Carcassi’s study seven from Op.60 is another very well known piece from this set of studies. I like to use this piece as a way of introducing notes in first position as it contains nearly all of them plus a few higher ones on the E string. I would like to present an analysis of this piece to continue reinforcing concepts in harmony and counterpoint that we studied earlier. There is little in this study harmonically that will be new to us after studying Sor. Although it is a fine example of the use of the Neapolitan sixth chord in a slightly different context than we found it in the Sor studies.

The first thing I would point out that might not be readily apparent to students in the early stages of study is that there are distinct voices in this piece that move through the music in distinct ranges just as voices in a Bach chorale do. In this case we have two- and three-part writing that adheres to the principles of voice-leading handed down by J.S. Bach which was certainly part of Carcassi’s musical training. I have included a reduction version of the piece at the end of this discussion that will clearly show the voices and how they connect. They are quite easy to follow even in the full version. For example, the first measure and subsequent measures that contain bass notes with repeated notes would of course always be considered two-part writing, whereas the measures that contain arpeggios are three-part writing. You will notice that in the arpeggio sections the three voices (lower, middle and upper) move along from chord to chord in a mostly step-wise fashion. Take measure two for example: The lower voice moves step-wise down the scale (D-C-B-A) while the upper voice moves in parallel sixths with the lower (F-E-D-C) and the middle voice fills out the harmony with A-A-G#-A. The middle voice is usually least active and sometimes doesn’t move at all as in measure twelve for example. As a former trombone player I am very familiar with rather uninteresting middle parts. In composition the outer two voices are usually the most important. As we saw in the Bach Bourrée two parts are enough to create a satisfactory composition, although sometimes the harmony can be a bit ambiguous. Carcassi uses the third voice to clarify the harmony as well as fill out the texture.

Harmonically the piece is rather straight forward with the most interesting features occurring toward the middle and near the end where we have a little coda section introduced by the Neapolitan sixth chord in measure twenty-three. Let’s look at the sections in a bit more detail.

Section one (measures one through eight) is typical of many pieces of this period in minor keys. We begin in A minor and cadence in A minor and then begin the second part in the relative major, C major in this case. Nothing too exciting to report other than the secondary dominant B7 chord (V/V) in measure seven. I do hear this as a distinct harmony here but do not in measure three where I hear the D# as a chromatic passing tone within the Bm7b5 (ii) chord as the bass moves from the third to the fifth chromatically.

Part two (measures nine through twenty) begins in the relative major key of C. There are two interesting things to look at here. In measure eleven, beat three we get this great dissonant combination of A-G-F#! That certainly is not a chord that we know of. It is clear though that in the context of the voice-leading we are getting a confluence of passing tones that clash with the G in the middle voice. The F# in the upper voice is a chromatic passing tone between the G and the F natural (seventh) while the A in the bass is a passing tone between the G and the B (root and third of the G major chord). This type of dissonance in the context of voice-leading is acceptable as well as desirable as it serves to move the music forward in time. The second thing and my favorite part is the interval progression in measures thirteen and fourteen. The interval pattern which is used in sequence is: M3, M6, P8, and tritone in measure thirteen which is repeated a step higher in measure fourteen with the slight change in the second interval from a M6 to an augmented sixth. This is the essence of the Italian, German and French augmented sixth chords without the inner voices. I labeled it +6 to indicate the augmented sixth interval since the country of origin cannot be determined. Harmonically the function of this progression is to return us to A minor. Typically the augmented sixth chord functions as dominant preparation or in other words resolves into the dominant seventh chord of the key we are moving into as it does here.

The third section beginning at measure twenty-one and continuing to the end restates the opening two measures then suddenly introduces the very dramatic Neapolitan sixth chord (Bb major) in measure twenty-three. This chord is a major triad built on the lowered second scale degree and is usually found as it is here in first inversion. You can think of this chord as an altered subdominant (iv) chord and having the same function as the subdominant, that of dominant preparation. For example in the key of A minor the subdominant triad is D minor. By changing one tone, in this case raising the A by half-step to Bb, we create the Neapolitan sixth chord. Try this at the piano or on the guitar: Play D minor, E7, A minor and compare it to Bb, E7, A minor. Quite a dramatic difference! Carcassi uses this harmony in a little different way. Instead of moving directly into the dominant (E7) he moves into A7 or V/iv treating the Neapolitan sixth chord as VI in D minor. Eventually he does get us to the dominant for the big finish. Quite clever that Carcassi!

I really enjoy this study as it seems most everyone does. I hope this gives you a bit more insight into its inner workings and maybe more respect for this excellent composer. As usual the analysis is below for your use.



January 24, 2014 @03:55 pm
Thanks for this, this was immensely helpful. I tutor a student in the evenings who is studying classical guitar in a high school class and this piece is a recent assignment of his. I'm not a guitarist, but being a cellist, I was able to help him understand the structure of this piece by playing along with him to some of the "voices" which you happen to describe here. I wasn't able to put into words why this worked until I read your analysis. Thanks for making it interesting and accessible to everyone!
February 26, 2012 @05:10 pm
Thanks for a great analysis. I am trying to work on my theory and this is such a help.

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