Romanza, also known as Spanish Romance and Jeux Interdits, is a favorite of the classical guitar repertoire. It features a beautiful romantic melody in E minor on the first string and an arpeggio accompaniment. To really allow this music to shine, it’s important to focus on the right hand.
The right-hand figure is repetitive throughout the piece, with the thumb playing bass notes and the a-m-i fingers playing the top three strings (usually). However, within that arpeggiated figure in the right hand is a combination of melody (with the a finger) and accompaniment (with the thumb and i and m fingers). So to start let’s focus on just playing the melody.
The melody has four repeated notes and this figure repeats several times throughout the piece. Because we have repeated notes we will do well to give shape to these notes. Don’t just play them the same. Instead, we can use crescendo to build toward the fourth note of each figure. This really helps the melody to sing.
Balance in the Right Hand
While we’re working to give shape to the melody, we also have to be careful to separate the melody from the accompaniment. So be careful to create a nice sound with the a finger while bringing the volume down on the i and m fingers.
Musical Expression: Dynamics and Tempo Rubato
Once we have all these pieces together, however, we want to start using expression to really make the music alive. The right hand helps us do this by use of dynamics and tempo rubato.
If you follow the contour of the melody, getting louder as we move through each of those four repeated melody notes, and then also getting softer as the music descends, you’ll have a nice phrasing. Likewise, we can think of tempo or speed shifting along with the dynamics, gaining energy (and thus speed) as the music gets louder and losing energy (and some speed) while getting softer. You have to be cautious with how much rubato you use, but this is a great effect for expression in the right hand.
Another great way to bring attention to certain notes, to create tension and expression, is to use a soft rest stroke on some melody notes. Be careful not to do this on every note, but it can be great in a few places.
At the end of both the first and second sections you’ll notice the bass becomes important suddenly. Be sure to bring out those lines with the thumb.
One of the things that makes this piece difficult and not so much of a beginner piece is the left hand. There are many barres and we need to use some advanced left-hand movement to make the second section especially really work well.
We can bring out the beautiful melodic line that we’ve been giving shape to with dynamics in the right hand by using vibrato in the left hand. And we want the vibrato to accompany the accelerando and crescendo in that melodic line. By getting more intense with the vibrato as the music builds we create a more convincing effect.
You can explore different fingerings in various passages that may be easier. Some of these also allow you to be more expressive, such as using the same finger on the first string to use a glissando. I encourage you to explore these.
Because the barres use a lot of energy in the left hand, be careful to place the barre down only when you need it. In many instances we can wait to place the barre just until it’s needed. Placing it early increases tension and wastes energy, so try to avoid that.
Note also that barres do not always cover all six strings. In many places we only need a barre on three or four strings. And, again, we will waste energy by placing a full six-string barre when it’s not needed. So be cautious to only cover the strings that are needed with the barre.
Be sure to download the PDF of the sheet music at the link below to follow along.