15 Easy Classical Guitar Pieces With Sheet Music, Audio & Study Notes


A beginner student of the classical guitar will do well to have a set of pieces to perfect and play. The student derives not only the pleasure of playing a set but also gets to master aspects of sight reading and technique.

Playlist of beginner pieces for classical guitar

Aspects like time signature, finger alternation, arpeggios, playing in different keys, dynamics, tempo change, dotted notes and triplets, and bringing out a melody over other parts.

Fundamental technical issues will crop up in the first year of learning and must be dealt with. The 15 pieces that cover various aspects of technique very well are the following.

  • Allegretto by J.Kuffner
  • Study by Eythor Thorlaksson
  • Andantino by J.Kuffner
  • Allegretto by Anton Diabelli
  • Greensleeves by Anon
  • Waltz by Ferdinando Carulli
  • Silent Night by Anon (Traditional)
  • Andantino Op 241 No 5 by Ferdinando Carulli
  • Minuet in F by Anton Diabelli
  • Espanoleta by Gaspar Sanz
  • Study Op 35 No 14 by Fernando Sor
  • A Toy by Anonymous
  • Romanza by Francesco Molino
  • Study Op 51 No 1 by Mauro Giuliani
  • Study in E minor by Francisco Tarrega

01. Allegretto by J.Kuffner: Learn to play the arpeggio

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

The link above will download an entire collection of pieces called Guitar Moment by Eythor Thorlaksson. Eythor was an Icelandic player and teacher of the classical guitar and his transcriptions with fingering suggestions are highly regarded. Go to page 6 for the Allegretto.

This is an early piece which serves as a good introduction to many aspects of reading a score. Paying close attention to this piece (instead of merely playing it) will be rewarding.

Allegretto by J.Kuffner

1. Consistent rhythm: At a glance, you can tell there are only eighth notes throughout. That means once you start your count, your playing is required to be even and repetitive, rhythm-wise. There are no notes that are longer or shorter than any other in the whole piece, except at the very ends of sections.

2. Sections: There are two sections to the piece – 8 measures of section A to be repeated. And 16 measures of section B also to be repeated. For a beginner’s piece you get to play something substantial like 48 bars (with repeats). This is good practice for learning longer pieces in general. They require clarity and mental stamina besides the actual playing itself.

3. Those long curved lines: In measure 3 – and again at measure 19, there is a long curved line that connects the low D note to the next low D note. It means that the second of the same note is not played. The sound from the first note is expected to carry on ringing. So you don’t play the low D on measures 4 and 20. The formal name for this curve is a tie (connecting two notes of the same pitch).

4. Accidentals: The piece is in the key of C which is an all-natural key with no sharps or flats. In measure 13 however you meet an F which is marked with a # indicating it is to be played F-sharp. There is a similar indication at measure 15 to play the F sharp. The sign next to the third note of measure 16 ‘sets right’ the earlier two sharps and makes it natural again.

5. Tempo change: The title of the piece outlines a rough tempo. Allegretto is a decent and brisk pace, though not as fast as an allegro. For a beginner piece, this one surprisingly includes a tempo change marking, normally the preserve of more advanced repertoire. Under the second note of measure 16 you see rit, an abbreviation of ritardando, a gradual slowing of tempo.

This instruction is normally reset to normal by another instruction: a tempo, on measure 17. You will reduce the tempo of the last three notes of measure 16 and get back to normal speed on measure 17.

6. Arpeggios: In addition, this is a good introduction to arpeggios. An arpeggio is a ‘broken’ chord. If you have some experience in regular acoustic guitar playing, you will recognize the first two measures as nothing but the chord of C major.

Instead of a single strum, you play the notes successively. Not just that, the notes of the chord also conveniently fall under adjacent strings.

For instance, look at the very first measure. The thumb p plays the bass C note, the index finger i plays the open G on the 3rd string, the middle finger m plays the upper C note on the 2nd string and the ring (or annular) finger a plays the open high E, one after the other.

A similar right hand pattern occurs in the very next 2nd measure too, except the bass note here is the E on the 4th string.

This pair of arpeggiated measures repeats soon on measures 5 and 6, later in measures 17 ad 18, and towards the end in measures 21 and 22. There is a similar pair of arpeggiated patterns on measures 13 and 14 as well. Acoustic guitar strummers will recognize the chords here as D7 and G Major respectively.

Many tutors advise that you play such arpeggio patterns in music with a technique called finger planting. Instead of ’searching for single notes’ when arpeggios turn up in the score, you prepare by planting all the fingers – thumb and 3 fingers – on adjacent strings simultaneously and pluck each one after the other.

Spotting such patterns is key to understanding the music you are about to play.

That is a lot of musicality in a novice piece. Learn to observe every point mentioned above in your playing.

02. Study by Eythor Thorlaksson: Keep to a steady rhythm

Sheet music: Use the same Guitar Moment pdf you downloaded for piece No. 1. Go to page 5 find the Study.

Study by Eythor Thorlaksson

1. Tempo marking: Ad libitum is not a marking you generally come across in guitar literature. But the intent is clear: Play freely, with ease. Like a breeze.

2. Consistent rhythm: The notes, at a glance, are mostly eighth notes with an occasional quarter note in the melody. Once we pick a tempo that suits us (slowly in the beginning), the piece should fall under our fingers easily for there are no frequent timing changes in note durations.

3. Sections: The first 8 bars are the A section and meant to be repeated. The second 8 bars are the B section and finish off the piece without a repeat. That’s a total of 24 measures, a good size for a piece to play at this level.

4. Musical markings: The mf at the beginning of the piece indicates the intended dynamics, mezzo forte, kind of loud but not too much. In more advanced pieces, dynamics markings vary inside a piece, but here it calls for setting an initial volume and staying with it.

Another marking occurs in measure 10 where we see the number 3 enclosed in a circle with a dashed line carrying on till the end of measure 11. The enclosed 3 suggests the G string of the guitar, string number three. The dashed line instructs you to keep playing the notes on the 3rd string till the dashes end.

Which means you play not only the C note in measure 10 on the 3rd string but also the next 3 notes – B, A and G – on the 3rd string.

03. Andantino by J.Kuffner: Playing 3/4 time

Sheet music: Use the same Guitar Moment pdf you downloaded for the pieces above. Go to page 7 find the Andantino.

This piece carries on in a similar fashion with the use of sections that we saw in the two earlier pieces: 8 measures (repeated) of section A, followed by 16 measures of section B (not repeated) for a total of 32 measures. It also makes makes use of tied notes a bit.

In addition, there are a couple of points to observe in the performance of the piece.

Andantino by J.Kuffner Op 80

1. Time signature: We 3/4 time as the signature here – 3 beats to the measure. It is also known as waltz time. It has the familiar first-beat accented sound of BOOM-chik-chik, BOOM-chik-chik throughout. The BOOM thump here more often comes from a strongly played bass note at the beginning of a measure (although some measures break this pattern).

2. Dynamic marking: Unlike a single marking for an overall volume the piece is to be played at, there are dynamic instructions as the piece progresses. The first 8 bars are to be played mezzo forte (mf), kind of medium loud. Measure 9 wants you to duck the volume and get piano (soft) for 4 bars, the next 4 bars increase the volume back to the original mezzo forte, and the next 4 bars after that go piano again. The last 4 bars are meant to be played f – loud. You go out with a bang, so to speak.

Getting yourself to pay attention to a composer’s markings is the first step towards making music. Otherwise, you will only be playing mechanically one note after another.

04. Allegretto by A.Diabelli: Melody with broken chords

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

The left hand fingering markings are pretty well laid out and you’d do well to follow them. Section has 8 measures (no repeat) and section B has 16 measures with a repeat.

Allegretto by A.Diabelli

1. Playing two lines of music: The broken chords here spell out a melody in the treble strings while the bass notes underpin the piece. The aim is to bring out the top melody rather than play notes of a chord in succession. As the melody progresses in section B, you can sense the various chordal textures even though you are playing individual notes most of the time. This is only obvious if played to tempo.

2. Tempo marking: The specific tempo marking for a piece in terms of a metronome count is sometimes given by a composer, or more often, by an editor. This piece pins the quarter note to a count of 90 beats per minute. Set your physical or digital metronome to this number and and you’re all set.

In practice, of course, you’d hardly start working on a new piece at the final tempo. You’d cut it down to half or even less as required. In fact, it’s essential to slow down the tempo to whatever it is you are able to play through the entire piece accurately.

Speed will come naturally when accuracy is accomplished. It’s important you do not muddle through this phase. As a respected tutor of mine, Douglas Niedt, is fond of saying, don’t practise your mistakes!

05. Greensleeves by Anon: How to play the dotted note

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

For a song with lyrics that was composed in the late 16th century, its popularity has been such that a guitar student somewhere still plays it some 450 years later.

Silent Night (Traditional)

This is a piece set in 3/4 time signature. It is a good introduction to the dotted note. A dot next to a note increases its time by half. So a quarter note with a dot lasts for the time of a quarter note + an eighth note. A half note with a dot lasts for the time of a half note + quarter note.

That’s the math bit. In musical terms, the dotted note in 3/4 time gives a bounce or a lilt to the rhythm. It’s easier to hear it than read about it. Listen to the Greensleeves song to feel your way on how the dotted quarter notes sound. These last longer than the regular quarter note and less than a half note.

What about the dotted half notes in the piece? In a 3/4 piece, it’s easy to see each 1/4 note lasts for a beat and so a 1/2 note will last two beats. Placing a dot next to the half note makes it last 3 beats. Or we can say it lasts for the entire measure. Lasting a whole measure is convenient for a bass part to fill in consistently.

Printing errors in scores: One issue about free music sheets on the internet is accuracy. This piece shows an F on the first string in measure 18 which should actually be an F sharp. It’s the same error on measure 26 as well. Make sure that you correct your printed scores by marking these sharps in the two measures.

06. Waltz by Carulli: Learning a key with sharps

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

Waltz by F.Carulli

This is a simple piece set in 3/8 time signature. There is a regular pulse maintained by the low notes which are all dotted quarter notes lasting the entire bar. Over this steady bass accompaniment the upper notes play a simple melody.

This piece is also an introduction to the key of A, which along with the key of E, is so native to the classical guitar. The key has 3 sharps – C#, F# and G#. You have to train your mind to play the sharp notes whenever you read C, F or G on the score.

Obviously the left hand fingerings also change from the natural notes to their sharp equivalents. Once the new notes are gotten used to, the piece should be a breeze to play.

07. Silent Night by Anon: Playing a melody over full accompaniment

Free sheet music download link

Another traditional favorite that has lasted the ages. The main melody is something everyone knows but the arrangement here is what makes the song full bodied. It’s not the only way the song can be arranged and you will find many versions on the net. 

This particular arrangement may not be easy for every student starting out but it can be a good challenge to overcome for the ambitious student. There are dotted quarter notes and dotted half notes as we saw earlier and the time signature is also 3/4. 

What makes it a challenge is the effort and skill required to keep the melody notes (stems going up) distinct from the accompaniment notes (stems going down). The accompaniment notes notes do not stay in the usual bass registers of strings 6, 5 and 4. They sometimes go all the way up to high E on the open first string (in measure 18).

The trick is simple: play all accompaniment softer and all melody notes louder. Since the tune is something everyone knows, it should be easy to single out the melody notes in the score.

Play just the melody over and over. Get to know the finger moves. When you add everything else, play them softly. It takes repeated practice. That’s the way everyone does it. And, frankly, it’s the only way there is to arrive at a musical rendition.

08. Andantino Op 241 No 5 by Carulli: Get to know the pedal note

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

You can immediately see a whole lot of 16th notes crawling all over the page. You expect a faster tempo but then the piece is only an Andantino. OK, so we don’t have to be in tearing hurry, after all.

Andantino by F.Carulli

The F is sharp, so we are in the key of G and the time signature is 2/4. For all practical purposes this is not dissimilar to 4/4 time. The first 4 bars of the piece have an interesting feature of a pedal note that Giuliani (among others) made great use of in their studies and advanced pieces.

The open G note on the third string is the pedal note which keeps repeating as other notes above and below it do their thing. Since the pedal note repeats frequently it is considered bad taste to play the pedal note as loud in volume as the surrounding notes. It can get annoying, although not the first few times you play it. Once you get past enjoying its constant repetition, duck the volume!

There are some > marks in the second section. This is placed under those notes which have to be accented. Playing them a little louder while keeping everything else the same guides the ear into feeling the accent.

09. Minuet in F by Diabelli: Playing a flat key and following fingerings on the score

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

This introduces the key of F with its one flat note: Bb. Which means you avoid playing the open B string at all costs. Instead you remember to play the Bb note on the 3rd fret of the third string. Or, if it’s a bass note, you play the low Bb on the first fret of the 5th string.

Minuet by A.Diabelli

The time signature is 3/4 and the whole score has an easy look about it because most of the notes are all 8th notes played one after the other. Go for an even spacing of notes. The final tempo to reach is a quarter note at 96 beats per minute but you can start at half that speed to master accuracy first. Speed will come soon enough.

Follow the right hand and left hand fingering marks carefully. When a respected editor and composer like Edson Lopes goes to the trouble of putting down fingering choice, we must pay close attention. Such guidance is not always available. And it is easy to become thoughtless at this stage and play with whatever fingering that ‘comes naturally’.

Within a year, if not sooner, budding guitarists realize they have fallen into a bad habit of making arbitrary choices. The next level of pieces always reveals the deficiency in technique which then has to be painfully corrected.

Winging it is a bad habit. Don’t.

10. Espanoleta by Sanz: Mixing up dotted and straight notes

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link. This will download a set of 5 danzas of Gaspar Sanz. Go to the last page for Espanoleta.

We have already seen the ‘bounce’ that dotted notes bring to a rhythm. In this piece from 17th century Spain, Gaspar Sanz mixes up the dotted rhythm with straight quarter notes. It is a good mixture to learn and master.

Espanoleta by G.Sanz

The key is in F Major, the one with Bb instead of natural B as seen earlier. The challenge here is not the notes themselves, for they fall under the fingers with a little practice. What takes time to master is playing it up to the desired tempo (quarter note = 180). It is something that takes time.

Naturally, the full intended effect of this charming composition bursts into life only at a higher tempo. As mentioned before, do not rush through this process.

Increase in speed comes once mastery is achieved in playing slowly and accurately. Without accuracy at slow tempo, it makes no sense to accelerate your speed.

11. Study Op 35 No 14 by Sor: Learning a complex rhythm pattern

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

This study is somewhat advanced for an early guitarist. Not so much the playing of it as the understanding of the rhythm structure clearly. It is in simple 4/4 time with quarter notes on beat plus dotted eighth notes that give it bounce.

Op 35 No 14 by F.Sor

However, in a couple of places, an eighth note triplet provides a twist to the rhythm. This is one of those tuneful studies where it makes sense to learn the audio by ear. It’s easy enough to listen to and get the hang of the basic tune. It’s then a matter of looking at the music score and matching it up with what you heard.

It is a rewarding piece of music to play and enjoy – like most of Sor’s pieces.

12. A Toy by Anonymous: Counting 6/8 time correctly

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link. This downloads Eythor Thorlaksson’s collection Guitar Moment Volume II. Scroll to page 5 for A Toy.

A Toy is an Elizabethan English tune from five hundred years ago composed by the ever prolific Anon. The period known as Renaissance is when the lute was at its peak and virtuoso players like John Dowland called the shots. 

A Toy by Anonymous

This period of lute music is so much characterized by the dotted eighth note. So many of them occupy a score generally that you can almost always identify a Renaissance piece by their frequent presence.

Once you develop a feel for the ‘bounce’ of the dotted note, this piece is not difficult to play. The 6/8 time is best counted as ‘One, Two, One, Two… ’. Think of a triplet within each count. One (TA-da-da), Two (TA-da-da), One, Two, etc. Thinking of it this way is closer to the actual 6/8 feel rather than counting “One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six… “ over and over.

13. Romanza by Molino: Playing a full score with all the markings

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

This is an example of a full bodied musical score with many formal markings. It is no harder to play than some of those we have seen already. But the editorial markings must be understood and followed.

Romanza by F.Molino

1.Time signature: This is another score that uses the 6/8 time. As seen earlier, it pays to count mentally as one, two, one, two, etc. and think of a measure as a set of two triplets basically. The instruction at the beginning of the piece sets the musical intention: andante cantabile.

Andante suggests ‘walking speed’ and unhurried, relaxed pace without getting too slow or sorrowful. Cantabile means ‘song like’. So this is a steady and measured composition that should be performed more like a song that is sung rather than an exercise study.

2. Tempo marking: The dotted quarter note is placed at 52 beats per minute. It is convenient to set a metronome to a 2/4 time at 52 beats. As the beat goes one, two, one, two at 52 bpm you keep playing a set of triplets on every beat.

There are a couple of more tempo markings which should be heeded – on measures 8 and 16.

The term poco rit. means a gradual reduction in tempo. Poco means ‘a little’ and rit. is an abbreviation of ritardando, a decrease in speed. The slowing down in measure 8, for instance, is followed by an a tempo marking on measure 9, an explicit instruction to get back to the original tempo for the second section.

A few measures before the very end of the piece is another tempo marking rall. which stands for rallentando, again a gradual decrease in tempo.

3. Dynamics: There are extensive markings on the dynamics of the piece. Soft (p), medium loud (mf) sections are indicated throughout. Also, there are markings like an elongated < (under the second half of measure 1, for instance) that mean you should increase the volume (not tempo).

The opposite marking of an elongated > (under the beginning of measure 4, for instance) means you should decrease volume. It is such variations (mostly subtle) in volume that gives a piece of music its very musicality.

4. Section marking: In addition to the usual sections and repeats, there is an interesting marking under measures 16 and 17. The square brackets with the numbers 1 and 2 in them mean that you play the music under the first square bracket for the first time. You follow the repeat mark and get back to measure 9 to play the section again. Except this time you play the music under the square bracket 2 after measure 15 and continue on.

There are many guidelines here that point to an unhurried, lyrical performance. The tempo guideline, a mere 52 bpm, the cantabile instruction as well as the title Romanza itself tell you clearly the overall feel you must go for.

14. Study Op 51 No 1 by Giuliani: Melody in the bass

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

This is a simple and elegant piece by one of the popular composers of the Classical period, Mauro Giuliani. It is in 4/4 time and in the key of C with no sharps or flats. It has no complex timing with dotted notes or triplets either.

Op 51 No 1 by M.Giuliani

The charm of the piece lies in the fact that the bass notes play a melodic line. Instead of bass notes doing their normal thing of underpinning the melody notes above, they carry the melody itself.

This is clearly seen in the beginning two measures. There is an interplay with the treble notes after that.

The instruction is ‘maestoso’ or majestic but the tempo suggested by the editor is a quarter note at 140. Such editorial suggestions are not written in stone and can be modified.

I personally think that anything around the 120 bpm mark keeps to the ‘maestoso’ feel without sounding hurried. Feel free to interpret.

Again, practise slowly. Get the notes under your fingers at a very slow tempo. Only then should you attempt to reach the final tempo you are aiming at.

15. Study in E minor by Tarrega: Playing triplets with a hidden melody

Sheet music link to Free-Scores.com

To download the score, click on the Download PDF link.

This is a popular study from the founding father of the modern classical guitar: Francisco Tarrega. A glance at the score shows the easy flow of triplets throughout the piece. The time signature is 3/4 or 3 beats to the measure. Each beat is to be played at the recommended 120 beats per minute.

Estudio by F.Tarrega

This piece puts forth a good right hand technique to learn: playing an arpeggio on the 3 melody strings with one finger per string. The a finger mainly handles the first string, the m finger the second string and the i finger the third string. The thumb plays the bass notes.

It is reminiscent of the popular Romance (or Romanza) by Anon. that even non-players of the guitar are familiar with. The right hand fingering pattern is very similar in that piece too.

As long as the triplet maintains an even pulse, this is a pretty piece to play and listen to. It is very typical of the guitar with its open, resonating strings.

The technical issue to master is the downplaying of the accompanying parts, namely the notes played by the m and i fingers. Since the a finger carries the melody, the other two fingers (and thumb) must be clearly subdued in volume.

It takes practice to control the relative volume of the strings. Done well, the piece is successful. Done carelessly, the piece just sounds like a series of arpeggios performed as a technical exercise. As always, aim for the musical outcome.

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There’s a lot of material to digest here. Just because you can read it at one go doesn’t mean great things can be achieved in a couple of practice sessions. I’d suggest there’s at least 6 months’ worth of learning here. Go slow and steady.

If you want to know more about recording your guitar, feel free to check out my brief guide on recording classical guitar at home. You can learn some effective techniques to get great sound quality.

(My recordings contain traffic sounds below my window, family members dropping things on the floor, cell phone pings, et al. Because, hey, this is not a studio, it’s my home!)

To build your own repertoire to suit your particular needs, check out my article on how to source free sheet music from the net. If you’re looking for information about online education and which option is the best for you, I’d highly recommend you look at our review of various types of classical guitar lessons and resources online.

Happy plucking!

Nylon Plucks

Narayan Kumar is a passionate classical guitarist and an online research buff. He is also one half of the online classical guitar duo DuJu who put out guitar duets regularly on their YouTube channel. Read more about Narayan.

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