the equivalent compound meter that eliminates the need for tuplets. It's much easier to read music that isn't filled with tuplets. When tuplet-filled music notates a tuplet only in the first measure to keep the score readable, the music no longer says what it means.

Chord Diagrams

Classical guitar music typically does not include chord diagrams. In contemporary guitar music, chord diagrams indicate chords to be strummed. The chord diagrams in the arrangements that contain them are suggestions for left-hand positioning and/or supplementary indicators of the underlying harmonies (useful for spontaneous improvisation). They do not indicate chords to be strummed.

The chord diagrams also serve the purpose of informing the musician of the harmonic foundation of the arrangement, facilitating the comprehension of what is to be played. Not all chord diagrams included in the music are to be fingered exactly; they serve as guides only. In all cases, the suggested fingerings in the music supersede the chord diagrams—and you are free to ignore all such suggestions, applying whatever fingering you find most effective. As an aside, I do not use the chord diagrams at all. I find the process of preparing them an aid to studying harmonic and compositional structure.

2014-03-01 - No More Tablature or Chord Diagrams

[1] In order to make music equally accessible to guitarists of different skill levels, I used to include tablature and chord diagrams in most—but not all—of my arrangements. Unfortunately, I cannot continue this practice.

Up until now I've been posting scores generated with Sibelius. I have worked with Finale and Sibelius in the past, finding Sibelius more productive for guitar music, but have decided to move forward with LilyPond after being disappointed with the output for La Catedral. The longer the piece, the more tedious are all the tweaks one has to make to place fingering and other notation in the right spots. LilyPond requires less tweaking, although it requires a lot of up-front work creating customizations to permit the full range of guitar notation. That is really no different from Finale or Sibelius, which do not provide the full panoply of guitar notation without the use of program extensions.

I will not be providing tablature in the future for scores produced with LilyPond because it takes too much time. All things considered, I will likely be using LilyPond for all future pieces, not because it is inherently better than Finale or Sibelius, but because it uses an all-text format that integrates well with my existing text editing and revision control choices.