Ferdinando Carulli (February 9, 1770 – February 17, 1841) was a prolific Italian classical guitar composer. Similar to Carcassi, Carulli is mostly well-known for his pedagogical studies rather than his solo guitar works. Carulli did write plenty of fine solo works for guitar, but his simple, yet profound studies are what give him a lasting legacy in the guitar world today.
Although Carulli received music theory and cello training at a young age, there were no guitar teachers in Naples. As a result, Carulli learned guitar through self-study and the advancement of the guitar as a concert instrument. After successful concert tours throughout Europe, he settled down in Paris where he lived until his death.
You can find free sheet music for Ferdinando Carulli here.
Popular Guitar works by Carulli
École de guitare, Op.241
Carulli wrote over 400 compositions for the guitar, including his influential Méthode complète pour guitare ou lyre, Op.27–a book that’s still referenced in guitar pedagogy today.
Carulli’s method book went through several iterations, including an important one entitled École de guitare, Op.241 (Guitar School), which can be found on the IMSLP website here. Carulli’s Op.241 edition is very well organized, and jumps quickly from simple note reading studies to beautiful melodic and harmonic studies. Students and professionals alike can tell this is a thoughtful collection, written by a lifelong master of the craft!
The short studies in Op.241 are perfect for beginner guitarists. In fact, these studies are so effective I’ve even featured two of them on my album 20 Classical Guitar Etudes for Beginner and Intermediate Students. You can also see one of my favorites, Etude No.5, Op.241: Andantino performed below:
Another Carulli classic is Op.241 No.19: Andantino. This piece is excellent for analyzing form and learning about key modulations:
Yet another Carulli piece with tremendous value is an unnumbered study from Op.241, which I’ve given the simple title “Andante in D Major”. This piece is full of melodic slurs (hammer-ons and pull-offs), and a variety of other techniques that help students progress. This study can also be found in the popular Bridges – Guitar Repertoire and Etudes – Level 5 edition (Study No.3):
In an effort to ‘elevate’ the instrument for the concert stage, Carulli was one of the first to compose a concerto featuring the guitar. One of the most popular compositions is his Concerto in A Major, Op.8a. You can hear a superb recording of the concerto played by Pepe Romero here: