I would like to practice reading music on something other than notation written for guitar. Are there other pieces written for violin, for instance-or other instruments, that can be transposed easily to the electric guitar?

  • Edvard Grieg Antira's Dance could be something...
    – LLFleur
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 23:15

12 Answers 12


Violin music is a better bet than cello music, for two reasons:

  1. It's already written in treble clef, as the guitar is, while the cello uses bass, treble, and tenor/alto clef, which just raises the difficulty level for no particular guitar-oriented gain.
  2. The range of the violin more closely matches that of the guitar (modulo an octave). It's lowest note corresponds to the low G on the E-string, while the lowest note on the cello corresponds to the C on the A-string, leaving much of the E-string unused.

So as much as I love the Unaccompanied Cello Suites, I highly recommend instead Bach's Unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas for Violin. The Partita #3 in E-Major (link to video) is my favorite: it's full of joy and passion, and it transfers really well to the guitar (although to play it at tempo, you have to have serious chops; more than I have, at any rate).


My interpretation of your question was quite different from the answers everyone else has given. I interpret your "other than notation written for guitar" to mean that you want to learn to read music and not guitar tab. I further interpret your comment to imply that you want to take music written for some other instrument and transpose for the guitar.

In answer to the first part: there are literally thousands of classical guitar pieces available for free on the internet. Most of these are written in music notation and not guitar tab. I highly recommend learning to read musical notation. Guitar tab doesn't cut it very well when it comes to sight reading. It takes some practice but you'll find that you will eventually be able to play 80-90% of the music out there on a first/second read (not necessarily up to tempo, and a few mistakes here and there) once you learn to read music. Search for Classical Guitar Sheet Music and you'll find more than you'll ever get a chance to play in one lifetime. Carcassi, Carulli, Sor, Tarrega and Giuliani have quite a few easier pieces that are very satisfying musically to play. Weiss, Bach and Scarlatti have a multitude of really good songs whose music was not written for the guitar but transposed exceptionally well to the guitar.

Another option is to simply go to your local music store and buy a classical guitar songbook. You'll probably be overwhelmed by the number of choices.

I know I keep talking classical guitar, but the reading of music notation translates directly to the electric guitar and for the most part is way easier on the electric since the finger reaches are much smaller and fretting requires less finger strength. I learned classical on my electric guitar for years before finally buying the classical guitar.

For the 2nd part of your question, I would have to ask why would you want to transpose to the guitar when there are thousands of pieces already transposed for you? If it is for practice then I would pick one that somebody else has already transposed that you like and then you can compare to see how well you did compared to the other person.


I find cello pieces lend themselves very nicely to guitar... and they can be quite an outside-the-box workout, as the intervals tend to be much wider than you might be accustomed to.

The Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello would be a great starting point: http://imslp.org/wiki/Suites_for_Violoncello_Solo,_BWV_1007-1012_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)

  • A great one for learning the melodic minor is Vivaldi's 'Summer' from four seasons.
    – Bella
    Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 7:59
  • I think that Bach Lute suites would be an even fitter pointer, as there is an adaptation of one of the cello suites by Bach himself for Lute, BWV 995 and there are many transcriptions of the Bach lute suites for guitar.
    – ogerard
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 17:41

Basically anything that is not for piano should work fine. Piano music will give you trouble because the left and right hand often act independently. For instance, your left hand plays a chord while your right plays a melody. Without using some pretty advanced technique, this type of music is impossible. However, anything that is written for a different instrument (and indeed some stuff for piano) can be played note for note on the guitar.

I don't see any reason for the particular "not for guitar" aspect of the question though. Anything written in standard musical notation will not have any details specific for the guitar, even if it is a guitar piece. As long as it's not accompanied by tab, I don't see that the instrument will make any difference at all, guitar or not.

If you want to practice reading music, classical might actually be quite hard. If you want something easier, maybe grab a Real Book for lots of jazz standards, all without a lick of tab. Good practice for your chord voicings too.

  • piano music can make for great guitar duos!
    – brian
    Commented Jan 26, 2011 at 23:25
  • Alex makes a great point, it will be much easier to use classical music written in treble clef.
    – yossarian
    Commented Jan 26, 2011 at 23:25
  • Yossarian: The Real Book is just OK from a practicing perspective - it's like a cupcake w/o frosting; it's never made me "want" to practice. The other suggestion about Bach and Violin are right on target
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 17:55

Not all piano music should be counted out. Some piano music can definitely be played on the guitar with very few modifications. I transcribed some of Philip Glass' solo piano works on the classical guitar, in fact many of the Spanish guitar pieces that artists like Andres Segovia made famous were originally on the piano (like Asturias (Leyenda) by Albeniz).

Renaissance lute music (like John Dowland) can easily be played on a guitar by tuning your third string G down to F#, now reading lute tablature is another story...


I like violin music - especially Vivaldi and Bach concertos - for playing on the guitar, for instance:

Baroque music is great fun on the guitar since it's full of runs and repeated motifs which sound great (once you can play them at speed!).

Concertos are probably the best option since they're written for a solo instrument already, and are all about showing off; violin music is also straightforward to play since it's in roughly the same range as the guitar and the same key (so no transposition is needed).

However, I've also found trumpet music is also pretty good to play on the guitar, although the range is a lot smaller than violin pieces. Try some Arban pieces if you're feeling particularly masochistic.


Check this out: http://www.classicalguitar.org/composer-era/baroque/ If you can play baroque on a piano you should be able to play it on a classical guitar (but different pieces on most cases I guess but even BWV 846 could be played as a guitar piece). You do not need the exact instruent they used.


Yes. Indeed. One book I've gotten a great deal of use from is The Dover Edition of Paganini Caprices for Violin (imslp). I'll give a run-down on the ones I've found playable.

  • Wieniawski, Le Sautilĺ́é. This one is very easy and good workout. Every guitarist should have a photocopy of this tucked-in with his Giuliani and Sor studies.

  • Caprice No. 6 in G Minor. Image of the Theme
    This is the one I fell in love with. I play it every day. And every day I discover something new in it. There are at least half a dozen ways to apply the piece to the guitar.
    1. "Synchronous" Play every eighth-note as a flat chord ((p+i+m)) with no tremolo. Attempt to make the sustained note "sing out" over the other two.
    2. "Duple simple" Play the tremolo as 2 sixteenth notes ((p+m)-i-).
    3. "Triple simple" Play the tremolo as sixteenth note triplets ((p+a)-i-m-).
    4. "Duple complex" Play the tremolo as a trio of 2 thirty-second-note figures ((p+m)-i- p-i- p-i-) or ((p+a)-i- p-m- p-m-).
    5. "Triple complex" Play the tremolo as a trio of sixty-fourth-note triplets ((p+a)-i-m- p-i-m- p-i-m-).
    6. "Quadruple complex" (as written) Play the tremolo a trio of sixty-fourth-note quadruplets ((p+a)-i-p'-m- p-i-p'-m- p-i-p'-m-). where p' denotes a (ghost) stroke where the thumb just grazes the string as part of its upward motion.

    For the left hand fingering, make use of the second position (I find the melody "sings' better on a heavier string) and open strings whereever possible. At measure 23-25, move the A drone down an octave to the open A string. The exciting parts are where the tremolo "crosses' the melody at measures 4, 35, 37 and 39. For these, you have to make an amazing leap across the entire neck within the gap between two plucks. And then there's another curve ball in measures 48 and 49 where the leap is performed by just the pinky.

  • Caprice No. 16 in G Minor. Fun gymnastics and dancing arpeggios. Some very dramatic leaps at the end.

  • *Caprice No. 14 in E-flat Major". Ghostly open-voiced chords and chromatic lines.

  • *Caprice No. 18 in C Major". Try to sound lke a trumpet at the start, then legato double-stops like a purring viola.

  • Caprice No. 19 in E-flat Major. This one goes just a little off the top of the guitar's range, but you can do it with pinched harmonics. This one's a jumping frenzy. Play a little melody, move the chord, melody, move chord, etc. Then B section switches gears and you're playing a connected line with little jumps for punctuation. Leave 'em eerily satisfied with sweet, inverted, open-voiced final chords.

  • Caprice No. 20 in D Major. Try the melody all on the G string, plucking the Open D and the melody together with a soft appoyando thumb. Then the B section turns to a frantic trill party in B-minor with some big streches.

  • Caprice No. 22 in F Major. I didn't notice this one for a very long time, tucked away as it is at the bottom of page 40. It starts with diatonic runs of 6ths 3rds and octaves and develops into these weird sustained notes with moving chords underneath. Then it's a tippy-toe dance across that dark parts of D minor. There are a few leaping arpeggio drones with one crowning off-the-neck pinched high D. And back to the diatonics for the reprise.

  • Caprices Nos. 5, 23, 13 all seem to be within the range of the guitar, but I haven't been able to crack them yet.

Edit: I feel compelled to mention that my progress with these pieces was very slow and difficult until I read The Sor Method. Fair warning: it's a dense read. The translation is very "dated". I rather enjoyed that aspect, because it seems to lend more "weight" to the ideas. But that may make it less accessible to less erudite scholars. He tries to give a mathematical formula for everything he says.

But the sections on fingering are truly enlightening. He tells you how to go about choosing a fingering for any music. Knowing the theory lets you take off the training wheels of only playing Edited Guitar Music.


I've seen some videos of people playing Für Elise on a guitar. I haven't tried it myself, but I entertained myself listening to all the different ways people rendered it on a guitar instead of a piano one day about a month ago. The first few measures are particularly easy (relative to other classical pieces) to play on a guitar because of the limited polyphony going on.


Violin music is very hard to do on an acoustic. You can hold notes on a violin for a while if your bow action is good but you cannot do that on an (Acoustic) guitar. When you play a note on a guitar in decays rather quickly. On an electric, it is no problems because the pickups give you sustain so you can approach it like a violin.

A piano is much more stylistic appropriate for a guitar but where the style of the instrument is more in tune the adaptations are a nightmare, you have so many notes being played in a piano score. When you take that music and try to adapt it you really are reducing it to its bare-bones harmony.

You often just reduce the piano score to the melody and have a little bit of the harmony somewhere in the bass.

Another thing to remember is that the guitar abhors a key signature with a flat, many times you will find piano music that is in some key with flats and then you have to transpose it to a key with sharps. The standard is either E, A or D minor or Major.

This simply put is the most appropriate keys for the guitar. Especially for classical where you often play the root note of the chord in the bass and then some sort of melody in the lower three strings.

If you use a key starting on E (Probably the best key for the guitar) then you have the correct root note on the sixth string, if you have the key starting on A then you have your bass note on the fifth string, if you choose D you can do a drop d tuning and use your D string for two places to have the correct note in the bass.

In closing, it is wonderful to play the guitar knowing that it has its fingers in so many styles. The thing to remember is that doing classical guitar transcription is really time-consuming and very hard.

You need to be a master of both your instrument and music theory to do that very well.


Yes - there are a number of pieces originally for other instruments which have famous arrangements in the classical guitar repertoire:

Composer Pieces
Bach Cello suites
Lute suites
Violin Partita No.2, Violin Sonatas (arr. Bream)
Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas
Weiss Lute works
Albéniz Chants d'Espagne (piano)
This contains the famous Asturias and Granada
Mozart Introduction & Variations on a theme by Mozart (arr. Sor)

Additionally, many guitarists (incl. Bream & Segovia) have created arrangements of other classical pieces, for which there may not be a canonical arrangement. Some examples that come to mind (you can find many of these on YouTube for an idea of the arrangement):

Composer Pieces
Chopin Op.9 Nocturne No.2
Preludio No.17
Debussy Clair de Lune
Satie Gymnopédie No.1
Paganini Caprice No.24
Caprice No.5 (violin)
Monti Czardas (violin)
Liszt Nocturno No.3 (Sueño de Amor)
Liebestraum (at your own peril)
Kreisler Liebeslied

So choosing some keyboard/piano/violin/lute pieces from one of these composers may be a good place to start.


The violin solo sonatas and partitas from Bach make a reasonably good set. In particular partita 3 has already been transcribed by Bach himself for lute (which was tuned pretty closely to a guitar at those days).

Note that many versions you find particularly for the prelude of partita 3 on Youtube et al completely mess up the distribution of voices across strings, turning what was written only formally as a monophonic piece into something that actually is executed monophonically and with much more left finger action than intended.

Now it is true that with heavy distortion on, the polyphony does not actually sound all that good, so there may even have been some rationale involved with that kind of execution.

Personally, I like this jazzy version from Pete Downes pretty well: he keeps the calm left hand action of the original violin version, keeps the polyphonic character intact and uses a level of distortion compatible with those choices.

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