Playing Mediterranean music on a classical guitar

Recently I discovered the following masterpiece.

After I listened to it many times and Al’s entire discography, I decided to start learning that kind of repertoire, playing with a pick of course. Coincidentally, a friend of mine gifted me his old Yamaha C40 (entry level classical guitar), which by the way is a lot of guitar for 150 US dollars.

The burning question now… How do I approach this? I’m studying electric guitar since I started playing and this whole thing might be different. Do you have any songs to suggest, ideally with tabs because I can’t read formal notation yet.

Technique wise, I have a kinda similar form to Al Di Meola, especially when trying to play fast, so I think I’ll maintain that kind of technique until I get stuck somewhere.

Any suggestions about songs, exercises, CTC material and technique would be really appreciated!

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If you don’t need to play classical guitar pieces on that guitar, I would recommend that you take it to a luthier, and have him sand down the saddle, so that the strings are low, like on a flamenco guitar. That will be very useful in trying to play those fast riffs.

Besides from that, you can try and play youtube videos in slow tempo to figure out how and which notes they play.

You mention Al di Meola, I would say practice what Troy calls “the pepsi lick”, which Al uses a lot. Also

this lick

is something that he plays often.

2 way pick slanting could be a good idea to practice if going the Al route.


I think you’d also get a lot of mileage out of the Strunz & Farah material that CTC has done. I really enjoyed that interview and the adjoining lessons.


I believe this one is swiped 99% of the time in Al’s playing (similar to what Gilbert does). You can hear the occasional open B string in the live version of Mediterranean Sundance, for example (when muting is not perfect on the upstroke swipe).

This is not to say Al (or Paul) is not great (^_^), but it’s just for us to have reasonable expectations!


Tommo, great observation! When I read your post, I thought about some of those clips that Troy talks about, “a special summernight”, and I can definitely hear that B string
The clip below should start right around some B string action. I have to take a closer look now :nerd_face:

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Thank you for the replies guys! I recently started trying to play 2Way slanted phrases and I’m not familiar at all with swiping, so there is a lot of work to be done. The similarities with me and Al end at that both of us use a lot of elbow in fast lines.

@Danish I will definitely consider that mod on the guitar, it doesn’t hold any value on the used market anyway. The lick you mentioned is one of those that I’ve been practicing for at least a year, only recently it started feeling a bit smoother.

I have an Alhambra with a cutaway, that just got that setup done. The thing with the classical fingerstyle is, that nylon strings move in a very large arch and classical guitarist need a pure tone, so the action is high. In flamenco, more buzz is accepted and it is part of the style. For pick style, you can get away with a low action and a pretty clean tone, however if I really strike the string hard, the string buzz. Most of the time I don’t play with that much force. Low action does sound a bit different than high action, a bit “snappier”, more percussive attack to the sound.

If you want to have a way back, you could keep the original guitar saddle and have a new, low flamenco one done by the luthier. That way, you can go back to the original string height, if so desired.

Just a shoutout for Larry Coryell, who also has many interesting licks to steal! Originally, he was part of the trio, but was later replaced by Al. I haven’t tried playing Paco riffs yet, but maybe it is possible with a pick? I honestly don’t know! Time go 50% on youtube :slight_smile:


For anyone interested, I started learning the following song, it’s called “Morning of the Carnival”. Can’t help it, I love Al! :smiley:


“Pavlo” has lots of this kind of thing, some of it crosses over with flamenco as well. I have dabbled in this style a little using a Godin Mulitiac nylon string. Fun stuff.

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I found this, which I have never seen before:
from the description:

“…The bulk of Friday Night in San Francisco, this trio’s first album release, was recorded at the Warfield on the night prior to the one when this recording was made. It is clear here why they chose to use that recording, as all three virtuosos are at the top of their game.”

A couple of things I think is interesting;

  • even though the solos are different from the released version, it is also very clear to hear that there are many similarities between the two. I remember a time when I thought all the great guitar solos I heard where improvised - but these days, I think this is actually the exemption when we get into high speed territory.

  • notice the sound of di Meola’s Ovation guitar. It has a great projection and a very percussive sound. Part of that, I believe, is the sound of strings very low to the fretboard. When you strike a string hard, it also gives some buzz. This is very different than playing a Martin guitar with 13-52, set up for strumming. So to truly play those riffs that fast, I believe low setup is also necessary. I am not trying to belittle DiMeolas amazing chops (!!) here but just to say, at warp speed, you need all the help you can get. Low action is easier to play and as noted, sounds different.

  • I wonder what gauge of strings he uses on this recording. Since the ovation is sort-of-like an electric, it could be lighter than what one would typical use on a dreadnought. But I don’t know ?

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Very interesting points here. I haven’t made significant progress yet, life gets in the way far too often for my liking.:smiley:

It’s certain though that I need a guitar with a cutaway, I can barely get to the 12th fret on my classical.

Check out the various Godin nylon string models. I play a Multiac, but there are several with different fingerboard widths and cutWays.

Just to make sure I understand this right - I tend towards an escaped downstrokes approach myself, as I suspect does Gilbert just based on his frequent 3nps 6s runs (think Technical Difficulty).

If I were to play this swiped (which more likely than not I do), it would be picked with a downstroke on the 7, upstroke on the 8, downstroke escape on the 10, and then an upstroke/rotation to escaped upstroke on the 7, but at that point more likely than not would sweep back into the 10 and from there return to my normal escaped downstroke orientation. Is that more or less what you’re describing?


I’m not sure - I think I get a bit confused when it’s put into words :smiley:

Here’s my best attempt at a Tab explanation:

Downstroke escapes only:

 D U D  U D  U D

Upstroke escapes only:

 D U D  U D  U D

In Di Meola’s case, the “X” sometimes becomes “0” because the left is not fully muting the string.

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Oh, you go THROUGH the string as part of a second pickstroke, rather than sweeping as a continuation of the first? Gotcha - I’ve always been a little confused by the difference between a swipe and a sweep, sounds like a swipe is basically a sweep with a pick-up muted note on the previous string. :rofl:

I’ll have to shoot some video and see what exactly I’m doing when I play runs like this.

I’ve been meaning to add this : @tommo made the great observation about DiMeolas swipe and I looked closer into the clip I posted above, " Paco de Lucia & John Mclaughlin & Al Di Meola - A Special Guitar Summernight".

It should start on 7:10 via this link. Try and play the clip in super slow motion and notice around 7:17-7:23 you can hear the B string ring several times.

At 7:23 he changes string and you can hear the G string, then the D string ring as he changes string again.

So I would say, I think Tommo is right, swiping is going on in AlDimeolas playing.

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