Spanish Guitar Songs for Guitar – Free Sheet Music and TABs
Ah, the passion and fire of Spanish guitar music! It heats the blood and stirs the senses. And to play Spanish music on guitar is a fun challenge. There are special techniques and movements. But very rewarding and fulfilling. Below you’ll find free sheet music and TABs to download, as well as more on Spanish guitar. Scroll down for PDFs of Spanish Guitar TABs and notation. (Or browse the entire free sheet music and TABs library.)
Table of Contents
- What is Spanish Guitar?
- >>Free Spanish Guitar Sheet Music and TABs<<
- Popular Spanish Guitar Songs
- History of the Guitar
- Parts of the Guitar
- Spanish Guitar Techniques
- How to Hold a Spanish Guitar – Sitting Position
- Flamenco Guitar and Dance Music
- Famous Spanish Composers
- Famous Spanish Guitarists
What is a “Spanish Guitar”?
The term “Spanish guitar” is used mainly in two ways. First, it refers to the instrument. This is also known as a classical guitar. The classical or Spanish guitar is an acoustic instrument made of wood by luthiers (guitar making specialist). And it has nylon strings. Traditionally, these strings were made of gut (animal intestine). These are the precursors to today’s steel-string acoustic guitar and electric guitar.
The classical (Spanish) guitar uses chords in songs to create layers of melody and harmony. It was derived from the Spanish vihuela and gittern (historic instruments) back in the 1400-1500s. Through the following centuries, it morphed into the Baroque guitar. And eventually, it became the classical or Spanish guitar we find so many people playing today.
Spanish Guitar Music
“Spanish guitar” also refers to a style of music from Spain. These songs (pieces) are written to play on classical guitars. And it often stems from the Flamenco guitar-playing tradition. Flamenco guitar uses the Spanish guitar scales (and Spanish guitar chords with strumming). to create a characteristic sound. We often instantly recognize this when we hear it played.
Many composers throughout Western Europe were influenced by Spanish guitar. For example, composers such as Scarlatti and Ravel have composed in the Spanish style. The Spanish sound has captured the hearts and creativity of players and listeners alike. And it has also been very influential on Latin music from the Americas (which Spain colonized). This is perhaps best heard in Argentinian tango.
For centuries throughout Europe, the term “Spanish” was used to refer to most anything sensual or evocative. This included (along with brothels and suggestive dances) guitar. So the phrase “Spanish guitar” is sometimes used in relationship to music that is not from Spain. But it is usually played on classical guitars.
Spanish Guitar Songs – in Notation and TABs
Below you’ll find free PDFs of Spanish guitar songs. These guitar TABs can be played on any guitar, but sound best and most “Spanish” on guitars with nylon strings. Please print, play and share these freely. If you are a teacher, you are free to use them privately with your students. Where appropriate, please attribute the arrangements to ClassicalGuitarShed.com, or Allen Mathews, and link to https://classicalguitarshed.com/. Enjoy playing these!
If you have any recommendations of Spanish guitar TABs and pieces to add to this collection, please reach out and let us know! We’re always on the lookout for great Spanish guitar songs ( and classical guitar music as well ).
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Popular Spanish Songs to Play
Spanish Romance – Anonymous
Spanish Romance – composer unknown
One of the most famous songs for guitar. Much of the piece is fairly easy to play. But you will find a barre chord combined with a rather wicked little-finger stretch. Spanish Romance uses the whole guitar neck, but if with the Spanish Romance TABs, you can find the notes easily.
Malagueña – Ernesto Lecuona
Malaguena – by Ernesto Lecuona
A very fun and popular song to play. The first and third sections are easy and are great for learning common Spanish guitar techniques.
Lagrima – Francisco Tarrega
Lagrima – by Francisco Tarrega
One of the best examples of Spanish classical guitar. A slow ballad with beautiful melody notes, that’s extremely popular with guitarists.
The Spanish Guitar
The Spanish guitar has attracted listeners around the world for centuries. Spain is closely associated with the guitar. This is because of the history of the development of the instrument.
Italy, France, and Germany played their parts in the development of the guitar family. But Spain played a major role in the creation and popularity of the modern guitar.
The Spanish Guitar is a plucked instrument with 6 strings that uses both hands to make sound. It’s used as an instrument to accompany or to play polyphonic music. Polyphonic music is music with more than one part playing at the same time.
For much of its history, the guitar was a parlor instrument. It was thought suitable for informal gatherings. But it was not seen as capable as the piano, violin, or other “serious” instruments. Over time this image came to change. This is thanks to many important performers, composers, and guitar builders (luthiers).
History of the Guitar
Some of the early instruments in the Guitar family are the Vihuela and Lute. They were accompaniment instruments. This means they accompanied another instrument or singer. Early guitars were played with a plectrum (pick) or with the fingers. Both instruments enjoyed immense popularity from the 15th to the 17th century.
The Baroque Guitar was the next notable development in the history of the Spanish Guitar. The Baroque guitar was both an accompaniment, and polyphonic instrument.
The Lute, Vihuela, and Baroque Guitar were strung using courses. Courses are 2 strings played together, instead of the single string used today. The strings were made out of animal gut. These early instruments were smaller. So courses allowed for more projection and experimentation with different tunings.
The standard Spanish guitar today has 6 single strings tuned to the notes EADGBE. It uses three strings of nylon and three of wound nickel alloy.
Who Invented the Guitar?
Antonio Torres first built the modern-day classical guitar around 1850. Torres reinforced the top with a different type of support. He made the body larger, which had a big impact on the sound.
The design of the modern guitar cannot be solely attributed to Torres. But he is known today as the father of the standard classical guitar shape.
There are many guitar makers today. These luthiers are striving to improve the quality and sound of the guitar. They experiment with different materials and techniques.
Parts of the Guitar
The standard Spanish Guitar has:
1. Headstock – The Headstock holds the strings and allows them to be tuned to specific pitches. Guitar tuning keys attach the strings and allow for fine-tuning.
2. Neck – The neck is usually built of 2 parts: the fretboard and the main shaft. The neck connects the headstock to the body of the guitar.
3. Fretboard – The fretboard contains the notes of the guitar. Thin strips of metal (frets) separate the notes. We press the strings just behind the frets. This selects the musical pitch.
4. Body – The body is the heart of the instrument and is the most important part in regards to the sound of the guitar. This hollow chamber amplifies the sound of the strings. And the sound is projected forward through the soundhole. The wood, shape, and size all play important roles in the production of the sound of the Spanish guitar.
5. Bridge – The guitar bridge is where the guitar strings attach to the body of the instrument. Nylon strings are tied through holes in the bridge.
The Guitar Family (Spanish Vs Acoustic Guitar)
The guitar is the most popular instrument worldwide. Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, and Flamenco guitar are a few different types of guitar. The electric and acoustic guitar enjoy immense popularity in many different musical styles.
Before electric amplification, instruments such as the banjo and acoustic guitar were commonplace. The acoustic and Spanish guitar differ in many ways. These include the internal bracing, the strings, and the number of frets. The playing style is also different.
Acoustic guitars generally use steel strings. Classical and spanish guitars use nylon strings. These have lower tension than acoustic steel-string guitars. This makes classical and spanish guitar easier to play for beginners. With the softer-feeling strings and lower tension, they are more gentle on the fingers.
Acoustic guitars usually have a larger body than classical spanish guitars. The classical guitar has a wider neck, with more space between strings.
Spanish flamenco guitars are different than classical guitars. Spanish flamenco guitarists often accompany singers and dancers. Because of this, flamenco guitars have a different build. In design, they closely resemble classical Spanish guitars. But flamenco guitars have a thinner guitar top, different bracing inside. The string tension may be lower, and the strings closer to the fretboard. The neck may also be flatter, depending on the builder.
Spanish Guitar Techniques
We play Spanish guitar by plucking the strings with the right-hand fingers. On the modern guitar, the right-hand nails are grown to assist with projection and speed. There are many guitarists that play without nails, but most use a combination of nail and flesh.
The right-hand fingers are called P, I, M, A, and C. The names come from the Spanish language.
P – Pulgar (Thumb)
I – Indice (Index)
M – Medio (Middle)
A – Anular (Ring)
C – Chico (Pinky)
The right hand creates the sound of the guitar. This sound defines the Spanish guitar. A player can change the sound (tone quality) of the instrument in multiple ways. She can pluck the strings in different places on the string. And she can use right-hand fingernails to create different sounds. The individual guitar itself also has a distinctive sound. This is influenced by the woods used and the way it is built.
We typically hold a classical guitar at a 45-degree angle. This allows both hands to play comfortably while maximizing sonic possibilities. The left hand can move up and down the fretboard. And the right hand is at liberty to play anywhere over the guitar body.
The guitar’s positioning has evolved over time. It went from being played with a strap, to sitting down with the legs crossed. Today we have various guitar supports available. These modern-day contraptions assist in playing the guitar in a healthy way. Both for the hands, and the body.
There have been experiments to find the optimal way to position the guitar. In the 19th century, players built tripods to hold the guitar. But this didn’t allow for the best playability. Players also have tried myriad straps to hold the guitar to the body. None of these have proved practical for most people.
The footstool has been the most popular guitar support for centuries. We don’t quite know where this tradition began. But many attribute it to guitarist and composer Francisco Tarrega.
Flamenco guitarists traditionally sit with the right foot over the left knee. The guitar sits on the right leg, with the neck horizontal. This stems from the informal heritage of flamenco music.
Tremolo Guitar Technique
Tremolo is one of the most recognized techniques played on guitar. It gives us the illusion of a sustained note. But in reality, we pluck the same string repeatedly. Listeners have long been enchanted by the sound of tremolo produced on the guitar.
A difficult technique to master, tremolo is a staple in some of the most popular pieces on the guitar. “Recuerdos de la Alhambra”, “Campanas del Alba”, are 2 of the most popular works that contain tremolo.
Other instruments have adapted this technique as well. Some have even transcribed popular pieces onto their instrument. You can hear “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” on the violin, piano, and marimba!
Scales on the Guitar
The Spanish Guitar is unique in that it can move around different musical keys with ease. The guitar lends itself to patterns and “shapes” on the fretboard. These can be moved around the fretboard to change musical keys. Scale shapes are popular and adaptable on the guitar.
The Spanish guitar, along with flamenco, utilizes scales in many different pieces.
Many flamenco guitarists can play extremely fast scales. This is a feature of flamenco music. Paco de Lucia, for example, could match the speed of others playing with a plectrum.
Flamenco Guitar Music
Flamenco is the traditional music of Spain. Born in Andalusia, it contains folkloric elements of many cultures from Southern Spain. It was also influenced by early Muslims in the area.
Flamenco music often contains song and dance. The guitar plays the accompaniment, with flourishes interjected.
Many flamenco guitar techniques came about of necessity. Flamenco music is often loud, with singing, clapping, and the clicking of shoe heels in the dance. These all demanded more volume from the guitar. So special strumming patterns (rasgueados) and other techniques were invented.
Flamenco guitarists tend to develop immaculate rhythms within the art form. While they add their own flare, flamenco guitarists are secondary to the dancer or singer.
Solo Flamenco guitarists only began to gain fame in the 20th century. Guitarists like Sabicas, Paco de Lucia, and Paco Pena, were the trailblazers. They helped Spanish music to be associated with the guitar worldwide.
Flamenco is especially popular in the United States and in Japan. In fact, Wikipedia suggests there are currently more flamenco schools in Japan than there are in Spain.
Rasgueado Strumming Technique
The rasgueado is a strumming technique that adds percussive elements to guitar chords.
Rasgueados use mainly the nails of the right hand. The fingers are prepped within the hand and then launched with force onto the strings of the guitar. This allows for great speed and a loud initial attack.
The thumb is used to stabilize the hand. Or it alternates with the other fingers in specific patterns.
There are many different rasgueado patterns possible. And most patterns line up with the pulse of the music performed.
A guitarist plays rasgueados matching the intensity and rhythm of the dancing and singing.
Many guitar composers have adapted rasgueado techniques. These are often used for emotional intensity or as a homage to the flamenco style.
Picado is a technique utilized by flamenco guitarists. Picado is when a guitarist pushes the string into the guitar using a right-hand finger.
The sound is sweeter for melodic passages. And the technique also allows the fingers to alternate quickly for fast passages.
Flamenco dance is perhaps the most recognized element of flamenco music. Dancers wear distinctive clothing. And they commonly sing and clap, or play castanets.
Flamenco has many different forms, and dancers are one of the most popular. The movements are fascinating to see. The movement of the body conveys different emotions.
Flamenco dancers learn many of the dances that are typical of flamenco. Bulerias, Tango, Alegrias, and Guajira are a few examples of different dance forms that a dancer may perform.
About Spanish Guitar Notation and Tabs
Many classical and Spanish guitar players learn to read sheet music notation. This has been common practice since the early 1800s. Before that, tablature was used for most instruments in the early-guitar family.
Standard notation gives players instructions on what note to play. It also can denote where to play the note. Plus, it can provide cues for expression, volume, and tone quality.
“Fingerings” are an important part of guitar notation. These let the guitarist know which finger to use. Many notes have more than one option on the guitar. So fingerings can reduce confusion. For the right hand, fingerings can offer suggestions on the easiest way to play a passage.
There are also symbols that correspond to specific guitar techniques. Some of these techniques include rasgueados, tremolo, harmonics, and tambora (a percussive effect).
Tablature was the original notation used for learning most early guitar instruments. The lute, vihuela, and baroque guitar all used tablature.
There were different types of tablature. The most well-known styles were French, German, and Spanish. The main differences pertained to how the tablature was read. These systems used letters or numbers to indicate frets. Lines were used to indicate which string was played. And some offered rhythms written above the lines.
Students of classical and Spanish guitar often use music notation and/or tablature (TABs). Learning to read music (standard notation) is a special study that takes time. But this opens the doors to more and varied repertoire.
Notable Spanish Composers
Isaac Albeniz was born in 1860 in the town of Camprodon, Spain. His family discovered his musical talents at a young age. He spent his life composing, performing, and teaching piano all over the world.
Albeniz was a pianist, but his works have been frequently transcribed to guitar. These days, he is more known for these transcriptions than for his original piano music.
Albeniz’s music strikes listeners around the world as the authentic sound of Spain. His influence reaches from jazz to pop.
Albeniz composed pieces such as the “Suite Espanola” and “Iberia Suite”. Both are now landmarks in the Spanish piano repertoire.
One of his most notable collections is the famous opus 47. Pieces such as “ Asturias – Leyenda”, “Granada”, and “Sevilla” have become popular guitar arrangements.
Albeniz was influenced by Felipe Pedrell. Pedrell was a musicologist and teacher. He worked with other composers of notable fame like Manuel de Falla and Enrique Granados.
He was also friends with Francisco Tarrega. Albeniz heard Tarrega perform his arrangements of Albeniz’s music. It’s an unproven legend that Albeniz stated he preferred his pieces played on the guitar. However, Albeniz never composed for the guitar.
Francisco Tarrega was born in Villarreal, Spain in 1852. At the time, the guitar was not considered a serious concert instrument. His father supported Tarrega’s playing guitar, but only if he also studied piano. He became proficient at the piano, achieving a high level. His knowledge of the piano repertoire would help him arrange many works for the guitar.
There was little repertoire for the guitar at the time. So Tarrega arranged works by composers including Isaac Albeniz, Joaquin Malats, Franz Schubert, J.S. Bach, and others.
Tarrega also composed well-known works that we recognize as standards today. Popular compositions include, among others, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Lagrima, Adelita, Grand Valse, and Capricho Arabe.
Along with arranging and composing, Tarrega also taught. Tarrega’s teachings marked a turning point in the history of the classical guitar. His students included Miguel Llobet, Daniel Fortea, and Emilio Pujol, and others. These students would go on to have fruitful careers and spread Tarrega’s ideas and methods to the wider world.
Today Francisco Tarrega is celebrated throughout the guitar world. Performers program his music in concerts worldwide. And guitarists of all levels continue to study his etudes, preludes, and large works. His charming style still resonates across the centuries.
Joaquin Rodrigo was born in 1901 near Valencia, Spain. An accident left him blind in his childhood. He had a gift for music and didn’t let his visual ability impair his musical abilities. He began music lessons at the age of 6 and started to take composition and harmony lessons at the age of 16.
He had a love of the guitar which led him to write many staples of the guitar repertoire. Popular pieces include the “Tres Piezas Espanolas”, “Concierto de Aranjuez”, and other concertos.
The “Concierto de Aranjuez” is the most performed guitar concerto in the world today. Written for Spanish guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza, it is one of many concertos that Rodrigo wrote for guitar. “Fantasia Por Un Gentilhombre” was later written for Andres Segovia. The two concertos are often performed or recorded together.
Rodrigo’s music has many elements. He mixes a love of early music, a splash of Spanish influence, and a modern musical approach. These elements translate well through the guitar’s voice.
Notable Spanish Guitarists
Andres Segovia was an influential figure in the history of the Spanish guitar. He brought the guitar to a larger audience in the 20th century.
He was born in Linares, Spain in 1893. After moving to Granada around 1908, he discovered the guitar. He could not find a teacher, so he taught himself. Segovia stated: “(I was) my own teacher and pupil, and thanks to the efforts of both, they were not discontented with each other.”
Segovia encouraged composers such as Manuel Maria Ponce, Heitor Villa Lobos, Manuel de Falla, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and others to write for the guitar. Many of those pieces are standards of the repertoire today.
Segovia worked hard to improve the quality of teaching on the guitar. He taught legends like John Williams, Oscar Ghiglia, Christopher Parkening, Julian Bream, and Alirio Diaz.
Segovia’s efforts helped cement the validity of the guitar on the classical music stage. He helped establish a standard repertoire, technique, and method for the guitar that has changed little in the last 100 years.
Narciso Yepes was born in Lorca, Spain in 1927. He was a guitarist with a unique Spanish sound. Yepes didn’t study with any guitar teacher for long. He received his musical education from other instrumentalists and composers.
Yepes gained fame after performing the “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. He continued to practice and learn even after gaining fame.
He took lessons with many prominent international figures. These include George Enescu (Romanian composer and violinist), Nadia Boulanger (Influential French composer), and Walter Gieseking (German pianist and composer).
In the 1960s, Yepes began to play the 10 string guitar. The extra strings extended the range of the instrument. This allowed him to experiment with the music of various musical time periods and transcribe pieces from other instruments.
Yepes is recognized for his research into early music (music that spans the years 500 – 1750) and his popularization of the 10 string guitar. Here he is performing the famous “Spanish Romance”.
Paco de Lucia
Paco de Lucia was born on December 21st, 1947 in Algeciras, Spain. He was one of the few flamenco guitarists to reach international fame.
His father introduced him to guitar at age five. He was an enthusiastic student. Paco De Lucia describes his relationship with the guitar this way: “I learned the guitar like a child learns to speak.”
Like most Flamenco guitarists, he started his career by playing with a dance troupe. In his early days, it was not common for solo flamenco guitarists to have careers independent of a group.
While known for his flamenco music, he was also proficient in other genres. A life-long learner, he gained knowledge from working with musicians in various styles.
Since then, he has redefined the genre. He composed pieces using modern harmonies. He added percussion and other instruments to his ensembles. And now, many modern flamenco guitarists emulate his sound and style.
Pepe Romero was born in Malaga, Spain in 1944. He’s known as a musician of the highest caliber. His career has spanned six generations, both as a soloist and a chamber musician.
His family influenced his musical upbringing. He studied guitar with his father, Celedonio Romero. When his father was away playing concerts he would study with his older brother, Celin Romero. Pepe’s mother was an opera singer. Her influence was important in his musical development and love for opera.
Pepe has championed the music of many Spanish composers. These include Joaquin Rodrigo, Fernando Sor, Francisco Tarrega, and Isaac Albeniz.
Pepe’s interpretations of the traditional Spanish repertoire are legendary. The Concierto de Aranjuez, the most performed concerto in the world, is a key piece of his repertoire. He has performed the piece with the world’s leading orchestras.
Pepe has taught many students throughout the years. Some of his well-known students include Scott Tennant, Christopher Parkening, and William Kanengiser.
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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