When I think of Spanish guitar songs, I can’t help but picture scenes from the movie Desperado. Antonio Banderas playing the classical guitar, serenading the locals of Mexico. While this movie mixes both Spanish guitar and Mariachi music, there is that unmistakable sound of nylon strings being picked by fingernails.
Since many Spanish guitar songs are not very popular in the western world, we will focus on constructing a song of your own that has the feel of Spanish guitar.
One thing to note is that a nylon-string guitar will get you closer to the sound, but it can still be achieved with a normal steel-string guitar. As well using your fingers as opposed to a pick is necessary as this is a big part of the style. Fingerpicking with arpeggios, fast runs and tremolo can only truly be achieved with your fingernails.
To get that Spanish sound, is it important to know which chords to use. Spanish guitar music is similar to the blues in that there is a sadness in what you hear. Minor chords are what will get you there, though mixing in a 7th or major chord can still work if they are in the minority. Lets start with a chord progression that will capture the Spanish vibe. Those chords will be E minor, A minor and B7.
Once you have those chords down, you will play the following four chord progression: E minor, A minor, B7, E minor. The result will get you one step closer to the Spanish sound. The next step is to use your fingernails. Play the exact same progression, but this time pick each string in the chords with your fingers instead of strumming.
Now that you are able to play the progression with your fingernails, there are a variety of things you can do to explore the Spanish guitar vibe even further. One way is to increase the tempo of your playing until it is so fast that it hits a brick wall. This is a very popular method. You can also work on different types of strumming, runs using scales, and tremolo.
If you do wish to explore this style even further, you can take a look at flamenco guitar, which is born out of Spain. While this is a very difficult genre, practice is key to increase your speed of playing. Remember, keep experimenting with different fingerpicking styles. You’ll discover even more ways to mix up what is pretty much only a few chords.
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