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Spanish Dance for Classical Guitar (full lesson plus bonuses)

spanish dance for classical guitarOne of the great things about playing classical guitar is getting the chance to explore the rich world of Spanish music.

Spanish guitar music has its own distinct sound.  This sound what comes to mind when many people think of classical guitar.

In fact, for centuries, the instrument we know as classical guitar has often been called the “Spanish guitar”.  This became popular at a time when anything in Europe that was seductive or sexy was called “Spanish”.  (Go Spain!)

Spanish Dance for Classical Guitar

In this full lesson video, we will explore “Spanish Dance”.

The composer is unknown. Quite possibly this is one of many iterations of a much older piece.  This is one of the many traditional Spanish guitar pieces that is been passed along, adapted, morphed, and otherwise loved for hundreds of years.


Divide and conquer: simplifying music for better practice

One of the main points I seek to demonstrate with this piece is the idea of practicing the elements that make up a piece, instead of just playing the piece over and over.

I think Sun Tzu would agree with me here: It’s easier to master small tasks than big ones.   And it’s quicker and more efficient to use superior forces for multiple small gains than to go all-in on one big push.  This is an age-old strategy that has shaped the world.  Now you can use it to shape your guitar practice!

Identify Patterns

note:  This way of practicing also complements learning by using the 7-step process I have written about elsewhere.

In this piece, there are a few different patterns that we can identify.

The pedal toneSD ex 1

The first musical pattern we can identify is the repeating high note.

A note that repeats over a long period of time, and move through many different harmonies  (different chords) is often called a “pedal tone” or just “pedal”.  Sometimes you can also think of it as a “Drone”.

For practice purposes, we can omit this altogether. This enables us to focus all of our attention on the moving notes.

After we have the moving line in our hands, we then add the top note back in.

Patterns in the melodySD ex2

Another pattern we can find in this piece is how many measures start with a note, go to another note, and then return to the first note.

We can simplify this pattern as well in our practice to get more familiar with the larger sweep of the piece.

To this end, I have included in the bonus materials the “melody framework”. This simplifies the melody to just one or two notes per measure.

By looking at it from this global position, we can better understand how the overall line (movement of the melody) is moving. We can base our choices of dynamics (swells and fades) from this.

Chord shapesSD ex3

One more pattern we could notice in this piece is that each measure is made up of a single chord position.  In other words, if you played all the notes at the same time, it would be a chord.

To more quickly learn this piece, we can simply practice the left-hand chord shapes.

In this way, we can see each measure as a single chord shape. This makes it much easier to memorize, and to practice more efficiently and quickly.

Practicing the chord shapes in this way relates to step five of the seven-step process of learning pieces.

I have also given you the chord shapes in the bonus materials. For an extra challenge, identify the name of each chord.  I have included an answer key so that you can check your work.

“I just downloaded your Spanish Dance packet and as soon as I opened it, I had a major epiphany, and wanted to say THANK YOU!!

I began formal CG lessons about six months ago and have been struggling with left hand fingerings (finding the right string, finding the right note, shifting positions, etc) all while keeping in time and rhythm.

When I opened your Spanish Dance, I noticed one of the first things you provided was a chord list by measure. Initially, I was confused because I didn’t remember hearing any chord in the piece when I watched your video.

Then, your musical genius hit me! By thinking of the piece “by measure” rather than “note by note”, you can see and use common chord shapes (+/- a note here and there) to make your left hand transitions smoother and easier to manage! Not sure why I didn’t see this before, especially with your focus on chord shapes and scales in other videos…

Now pieces are a lot easier to digest and play! My left hand is more steady and consistent as it is not trying to move all over the place looking for individual notes. I’m going back and spending a lot more time re-learning all the chords I subtly glossed over thinking that they didn’t pertain to CG because I’m no longer just strumming chords. Thanks you again for sharing your insight and music with the world!!”   Paul Nicholas

Using This Approach in Other Music

In addition to learning pieces using the seven steps, you can look for patterns and other ways to simplify the music you are working on.

As you practice looking for ways to separate the music into its different parts (bass, melody, interior voices, chords, rhythms, patterns, etc.), you will understand your music on a deeper level.

This will enable you to learn and memorize music more quickly, to play more beautifully (because of your deeper understanding of the different parts), and to stay more engaged in your practice (which makes it more fun).

Over to you

Please share your experiences and or questions about this piece and these processes in the comments below!


5 Responses to Spanish Dance for Classical Guitar (full lesson plus bonuses)

  1. John Andersson March 3, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Fantastic lesson. The Spanish Dance is going to be my next piece that I will learn. But before that Im going to apply the steps as set out on my current piece. It is an inspirational and fun way of approaching my learning

  2. Hanne March 1, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    Your lessons give so much sense especially your latest right and left hands videos was a eye opener for me. Thank you ever so much :-))

    • Allen March 1, 2015 at 11:00 am #

      Thanks Hanne! I am thrilled that you are getting good use from them!

  3. Paul Austin February 28, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Hello Allen, I’ve always been taught (and heard) that the left thumb should always remain in the center of the neck while playing. However, I noticed that you have your thumb up to the fretboard much like a normal accoustical player would do. Can you explain?



    • Allen February 28, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for the question. You are right: in general, you should keep your thumb behind the fingers. There are a couple of reasons my thumb my be up higher than you would expect.
      First, when playing chords, and making sure that all the notes ring out (not dampen), the fingers need to come straight down on the strings. This is sometimes easier or more comfortable with the thumb a little higher. There can (in some cases) also be less tension in the hand this way as well (but only sometimes: don’t go crazy!).
      Second, I was just sight-reading, and my attention probably wasn’t on my thumb placement. I assure you that when I am playing “for serious” (or more physically challenging pieces), I dedicate more attention to such things. So in short, perhaps just laziness? Oversight? or brilliant spontaneous adjustment? I honestly don’t know. It was a subconscious decision in the moment, I guess.

      Thanks for the question,

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