5 slow classical guitar pieces

5 slow classical guitar pieces

Playing slow music is great exercise for any guitarist. Most guitarist would love to keep getting faster, but playing slow is great for perfecting your technique. Every note needs to sound right and ring true. Here are 5 slow classical guitar pieces that are a great exercise for any guitarist.

1. Carlo Domeniconi - 24 Preludes - Ninna-Nanna

Carlo Domeniconi

About the piece

This is a lullaby written by Carlo Domeniconi from his opus 20, 24 Preludes. This might be the slowest piece of music I’ve every played. But I must say, if played on repeat it’s really relaxing and I can easily imagine any child slipping into a sound sleep from listening to it.

Background info on composer

Carlo Domeniconi (born 20 February 1947) is an Italian guitarist and composer. Although his compositions include a wide variety of genres and instrumentation choices, he is best known for his works for solo guitar, and particularly the Koyunbaba suite. Domeniconi’s style is characterized by his adoption of multicultural influences. His works explore and borrow from a wide variety of national traditions, including Turkish, Indian, Brazilian, and many more. 

Domeniconi was born in Cesena, Italy. He received his first formal guitar lessons in 1960 from Carmen Lenzi Mozzani, granddaughter of the famous guitarist and luthier Luigi Mozzani. Making rapid progress, he won first prizes at the Ancona International Festival of Guitar in 1960 and 1962. After obtaining his diploma from the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro, Domeniconi left Italy for West Berlin, where he studied composition at the Berliner Hochschule für Musik under Heinz Friedrich Hartig. Upon graduation in 1969, Domeniconi took up a teaching position in Berlin, which he held until 1992. Already in the 1960s, Domeniconi became interested in Turkish music traditions, which he studied in situ in 1977–1980, establishing and heading the first classical guitar course at the Istanbul University State Conservatory, and on many shorter trips he took to Istanbul. 

The list of Domeniconi’s published compositions includes more than 150 titles. Most of these works are scored either for solo guitar, or an ensemble that includes one or more guitars. One of the defining characteristics of Domeniconi’s music is its exploration of various national styles, which include Turkish (Koyunbaba, Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song, Sonatina turca, Oyun), Indian (Gita, Dhvani), various South American styles (Suite Sud Americana, Vidala, Sonido), and many others. 

One of the works inspired by Turkish music, the Koyunbaba suite of 1985–86, eventually became Domeniconi’s most well-known work. Throughout the 1990s it was particularly frequently programmed in concerts and recorded by numerous performers. The piece is named after a Turkish saint Koyunbaba. The liner notes to a recording made by Domeniconi in 1991 for a Turkish record label state that the work is a suite pastorale, describing “the natural beauty of a little bay” overlooking the Aegean Sea, where the saint was said to live centuries ago. 

Educational music has been a particularly important field for Domeniconi, as numerous works he composed for young players attest, such as Klangbilder (Sound Pictures), 24 Preludes, and Eine kleine Storchsuite.

2. Leo Brouwer - Estudios Sencillos no 2

Leo Brouwer

About the piece

Juan Leovigildo Brouwer Mezquida (born March 1, 1939) is a Cuban composer, conductor, and classical guitarist. This is study number 2 from his Estudios Sencillos. I love the weirdness of this piece. There’s nothing that sounds quite like it!

Background info on composer

Leo Brouwer was born in Havana, Cuba. His father, a physician, was an aficionado of classical guitar composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Francisco Tárrega and Enrique Granados. This interest was passed on from father to son and from a young age Brouwer was encouraged to learn the works of such composers, largely by ear. 

His later formal classical guitar instruction from the noted Cuban guitarist and pedagogue Isaac Nicola, who was himself a former student of Emilio Pujol thus benefiting from a teaching method which can be traced back to the Francisco Tárrega. Studies in the United States of America at the Hartt College of Music, part of the University of the Hartford followed. A further stint at the Julliard School of Music in New York City featuring guitar studies under Vincent Persichetti, and composition classes with Stefan Wolpe added to his musical education. Cuban folk music was a major influence in Leo Brouwers early compositions , but later during the 1960’s and 70’s he became more interested in modernist music composition, such as that of Luigi Nono and Iannis Xenakis. Works from this period of his composition include : Canticum (1968), La espiral eterna (1971), Parábola (1973) and Tarantos (1974). In more recent times tonality and modality has been prominent , solo guitar works El Decamerón Negro (1981) the Sonata (1990; for Julian Bream) and Paisaje cubano con campanas, (1986) illustrate this more recent trend.

3. Ryuji Kunimatsu - Short Melodies - Short Melody

Ryuji Kunimatsu

About the piece

This is a wonderful short piece that is great for practising your arpeggio’s. The slow tempo really means being able to really listen to get them perfect.

Background info on composer

Ryuji Kunimatsu was born in Kyoto in Japan in 1977. He went to Spain and studied guitar and composition at the Luthier Art Music School. He won the first prize at the Barcelona International Guitar Competition in 2006 and the special prize at the Zarautz International Guitar Competition in 2005. He returned Japan in 2007, on June of this year, he held his debut recital with an all improvisation program in Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, and received a favorable review. So far he was invited by various music festivals overseas, and has performed at the Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc. His activities are playing guitar solo, with a variety of ensembles and orchestras. He composes his own music and plays them by himself.

4. Claude Gagnon - Chanson triste

Claude Gagnon

About the piece

Chanson Triste (Sad Song) is a classical guitar piece by Claude Gagnon. It’s an extremely simple but hauntingly beautiful melody.

It’s also great for every beginner to learn and because it repeats you can play it as long as you want without stopping.

Background info on composer

Claude Gagnon, presently classic guitar teacher at the Sainte-Foy College (Quebec), performs regularly as a member of various ensembles and as an accompanist for voice and violin. He is interested in Renaissance and Baroque music and occasionally collaborates in projects where he plays cittern with singers and instrumentalists playing lute, viola da gamba and recorder. 

He is also founder of the Ensemble Arabesque which brings together violin, guitar and cello and offers programmes of original compositions and arrangements of classical traditional and popular works. As a composer, his works include Alice aux pays des merveilles for three guitars, Hello Cello for cello and guitar, Douze préludes en forme d’études for solo guitar as well as Kamendja for two guitars. Claude Gagnon has published twenty volumes of music for guitar with Productions d’OZ and Éditions Doberman-Yppan. He has also taken part in several recordings as instrumentalist or as producer for the Atma and Analekta labels.

5. Helen Sanderson - Lotus Flower

Helen Sanderson

About the piece

This is a grade 1 exam piece for Trinity College London 2020-2023 by Helen Sanderson. It’s a great starter piece!

Not only is the tempo really slow, it’s also extremely easy to play. It’s all about phrasing and making sure every single note sounds out perfectly.

Background info on composer

Helen Sanderson epitomises life as a 21st-century guitarist; her diversity as a performer, educator, arranger, composer and creative entrepreneur is reflected in the broad spectrum of guitar studies at RWCMD. 

Helen’s international performing career has centred on chamber music with highlight performances including the Southbank Centre, Kings Place and the Guitar Foundation of America, and CD recordings with the VIDA Guitar Quartet, James Bowman and Mark Wilde. Alongside her love of performing, her impetus to create opportunities for young guitarists led to her founding the music education charity, Guitar Circus, home of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble and the World Youth Guitar Festival of which she is Artistic Director. 

These roles have given invaluable experience in arts management and have also fuelled Helen’s interest in extending the repertoire for the instrument, in particular for guitar ensemble; Helen’s work is regularly chosen for the ABRSM and Trinity College exam boards and developing this vital craft of arranging and composing has a prominent place in the RWCMD programme. She is often invited to competition juries including BBC Young Musician of the Year, Guitar Foundation of America, London International Guitar Competition, Koblenz Guitar Competition and most memorably, the Sky Arts televised series ‘Guitar Star’. 

Helen has formed a voice and guitar duo with Mark Wilde of the Royal Academy of Music (2014-2020), and a guitar duo with Zoran Dukić of the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague. She has toured extensively throughout the assessment period, giving notable performances across the US in 2014, and in Europe in 2019, from the Long Island Guitar Festival (USA) to the Kutná Hora Guitar Festival (Czech Republic). 

Helen was a consultant for the Trinity College of Music Examination Board in 2019, and for the London College of Music Examination Board in 2020. She received the Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2015 and was a panellist for the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2015, 2018, and 2019, as well as for the Sky Arts series ‘Guitar Star’ in 2015. 

Helen has served on the jury for guitar competitions at the Birmingham Conservatoire (2014), and the Royal College of Music (2015), and also for the Koblenz International Guitar Competition (2016), the London International Guitar Competition (2016), the Ida Presti Guitar Competition in Croatia (2018, 2020), and the Guitar Foundation of America (2017, 2019). 

Helen’s passion for research has grown since becoming a Winston Churchill Fellow. Her analysis of successful whole-class guitar teaching programmes in the USA has allowed her to lay the foundation for an ensemble-based guitar curriculum in the UK. She is exploring the ways in which her studies of guitar curriculum might play a role in an integrated cross-discipline approach within the wider Expressive Arts, which reflects the new Curriculum for Wales.

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