Capricho Arabe by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) is another very well known piece in the repertory for solo guitar. I have done a harmonic analysis which is included below and will mention some of the important details of the harmony and form.
The piece begins with an introduction (mm. 1–12) that consists harmonically of a prolongation of the dominant (V) of D minor.
The “A” section (mm. 13-24) begins with a little vamp or ostinato (mm. 13-14) which lays out the bass line that we hear throughout the piece, sometimes in major and other times in minor, which acts as a unifying device. The harmony is a simple alternation between tonic (i) and dominant (V).
Following is the main theme: a four measure phrase (mm. 15-18) superimposed over the aforementioned bass line in the home key of D minor; again supported by the simple alternation of tonic and dominant harmony. The second varied statement of the theme moves us for the first time into the area of the subdominant (iv) with the appearance of the commonly used secondary dominant (V/iv in measure 20) before returning to the dominant and the vamp again in measure 23, but this time with an interesting twist. We now have four distinct harmonies based on the progression i-VI-bII-V in D minor. The use of the bII chord in minor has its roots in its use as what is called the “Neapolitan Sixth” (N6) chord. The harmony consists of a major triad built on the lowered second degree of the minor scale and usually appears in first inversion (six) in order to avoid the very tritone that Tárrega seems to enjoy as he uses this harmony (Eb major) in root position followed by the dominant (A major) in root position.
The “B” section (mm. 25-36) is in the relative major key of F major and is introduced harmonically by modifying the vamp in measure 26 to include a ii-V of F major (Gm-C7). The theme and bass line are also modified a bit in this major key but the harmony is basically the same, consisting of the simple alternation of tonic and dominant. Tárrega does make use of the secondary dominant (V/V) in this section by implication which I found interesting. As I was deciding on the harmonic analysis in measure 29 I first thought the harmony on the third beat implied Gm7 or maybe Dm to Gm7. When playing through it my ear told me the harmony should be G7 or V/V even though there is no B natural present anywhere in the measure! Play it through with the indicated harmony and decide for yourself. I think it must be the strong seventh sound associated with hearing the F in the upper voice on the beat that implies this dominant sonority even without the third being stated. The same thing occurs in the D major section in measure 39 where I hear an E7 chord (V/V) implied. Of course this is a transposed restatement of the F major section so it only makes sense.
The second statement of the modified theme is interrupted in measure 32 (third beat) with the occurrence of the Em7b5 or ii chord in D minor moving to the V (A major) in arpeggios cueing what we think is a return to tonic or D minor. The surprise is that Tárrega does return to tonic but in the parallel major key (D major) through the transposed restatement of the F major section.
The “C” section (mm. 37-52) as stated is basically a transposed restatement of the “B” or F major section with a bit more repetition that culminates with the restatement of the vamp in D major (measure 53) and then in D minor (measure 54) to finally return us to the restatement of the “A” section or the original D minor material we started with.
I should note the use of the full diminished seventh chord (D#dim7) in measure 42. It is used as it most commonly is as a secondary leading-tone diminished seventh; resolving up by half-step to the root of the following chord. There is a slight modification with the chord of resolution. We expect to hear some sort of E chord (D#dim7 to E or Em) but instead we get an A major in second inversion (E bass). Remember that this second inversion triad is unstable in traditional harmony and needs to resolve the sixth and fourth above the bass (C# and A) to a more stable fifth and third (B and G# in this case) giving us the E we expect by beat three with the addition of a seventh forming the E7 or V/V as shown. It is also interesting that Tárrega used a B# instead of a C natural in the chord spelling. This can be explained in terms of the voice-leading where the strong chromatic resolution of the sixths (D# and B# to E and C# respectively) occurs in the outer voices.
In summary, harmonically the piece is quite simple and rather conservative for its time. The strong melodic content and use of the ostinato bass seems to be what makes the music so appealing. I hope you find these analyses somewhat insightful and useful in aiding your understanding of traditional harmonic concepts. Any suggestions for future projects?