I am trying to get back into classical guitar after a break of a few years (my main instrument in my retirement is now piano). I only ever played for fun, and only had about a year of formal lessons, and that was many more years ago then I care to remember.

Looking at some simple pieces by Carulli, as a decent (re-) starting point, I wondered if anyone has any thoughts about playing this bit:

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From the notation, it would seem that Carulli is indicating that the repeated A notes on the open fifth string should last only for a quaver. I don't recall deliberately muting these repeated notes, so that I am sure I played them as whole notes rather than eight notes.

My question is this: do classical guitarists believe that Carulli was being very precise, and intended these notes to be muted at the same time that thirds are played on the upper strings? Put it another way: would a modern guitar examiner (e.g. ABRSM) deduct marks if one were to let these notes ring longer?

P.S. I have no intention of actually taking lessons or exams at my age, and am doing this purely for fun!

1 Answer 1


Carulli meant the lower notes to be exactly what he wrote. They are a separate line - a bass part, if you like, and he put rests between each open A string note.Rests are always there to be played, and if he was happy to let the A notes ring out as crotchets, surely he would have written them as crotchets.

They are not actually muted, but played as a sort of ping-pong against the thirds in the melody above. Can't find my Carulli book right now, but I suspect this motif occurs several times in the piece. And, yes, examiners would dock marks for a bass line such as this, if played legato.

EDIT: Found my copy of Andante, in a Fred. Noad compilation - no quaver rests there! However, the low As are marked as quavers, so they would not be expected to play fo any longer than your example. Maybe your transcription is underlining the points I make.

  • I had suspected that, and if it had been Bach, I would expect to have to play them very precisely. However, this piece (I believe) comes at a very early stage in his method, and I am not sure if he has talked about muting strings at such an early stage. When you say "they are not actually muted", then how do you stop them sounding longer than the eighth notes they are written as?
    – Old John
    Dec 24, 2016 at 14:33
  • Muting involves placing part of the hand ( and it could be either) on a string to be played, so the sound comes out as anything but a ringing. More a dull thud with a pitch. Play each note, then stop it dead. Much easier if it was 5th fret 6th string, as you could pulse the fretting finger to stop the note each time, but this is early stages, so thumb plucks and goes back on string. A funny sort of rest stroke, I suppose. A more advanced technique than I'd expect for this level, though.
    – Tim
    Dec 24, 2016 at 14:41
  • So, with this "funny sort of rest stroke" you are saying that you DO actually mute the string (with the thumb) to stop it continuing to sound?
    – Old John
    Dec 24, 2016 at 14:46
  • Only in as much as you let the note ring out for as long as it's supposed to. To me, a muted note is a palm-mute, which never sounds like a clear note. But, yes, if you like, almost every note played is muted by your definition, as it has to be stopped to leave space for the following note! Thinking about it, the note could be cut short (maybe a better description) using a fretting hand finger each time. There are a couple spare at that point.
    – Tim
    Dec 24, 2016 at 14:57

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