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I've recently started learning to read sheet music for guitar. Something from a version of Capricho Arabe confused me.

The tuning is in drop D.

The first bar is a harmonic on the 7th fret with notes D A D. However, there is only one D on the 7th fret! Is there something I'm missing here?

Source: https://www.classical-guitar-school.com/music/1026.pdf

CAPRICHO ARABE

8

You fell victim to the horrible inconsistencies of harmonics notation. There are lots of ways of notating them, for example:

  1. Notating the actual sounding pitches (which is, in my humble opinion, the only good way to do it).
  2. Notating the empty strings that need to be sounded, and placing a number that says at which fret the harmonic needs to be sounded somewhere around there.
  3. Notating the empty string that needs to be sounded with a normal note head, and the actual pitch with an empty diamond note head (not good, this works well on the violin but it's a mess on the guitar, where you can sound multiple harmonics at once).
  4. Notating the empty strings that need to be sounded and just placing a circle above the note heads, saying nothing more. (Which is even not a sufficient information!)
  5. Any other confusing and useless notation you can possibly think of.

As Tim says, your example is the second case here (so the actual pitches are A-E-A). However the mess is so confusing that in some pieces, people actually just make something up, because they have no idea what they should really play. (This happens a lot with pieces by Villa-Lobos who apparently liked to use the option 4. Try to have a listen to the very end of his Etude no. 1 or to the cadenza of his guitar concerto, on different recordings by different people. Everybody plays something different.)

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The harmonics on fret 7 give notes that are the 5th of the open string. So - on 6th string, tuned to D, the harmonic sounds like an A note. The 7th fret harmonic on the A string will sound like an E, and theat on the 4th string will be another A note. One finger across all three strings will do it, unless you favour 3 fingers.

I guess the piece is in D minor.

  • You might add that the D-A-D in the notation is indicating the open strings to play, not the pitches that are sounded. – David Bowling Sep 6 at 12:05

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