In the first étude from the 12 études for guitar by Villa-Lobos, what are these diamond shaped notes?

enter image description here

Additionally, what are these circled notes (G, B and E) below those diamond notes?

  • 1
    A great question, needed to be asked, as it seems Villa-Lobos had his own peculiar way of writing what he wanted played, which was non-standard, and not particularly intuitive. +1
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 6:34

3 Answers 3


The various publications of Villa Lobos' works are notorious for their non-standard and differing methods of notation, especially for harmonics. The publication I own gives an editorial for each piece which explains how each harmonic section is played.

If I remember correctly, these harmonics are notated so the written letter is the string and the notated note is the fret - that is, the note that would be produced if the string was fully pressed at that fret. This is a different pitch (and note) to what is literally written.

For example the final harmonic, written as a E-string 5th-fret A, is played as an E-string 5th-fret harmonic which is an E-pitch note.

A quick search lead to this publication in which the editor explains what he does to make the notation easier to read (including removing unnecessary sharp/flat symbols and correcting what they believe to be notation/printing errors). I haven't studied it to see if I agree with their changes, but it has a different notation for that section:

https://www.scribd.com/document/380158958/Villa-Lobos-Guitar-Etudes-pdf enter image description here


The diamond shaped notes are harmonics (played by touching the string but not pressing it down), and the G,B and E refer to the string the note is to be played on.

  • I got the circled notes, but according to this link, the harmonics are the circle above the note. Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 0:24
  • 1
    Yes, the circles mean harmonics as well. He also wrote 'harm.' over them. I guess he just wanted to make sure.
    – Jomiddnz
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 0:31
  • How is an A note produced on a harmonic, playing the open E string? (last harm. written).
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 8:02
  • 2
    The diamonds indicate the fret - therefore the notated A on the E-string produces an E (5th-fret harmonic). The circles have no other meaning except that this is a harmonic Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 10:04
  • 1
    This is only half the answer. See Jonathan Twite's answer to understand what is going on.
    – anatolyg
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 14:41

Diamond means harmonics, as already stated - although printing 'harm' is a bit of a clue. There are several different ways to produce harmonics on guitar, and here, the composer states it's using open strings, probably the most fundamental way, by touching the string at particular node points, and plucking with the other hand.

Not sure the letters refer to the strings played though, as C is not early in the harmonic sequence found on the G string, or E on the B string, for starters.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.