spanish guitar
I love practicing on Saturday mornings with a warm cup of coffee, or three.

Well, I guess this is not really a Spanish guitar “improvisation”, since I wrote it down and played it note for note. However, most of what we assume is off the cuff, are actually memorized guitar riffs that are so deeply ingrained and practiced, the guitarist can recall them at will.

I arrived at this in a convoluted way. One of my students, Fran, is a renowned pediatric urologist who, in addition to world travel and rock climbing, he loves music. Particularly avant garde music: indie bands, Radiohead, and jazz.

He and I like Al Di Meola, and are fond of watching his amazing practice videos from his Facebook page. Fran has only played guitar for a couple of years — but he was interested in do something that approaches the work of Al Di Meola.

I’m not an expert in Spanish guitar, but I do get the general idea. While this improvisation pales in comparison to the world class guitar playing of Al Di Meola — it’s a small step in that direction for one of my students, and maybe you too?

How to play Spanish guitar improvisation in A minor

Here’s three reasons why this is a great piece for intermediate level guitar players:

1) The chords are easy. Dm, Am, and E. You won’t have to put any effort in to the chords which will allow you concentrate on the interesting, speedy licks that follow the chords.

2) The licks are short. Yes, a couple of them are difficult, but you can play them slowly and they’ll still sound good. Spanish guitar is a lot like blues; the guitar licks sound great at any speed.

3) I don’t get mired in theory. The best guitar players in the world can’t read music, and barely know theory. They have a subconscious understanding of the guitar from playing — a lot. You will begin to understand the mechanics of Spanish guitar by just simply playing this piece.

I happen to be playing this with my guitar pick, 2nd and 3rd fingers. However, it would be even easier to just use a guitar pick for everything.

Speaking of picking, in the section beginning at 0:40 I’m tremolo picking. I indicate this in the guitar tab with a (….) symbol.

Do do this technique, you need to use a small amount of pick. You should be able to to see only a couple millimeters of the pick sticking out from your finger tips.

I tend to hold my wrist away from the guitar (Van Halen style) however, another way is to pivot your palm on the bridge of the guitar. Tremolo picking is a can or cannot scenario. It’s like riding a bike for the first time. You can’t practice the balance. One day you just get it, and off you go. You just have to keep trying it until you get it. Once you do, the speed will already be there.

[If interested my guitar is a GK Studio. You can find a list of all of my gear here.]

The guitar tab is two pages long. You’ll repeat the chorus after the second verse section. Spanish guitar improvisation is played in standard tuning.

Good luck! The guitar tab is available below:

Improvisation for Spanish Guitar

Please comment to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions.


Written by:

Matthew's dad, Jennifer's husband, bass player - New Invisible Joy, YouTuber, short-film composer, creator of modern content for guitar.