Argentine guitarist and composer Julio Salvador Sagreras (1879-1942) is known for his series of instructional resources, namely, Las primeras segundas y terceras lecciones de guitarra books 1-6. In my opinion, these collections remain as one of the most methodical and well constructed teaching resource to help students progress from beginner to intermediate to advanced levels.
What’s so special about the Sagreras studies? First, these studies help you read and identify notes and common techniques for guitar. Specifically, Sagreras emphasizes bringing out the melody line clearly, while reducing the volume of accompanying notes. Indeed, almost every exercise in Book Two stresses the importance of this technique.
Therefore, the melodies in each of the Sagreras lessons are absolutely stunning and gorgeous. Playing through the Sagreras studies will help improve your overall guitar tonality and sense of of control. Moreover, these are some of the best studies I’ve ever come across to help students read notes in upper positions of the guitar neck.
Sagreras Book 2 Lessons
Sagreras Book 1 is ideal for beginners and even early intermediate players. Book 2 starts right off with more complex guitar works for the intermediate level. Because I love these studies so much, I’ve started to post my performances of them on YouTube! If you lime these Sagreras lessons, please subscribe to my YouTube channel to stay informed!
Book 2, Lesson No.1
Lesson 1 is marked “Aire de Barcarola” and “Melancólico”, meaning it should be played in the spirit of a melancholy boat song. The piece is a typical Barcarola in 6/8 time. As the chords slide up and down the lower end of the neck, one can certainly feel a sense of rocking, as though you’re sitting in a boat that’s swaying side to side.
This lesson is great for demonstrating how to slide basic chord shapes to form familiar chords, primarily in the key of A minor. Another goal of the piece as indicated by Sagreras is to try to keep squeaking to a minimum when gliding up and down the strings. I highly recommend this beginner classical guitar etude to anyone interested in taking their playing and note reading to the next level!
Book 2, Lesson No.3
Lesson 3 is marked “Tiempo de Zamba”, based on a folk dance from Argentina. Similar to other Zambas, this etude is in 6/8 time and has some tricky rhythmic patterns.
The piece begins in A minor, briefly modulates to C major, then returns to the original key of A minor. Bringing out the accented notes, sliding swiftly and accurately, and keeping a steady tempo are all aspects that make this piece challenging–and exciting!
Book 2, Lesson No.5
Even though this is the fifth study in Sagreras Book 2, many students find this one to be more difficult than subsequent studies that follow. The piece is dark, intense, and dramatic!
The goal of Lesson No.5 is to bring out the melodic bass line, while keeping a steady pulse with the accompaniment. The piece really opens up about half way through (measure 7) where the accompaniment switches from i-m to i-a, and the chord shapes shift up the neck. If you’re new to reading sheet music on the higher parts of the neck of the guitar, this study can be very helpful–especially on the A and D strings!
Book 2, Lesson No.6
Lesson 6 is marked “Andantino”, which is a lighthearted tempo that’s slightly faster than Andante.
The goal of Lesson 6 is to clearly bring out the melody line in the upper voice played with the right hand ring finger (a). However, the i-m accompaniment adds to the complexity of this etude, as it frequently alternates between strings 2 and 3, and 3 and 4.
Lesson 6 also features the campanella technique in measure 17 (imitating the tone of a bell). This occurs when a the pitch you play of a lower string is higher than a higher open string–an essential guitar technique and sound.
Book 2, Lesson No.7
The distinctive goal of Sagreras Book 2, Lesson No.7 is to carefully accent the right hand index (i) finger in each phrase. This results in an exciting syncopated feel to an arpeggio pattern that might seem somewhat “routine” otherwise.
Since the index finger needs to also accent the last notes in each chord phrase, the player has to be able to shift quickly and cleanly to prepare for the next sequence. Overall, Lesson No.7 proves to be one of the trickier early studies in Sagreras Book 2.
Book 2, Lesson No.8
Similar to other studies in this collection, Lesson No.8 has an A and B section. However, this study is unique in that the character of the B section contrasts strongly to the A section–they almost feel like two different pieces!
After a relatively slow and melodic A section in the upper register, the B section takes off with a brisk and animated (“píu animato”) tempo with the bass line driving the melody. The piece ends with a swift chromatic run, followed by a dramatic finale.
Book 2, Lesson No.9
Lesson 9 is in the key of D major, 6/8 time with the tempo marking “Allegretto cómodo”, meaning play comfortably fast. Yet again, Sagreras has given us a beautiful melody, surrounded by deceptively difficult harmonic material up and down the fretboard. Perhaps the most challenging part of this etude is precisely muting the bass notes while keeping up the lively tempo.
Book 2, Lesson No.10
Lesson No.10 is in the key of E minor, and is a terrific study for practicing full chords with p-i-m-a with light syncopation. The movement of the chords up and down the fretboard is intricate, and yet this is just as much a right hand study as it is a left hand study! If you’re new to reading notes in the upper position, or get dizzy when confronted with reading chords or multiple notes stacked on top of each other–this is the study for you!
Book 2, Lesson No.11
Lesson 11 is marked “Tiempo de vals”, meaning it’s a moderately paced waltz-like piece in 3/4 time. This Sagreras study in the key of A minor is dark and intense! The familiar “boom-chuck-chuck” rhythm of the waltz is interspersed with accented arpeggio phrases, and two measures of octave syncopation in the middle. If you’re new to reading notes in the fifth position (fifth fret), I highly recommend checking out Lesson No.11 by Sagreras!
Book 2, Lesson No.12
This Sagreras study in the key of E major, and is very chordal (meaning it features lots of chords rather than single notes).
This etude is tricky for a couple of reasons: First, there are many delicate right hand shifts where a-m, a-i, and i-m have to play at the same time. Maintaining a consistent tone between these shifts while bringing out the melody is important and requires patience!
Second, Lesson No.12 helps you learn how to play a piece SLOWLY (Andante) with light syncopation in 6/8 time. Usually when we see a 6/8 time signature, our impulse is to play it like a quick dance piece! While this study is certainly lively, the most important to work on is keeping a steady tempo and consistent tone between the different voices.
Book 2, Lesson No.13
Sagreras’ Lesson 13 is in A Major and E Major with the tempo marking “Tiempo lento de Mazurka” (3/4 time).
Lesson No.13 is challenging in several ways. First and foremost, you need to make sure the high dotted half notes in the melody line don’t get caught off by your other fingers when they play the bass notes.
Second, you’ll notice that different right hand fingers are responsible for the accents throughout the piece. This deliberate inconsistency make the piece more difficult, but also makes each phrase sound slightly unique! Practicing the ability to accent using each right hand finger is something Sagreras promotes heavily throughout Book 2, and Lesson 13 is no exception!
Third, Book 2 Lesson No.13 is a great study for students learning to read notes in the upper position AND for those who have difficulty playing chord shapes on the treble strings clearly. Sometimes when a lot of fingers are required for chords on the treble strings, our fingers can overlap slightly and cause interference. You’ll definitely be able to tell if that’s happening when you play this classical guitar study!
Book 2, Lesson No.14
Lesson 14 is a tragically beautiful and melodic study in the key of D minor, 3/4 time. This study starts off almost exactly the same way as Tárrega’s famous piece “¡Adelita!, and I’ve always felt the two pieces have a similar vibe.
The main technique Lesson No.14 focuses on is descending slurs. Sagreras explicitly states that “In playing descending slurs, the left hand finger that should press the most is not the finger that pulls the slur off, but rather that remains holding the string down on the fretboard for the 2nd note which must remain firm enough to resist the sideways movement of the string as a result of the movement of the finger articulating the slur.”
Lesson No.14 is certainly an excellent opportunity to practice that skill! He also asks that you articulate the first note of the slur clearly.
Book 2, Lesson No. 15
Book 2, Lesson 15 is a great study for building barre chord endurance.
The A section of this short study features bold, robust chords in various positions, with some light melodic material bouncing between the bass and the treble.
The following B section takes on a slightly different character, as indicated by the “tranquilo” marking, lighter harmonies, and boom-chuck feel of the chords.
All of this delicate balancing between voices makes Sagreras’ Book 2, Lesson No. 15 a beautiful and challenging intermediate classical guitar study.
Other Popular Guitar Works by Julio Sagreras
In addition to his collection of studies, Sagreras also has a couple of notable solo works that are popular to preform.
El Colibri (The Hummingbird) is the most well-known classical guitar piece by Julio Sagreras. The piece is full of melodic and scale runs at break-neck speed, so one can easily imagine a hummingbird flying erratically to and fro.