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1.1 – a guitar that sings


The idea of “playing songs” is not original and crisscrosses a musician’s life since the first contact with the instrument. In Brazil, this first contact with music mostly happens in the presence of a guitar, which offers the music beginner the option for two main practical ways: that of a guitar which follows the voice that sings a song; and that of a guitar that plays a song alone. Many times, in an attempt to reproduce the popular music that is being sung, the solo guitar, or soloist, who has vocation for a solo performance, ends up playing songs.



00:00 to start this story

01:35   Dilermando

02:21 ingredients spread out in the most varied places[i]


The mentioned “dragging in octaves” may be noticed in the first phrase of the immortal theme Abismo de Rosas (Rose Abyss), composed by Américo Jacomino, o Canhoto (the Left- handed) (1889-1928). The “dragging” also named “glissando” (gliding) is one of several resources that characterize the interpretative style of the “violão seresteiro” (serenade guitar), diffused all over the country throughout the “radio era” by Dilermando Reis (1916 – 1977). Dilermando was the pinnacle of the Brazilian solo guitar that explored the advantages of steel strings to achieve the sentimental expression of the cantabile, through which he establishes “a model of intuitive phrasing”[i], which for the Brazilian guitar player is referential.

Sheet Music - Abismo de rosas


The guitar of Dilermando “sang” with an expression that deeply resembles the expression of the great voices of the radio era, resulting in what we may realize to be an instrumental version of the “serenade song”.

In such a way the solo guitar was presented to a whole generation of listeners, exactly the same generation to which our interviewees belong. Through Dilermando, João Bosco felt this very instrument that in his hands would follow his own voice; it was also via Dilermando that Marco Pereira faced the solo guitar and turned it into a theme to explore throughout his life.



00:00  solo guitar dilettantes [i]

00:43  the generation that started from the song


The popular song, the way it was experienced by the generation of the masters interviewed, mobilizes a wide range of information, deeply rooted in the Brazilian life style. Hence, the song makes itself present in various areas of the national culture like the cinema, the theater, and the literature. In the contiguous ambiance of the “concert guitar”, the song would also produce a striking mark.

Sergio Assad explains how the song introduces itself in his history as a constitutive element in the deep roots.



00:00   i grew up listening to songs

00:56  a natural procedure


Argentinian concert player and teacher Monina Távora (1921-2011), who studied with Andrés Segóvia (1893-1987), regularly taught the Duo Assad for seven years (OLIVEIRA, 2009, p. 257). Guitar-player-composer Paulo Bellinati had his erudite guitar formation with the main agent in the concert guitar teaching institution in Brazil: the Uruguayan, naturalized Brazilian, Isaías Sávio — a master who, perhaps for also being a composer as well, was “open to dialogue with the popular music” [i].



Sávio insisted emphatically on one thing when I was a kid.
He would always say that the melody is what it really mattered,
that it has to sing,                  
that the melody has to be beautiful.

That priority, which establishes a pattern for the “accompanied melody”, echoes in Bellinati’s performance as an author; it is also present in his view as a transcriber and producer of the book The Guitar Works of Garoto, which presents the work of another referential guitar-player-composer for the Brazilian music: Aníbal Augusto Sardinha.


Garoto was a composer who made up songs using the guitar.

Do you mean songs that were given lyrics
and turned out to be recorded with vocal interpretation,
such as “Gente humilde” (Humble people) and “Duas contas” (Two beads)?

I mean all his pieces of music.
They were instrumental songs; they were not guitar solos;
it was a song that he played on the guitar.
It was “a guitar that sang”. [i]


As it can be seen, the recurring idea of a “guitar that sings”, or an instrumental song, represents a constitutive feature of the music for solo guitar in Brazil. This feature is determined by the strong relation that the Brazilians have with singing – a link translated into a wide range of popular songs, which exceeds supposed limits, by pointing to different stylist directions through multiple authorial strands.

Thus, the “cantabile style” becomes a mark of the Brazilian solo guitar repertoire, in which melody reigns. Whether in the music of Canhoto – which refines the steadiness of melodic motifs developed in a more traditional harmonic context – , whether in the music that uses a wider harmonic variation, of which Garoto is our historical reference.

The guitar of Brazilian masters sings and utilizes the relationship with singing to reach integrity in the composition, so as to establish straight communication with the listeners. Who also sing.



01:58  brief history of the Brazilian guitar

02:44  strong melody

The history of the Brazilian guitar comes from Canhoto, João Pernambuco, Passes by Laurindo, Garoto and Dilermando Reis.

They are key figures in the development of the guitar in Brazil, And there is something common among them, which is exactly the fact that they wrote music with very strong melodic characteristic; thus, they were all song composers. Besides, all of them professionally developed this feature of accompanying singers. […]

02:56  a place where singing is privileged

03:59  harmonizing

04:30 I’m gonna sing! normally, I wouldn’t do that….

It’s a way, let’s put it this way, to arrange on the guitar when you are harmonizing For example…. normally I wouldn’t do that, I’m gonna sing! [laughter]

[ASSAD sings the melody of his music Ângela harmonizing it with the guitar, as if in a song, and in sequence he plays the melody arrangement on the guitar sewn with harmonization, as if in a guitar piece. While he plays, he comments on the challenges of the process]

06:10 the guitar limits[i]

in the case of the guitar, sometimes you get a bit limited
about what can be done in the sense of harmony
while you sustain the melody
you fall into a position…
for example, you fall into a chord like this one:

and then you have nowhere to go…

there isn’t a way to move out

you want to keep the melody, the harmony, the bass
and get yourself limited
the guitar limits because of that

there are chords that are tied
you haven’t got the loose string
with the loose string it would be easier

it’s more resourceful

that’s what makes writing for the guitar so difficult
because sometimes you think of things that you’d like to hear
but it can’t be done

  1. LINK with the idea “we start linking one thing with the other” presented in – 5.1 – “Gagabirô” – in the statement of João Bosco.

  2. Fábio Zanon formulates this idea at 21m08sec in the program dedicated to Dilermando Reis – elaborated with Ivan Paschoito – in the series entitled “A Arte do Violão” (“The Art of the Guitar”), broadcast by Rádio Cultura FM de São Paulo. Access Sept. 2013. (ZANON, F. Dilermando Reis. In: programa “A arte do Violão”, Rádio Cultura).

  3. LINK with Assad’s statement “there are a lot of people who love the guitar; it attracts a lot of people” in – 4.1 – guitar-piano.

  4. Fábio Zanon formulates that idea at 36m50s in the program dedicated to Isaías Sávio – elaborated with Maurício Orozco – in the series entitled “A Arte do Violão” (“The Art of the Guitar”), broadcast by Rádio Cultura FM de São Paulo. Access Sept. 2013

  5. LINK with the same idea in – 3.1 – the non-song?.

  6. LINK with the idea “when I choose this opening [for this chord, for example], it becomes a written thing” in –  6.4 – the writing moment.