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An example of tablature from Instrucci├▓n de M├╣sica sobre la Guitarra Espa├▒ola

Gaspar Sanz(1640 ÔÇô 1710) was an Aragonese composer, guitarist, organist and priest born to a wealthy family in Calanda in the Spanish comarca of Bajo Arag├│n. He studied music, theology and philosophy at the University of Salamanca, where he was later appointed Professor of Music. He wrote three volumes of pedagogical works for the baroque guitar that form an important part of todays classical guitar repertory and have informed modern scholars in the techniques of baroque guitar playing.



His birth date is unknown but he was baptized as Francisco Bartolome Sanz y Celma in the church of Calanda de Ebro, Aragon on 4th April 1640 later adopting the first name "Gaspar". After gaining his Bachelor of Theology at the University of Salamanca, Gaspar Sanz travelled to Naples, Rome and perhaps Venice to further his music education. He is thought to have studied under Orazio Benevoli, choirmaster at the Vatican and Cristofaro Caresana, organist at the Royal Chapel of Naples. He spent some years as the organist of the Spanish Viceroy at Naples.

Sanz learned to play guitar while studying under Lelio Colista and was influenced by music of the Italian guitarists Foscarini, Granata, and Corbetta. When Sanz returned to Spain he was appointed instructor of guitar to Don Juan (John of Austria), the illegitimate son of King Philip IV and Maria Calderon, a noted actress of the day.

John of Austria
John of Austria as he appears in Instrucci├▓n de M├╣sica sobre la Guitarra Espa├▒ola

In 1674 he wrote his now famous Instrucci├▓n de M├╣sica sobre la Guitarra Espa├▒ola[1], published in Saragossa and dedicated to Don Juan[2]. A second book entitled Libro Segundo de cifras sobre la guitarra espa├▒ola was printed in Saragossa in 1675. A third book, Libro tercero de m├╣sica de cifras sobre la guitarra espa├▒ola, was added to the first and second books, and all three were published together under the title of the first book in 1697, eventually being published in eight editions. The ninety works in this masterpiece are his only known contribution to the repertory of the guitar[3] and include compositions in both punteado ("plucked") style and rasqueado ("strummed") style.

In addition to his musical skills, Gaspar Sanz was noted in his day for his literary works as a poet and writer, and was the author of some poems and two books now largely forgotten.

He died in Madrid in 1710.


His compositions provide some of the most important of examples of Spanish baroque music for the guitar and now form part of classical guitar pedagogy. Sanz's manuscripts are written as tablature for the baroque guitar and have been transcribed into modern notation by numerous guitarists and editors, Emilio Pujol's edition of Sanz's Canarios being a notable example.

He has influenced some twentieth century composers.


  1. ^ The full title Instrucci├▓n de M├╣sica sobre la Guitarra Espa├▒ola y metodo de sus primeros rudimenteros, hasta te├▒erla con destreza can be translated as "Musical Instruction for the Spanish Guitar and method of the primary rudiments for playing it with dexterity"
  2. ^ *Instruccion de musica sobre la guitarra espa├▒ola Biblioteca Nacional de Espa├▒a
  3. ^ *Patykula, John. Gaspar Sanz - Master of the Spanish Baroque Guitar


  • Gaspar Sanz, Anthology of Selected Pieces edited by Raymond Burley (Schott 1993)
  • Baroque Guitar In Spain And The New World by Frank Koonce (Mel Bay Publications)

External links




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