IT: chitarra   FR: guitare   GER: Gitarre                            


The classical guitar has six strings made of nylon, the lower of which are wound with metal. There are frets embedded in the neck, spaced so that the distance between adjacent frets is a half-step on any string. A finger of the left hand presses the string beside the fret slightly toward the nut to stop its vibrations at the fret. The thumbnail and fingernails of the right hand are used to pluck the strings.

Tuning and Range

FIGURE 6.5  Guitar tuning and range


The guitar part is written in the treble clef and sounds an octave lower. There is an interval of a perfect fourth between each string except III (G) and II (B), where the distance is a major third. The sound of the classical guitar is delicate and very easily covered.

Technical Abilities

Sharp keys, more easily negotiated on the guitar than flat keys, allow the use of more open strings and sympathetic vibrations. Chords should be written with no more than a fifth or sixth between fingered notes. The first finger of the left hand may be used to stop all or some of the strings at a given fret. This technique is called the grande barre, or simply barre.


If a note is to be played on a particular string, the number of that string (1-6) is placed beside the note and circled. If a particular finger of the left hand is to be used, the number of the finger (1-4) is placed by the note, and the finger number is not circled. The circle around the number differentiates the string from the finger identified. The left thumb is not used. Lowercase alphabet letters are used to indicate which finger of the right hand should be used to pluck the string.

Chord Diagrams

Though they are not a part of formal classical guitar notation, chord diagrams representing the position of the fingers on the frets are common in many guitar styles. These indicate the first five frets from the nut, with fingers numbered in their position on the string. Open strings have an "o" over them, and deadened or unused strings are marked with an "x." A bar is represented by a curved line over the position where all strings are depressed by the first finger.

The following are examples of standard chord diagrams and their equivalents in musical notation:

FIGURE 6.6  Guitar chord diagrams

Effects and Figurations

Harmonics of open strings are easily produced by lightly touching the strings at frets XII, VII, and V.  Arpeggiation of chords is perhaps the most common figure occurring in guitar music. The term "tremolo" in reference to guitar technique means to pluck the same string rapidly with different fingers of the right hand.

FIGURE 6.7  Guitar tremolo

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