20 Classical Guitar Etudes for Beginner & Intermediate Students

  1. Tárrega – Estudio in C Major
  2. Tárrega – Estudio in E Minor
  3. Giuliani – Op.100, No.1: Maestoso
  4. Giuliani – Op.100, No.11: Caprice
  5. Giuliani – Op.100, No.15: Rondo Allegro
  6. Giuliani – Op.139, No.3: Allegretto
  7. Carulli – Op.241, No.5: Andantino
  8. Carulli – Op.241, No.19: Andantino
  9. Carcassi – Op.60, No.1: Allegro
  10. Carcassi – Op.60, No.2: Moderato Expressivo
  11. Carcassi – Op.60, No.6: Moderato
  12. Carcassi – Op.60, No.7: Allegro
  13. Aguado – Estudio in A Minor
  14. Sor – Op.31, No.1: Andante
  15. Sor – Op.31, No.3: Allegro Moderato
  16. Sor – Op.35, No.1: Andante
  17. Sor – Op.35, No.2: Andantino
  18. Sor- Op.35, No.3: Larghetto
  19. Sor- Op.35, No.22: Allegretto (Study in B Minor)
  20. Brouwer – Estudios Sencillos: No.6

March 6, 2020

I’m very excited to announce the release of my latest album: 20 Classical Guitar Etudes for Beginner & Intermediate Students. To all of my students, former professors, and followers, THANK YOU for making this project possible! I’m eternally grateful for your support.

The album 20 Classical Guitar Etudes for Beginner & Intermediate Students is a collection of some of favorite classical guitar studies to teach to students. These are especially helpful if you’re at beginner and early intermediate stages of learning classical guitar.

So if you’re searching for “easy classical guitar songs” or “classical guitar for beginners”, then you’ll love the etudes in this collection! Intermediate players will also find many of these pieces useful for improving various classical guitar techniques.

Many of the pieces, such as Carcassi Op.60 Etude No.7, are well-known in classical guitar pedagogical circles. However, this album also includes some lesser-known etudes that students have responded well to. They’re also studies I’ve grown to love over the years.

Jonathan Richter classical guitar in Atlanta

Apart from their intrinsic teaching value, each etude has a clear and (in my opinion) beautiful melody line. My overall goal with this project is to highlight some of the lesser-known etudes in these popular collections. I hope doing so will give them the renewed attention they deserve.

I also hope this album can inspire students of all ages who are struggling to take their guitar skills to the next level. You don’t always have to play the most difficult pieces in the classical repertoire in order to make beautiful, meaningful music!

What are classical guitar etudes?

The word etude, or étude, is a French term meaning “study”. In music, an etude is an individual piece that focuses on a specific technique or set of techniques.

Even though the point of an etude is to focus on technical improvement, you can also play them with artistry and grace.

Classical guitar etudes usually focus on either left hand or right hand development.

Guitar etudes can help you with the following:

  • Playing familiar chord shapes
  • Arpeggios
  • Getting fluid with scales
  • Harmony and chord structure
  • Separating the bass and melody lines
  • Balancing the tone of each note
  • Increasing speed
  • Improving overall tone
  • Tremolo
  • Harmonics
  • Various time signatures and rhythmic devices

Etude Titles, Descriptions, Audio, Videos, and Sheet Music

Below is a track list of the album, with links to each track on Spotify. You’ll notice that I’ve also created my own arrangements for several of these etudes. I’ll continue to add the arrangements to the Sheet Music page of my website, so stay tuned!

In addition, I’ve recently created a YouTube account where I will publish original videos for some of these outstanding pieces. Please subscribe if you feel inspired!

Lastly, please follow me on Spotify to keep up with my latest releases and playlists! Thanks for your support!

1. Estudio in C Major – Tárrega

This is a beautiful arpeggio study, and possibly the “easiest” Francisco Tárrega piece! You can learn more about it here.

No.1
Title: Estudio in C Major
Composer: Francisco Tárrega
Sheet Music: Estudio in C Major

2. Estudio in E Minor – Tárrega

Tárrega’s well-known Estudio in E minor guitar study helps familiarize the common (a-m-i) right hand pattern. You also have the opportunity to practice barre chord articulation while maintaining a melodic line with relatively wide left hand stretches. This guitar study also helps you learn how to play a melody line while holding a barre chord.

No.2
Title: Estudio in E Minor
Composer: Francisco Tárrega

3. Op.100, No.1: Maestoso – Giuliani

Italian guitar composer Mauro Giuliani’s Op.100 is comprised of 24 cadenzas, caprices, rondos, and preludes. These short studies are lively and melodic. Giuliani’s Op.100 offers plenty of fun and challenging patterns for both the left and right hands. The difficulty level may be suitable for beginners and intermediate guitarists alike.

The Italian term Maestoso means it should be played in a dignified, majestic, stately fashion.

You can learn more about the Giuliani’s Etude No.1 here or by checking out the links below.

No.3
Title: Etude No. 1, Op. 100: Maestoso
Composer: Mauro Giuliani
Sheet Music: Etude No. 1, Op. 100: Maestoso

4. Op.100, No.11: Caprice – Giuliani

Mauro Giuliani’s Etude No.11, Op.100 doesn’t waste any time bringing intensity and passion. Right off the bat, we hear an intricate “call and response” dialogue between the bass and treble voices. This theme of duality continues throughout this intermediate etude. As a result, students have to pay especially close attention to voicing and control of the right hand.

No.4
Title: Etude No. 11, Op. 100: Caprice
Composer: Mauro Giuliani

5. Op.100, No.15: Rondo Allegro – Giuliani

Giuliani’s Etude No.15, Op.100 is an exciting study in rondo form. After a bouncy opening in A major, the piece modulates directly to the parallel minor key of A minor. This section has a clearer separation of bass and treble voices.

The piece then returns to similar material in A major, but this time with an extended ending. To me, the bass line bouncing between the tonic and dominant notes sounds like the tolling of church bells. This brings the etude to a cheerful and exciting conclusion.

No.5
Title: Etude No. 15, Op. 100: Rondo Allegro
Composer: Mauro Giuliani

6. Op.139, No.3: Allegretto – Giuliani

One can hear the Italian operatic influence on Giuliani very strongly in his Op.139, Etude No.3: Allegretto. Mauro Giuliani was friends with the famous opera composer Gioachino Rossini, and this piece demonstrates the value of that friendship’s effect for guitar pedagogy!

This intermediate guitar etude in D major introduces chord shapes and patterns that are common in various guitar styles. Moreover, one can really feel the independent personality of each string and voicing. The piece concludes just like any good opera: all the voices come together to form a dramatic conclusion!

No.6
Title: Etude No. 3, Op. 139: Allegretto
Composer: Mauro Giuliani

7. Op.241, No.5: Andantino – Carulli

Italian composer Ferdinando Carulli is well-known for his classical guitar studies and contributions to guitar pedagogy. Carulli’s Etude No.5, Op.241 in G major is one of my favorites to play and teach beginner classical guitarists.

Carulli’s Op.241 is an edited version from his successful “Methode Op. 27”. This method book which went through several iterations during his lifetime. In this study, you’ll learn how to play multiple notes at the same time, and how to bring out a clear melody. 

No.7
Title: Etude No. 5, Op. 241: Andantino
Composer: Ferdinando Carulli

8. Op.241, No.19: Andantino – Carulli

Carulli’s Etude No.19 is from the same collection as the previous track. It’s a fun beginner classical guitar etude in the key of A minor. The piece is broken up into four distinct sections, the third of which modulates to the relative major key (C major).

If you’re interested in becoming more familiar with common notes and chord shapes in first position, this etude will help!

No.8
Title: Etude No. 19, Op. 241: Andantino
Composer: Ferdinando Carulli

9. Op.60, No.1: Allegro – Carcassi

Matteo Carcassi’s Op.60 is one of the most renowned collections of classical guitar etudes in history. Each piece incorporates valuable techniques and exercises, and includes beautiful melody lines. Etude No.1, while largely based on various scale material, also includes moments of melodic and harmonic interest. Speed, accuracy, and articulation are the core concepts to work on in this intermediate study.

No.9
Title: Etude No. 1, Op. 60: Allegro
Composer: Matteo Carcassi
Sheet Music: Etude No.1, Op. 60: Allegro

10. Op.60, No.2: Moderato Expressivo – Carcassi

Matteo Carcassi’s Etude No.2, Op.60 Moderate Expressivo is one of the best intermediate classical guitar studies for introducing the classical tremolo technique (p-a-m-i). Although it doesn’t strictly follow the tremolo pattern, the right had mechanics are similar. I use p-i-m-a-m-i-m-a, whereas other use p-i-m-a-m-a-m-a.

The melody of Carcassi’s Etude No.2 is both beautiful and dramatic right away. This is also a terrific study for learning to read and play common chord shapes higher up the neck.

Getting the right hand pattern consistent and memorizing the chord shapes is one already difficult enough. But you can take this etude to the next level by paying close attention to the dynamics. Moreover, playing this piece “con expressivo” takes a lot of practice and control.

No.10
Title: Etude No. 2, Op. 60: Moderato Expressivo
Composer: Matteo Carcassi

11. Op.60, No.6: Moderato – Carcassi

Carcassi’s Etude No.6: Moderato is an intermediate guitar study that starts off with a lively, bold bass line. Later, the melody moves to the middle voice. Then finally, the individual voices play off each other and overlap in a call and response fashion. The parts eventually converge into luscious chords for a mellow, yet dramatic conclusion.

No.11
Title: Etude No. 6, Op. 60: Moderato
Composer: Matteo Carcassi

12. Op.60, Etude No.7: Allegro – Carcassi

Etude No.7 is probably the most popular from Carcassi’s Op.60 collection. Although the passages that include the recurring p-a-m-i are somewhat brief, this study is a superb introduction to the tremolo technique. This brilliant intermediate etude is beloved by guitarists of various levels. When you hear it, the reason why is clear!

No.12
Title: Etude No. 7, Op. 60: Allegro
Composer: Matteo Carcassi

13. Estudio in A Minor – Aguado

Dionisio Aguado’s Estudio in A minor is one of my all-time favorite studies for beginner classical guitarists. This study provides an excellent introduction to arpeggios, while still including interesting phrasing and rich harmonic material.

This study has a repeating right hand arpeggio pattern of p-i-m-i. In this study, students learn how to bring out a distinctive bass melody with the thumb while maintaining a steady accompaniment with the index and middle fingers. You can learn more about this Aguado study here or by checking out the links below.

No.13
Title: Estudio in A Minor
Composer: Dionisio Aguado
Sheet Music: Estudio in Am

14. Op.31, No.1: Andante – Sor

Fernando Sor’s Op.31, Etude No. 1: Andante is a fine composition in C major that’s perfect for beginner classical guitar students. One of the main benefits of this study is learning how to read harmony. In other words, learning how to play two or more notes at the same time. Along with the harmony, you can also focus on playing a clear and definitive melody.

The piece is in 3/4 time, and often features a dance-like pulse emphasizing beats one and three. You can learn more about Sor’s Op.31, No.1 here or by checking out the links below.

No.14
Title: Etude No. 1, Op. 31: Andante
Composer: Fernando Sor
Sheet Music: Etude No.1, Op.31: Andante

15. Op.31, No.3: Allegretto Moderato – Sor

Sor’s Op.31, Etude No. 3: Allegretto moderato is an upbeat study for students in the upper beginner or early intermediate level. The piece is in the key of D major, 6/8 time, giving the piece a dance-like quality.

Etude No.3 offers a variety of techniques, such as grace notes. These can be tricky to play at the appropriate tempo, Allegretto moderato, or roughly 85-110 BPM. You can learn more about Sor’s Op.31, No.3 here or by checking out the links below.

No.15
Title: No. 3, Op. 31: Allegretto Moderato
Composer: Fernando Sor
Sheet Music: No.3, Op.31: Allegretto Moderato

16. Op.35, No.1: Andante – Sor

Similar to Op.31, Sor’s Op.35 is a popular collection of studies for guitarists of all levels. Sor’s first etude from this collection, No.1: Andante is an excellent introduction to harmony, and playing two parts at once. You can learn more about Sor’s Op.35, No.1: Andante here. You can also hear and see a performance of the etude by checking out the links below.

No.16
Title: No. 1, Op. 35: Andante
Composer: Fernando Sor
Sheet Music: No.1, Op.35: Andante

17. Op.35, No.2: Andantino – Sor

I included Sor’s lively Op.35 Etude No.2: Andantino as a nice contrast to some of the slower Sor etudes in this collection. This beginner classical guitar etude is in C major, 3/8 time.

This etude is perfect for students still becoming familiar with chord shapes and common notes in first position. The harmonies in this etude keep the music moving in a crisp and deliberate manner.

No.17
Title: No. 2, Op. 35: Andantino
Composer: Fernando Sor
Sheet music: No.2, Op.35: Andantino

18. Op.35, No.3: Larghetto – Sor

Sor’s tragic Op.35 Etude No.3: Larghetto feels like a funeral march. This chordal piece gives students the opportunity to practice finding the balance between voices when playing the intense harmonic phrases. But don’t shed a tear! This piece is still suitable for students at the upper beginner level.

No.18
Title: No. 3, Op. 35: Larghetto
Composer: Fernando Sor

19. Op.35, No.22: Allegretto (Study in B Minor) – Sor

Etude No.22, Op.35 is possibly Sor’s most well-known classical guitar study. Part of this piece’s popularity is due to the fact that it was included in Segovia’s Twenty Studies for the Guitar. Therefore, this study is otherwise known as Segovia Study #5.

I consider this a solid guitar etude for the early intermediate level. At first, this piece sounds simple and somewhat repetitive. However, there are lots of nuances and tricky shifts that you only realize when learning to play it for yourself!

No.19
Title: No. 22, Op. 35: Allegretto (Study in B Minor)
Composer: Fernando Sor

20. Estudios Sencillos: No.6 – Brouwer

Contemporary Cuban guitar composer Leo Brouwer’s Estudio #6 is a terrific right hand study for beginner and intermediate guitarists.

This study has two distinctive right hand finger patterns.

The first pattern is p-a-m-i-a-m-i-p-a-m-i-p. The tricky part of this pattern is the string crossing that happens following the second thumb stroke (p). After this second thumb stroke, the final a-m-i pattern jumps up to strings 2, 3, and 4, rather than staying on strings 1, 2, and 3. This pattern, along with the thumb movement, creates an exciting effect across all six strings of the guitar.

Towards the end of the piece, the right hand pattern changes to p-a-m-i-p-a-m-i. Although the pattern is new, it still includes a string crossing effect like the first section. Leo Brouwer’s Estudios Sencillos: No.6 is an iconic right hand study. However, it also poses some unique challenges for the left hand.

No.20
Title: Estudios Sencillos: No. 6
Composer: Leo Brouwer

Published by Jonathan Richter

Classical guitarist, teacher and ethnomusicologist based in Atlanta, GA

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