BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

According to legend, the great Spanish guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega became deeply homesick when visiting London sometime in the 1880s and expressed his melancholy condition in a miniature for his instrument, “Lágrima.” This prelude became Tárrega’s most well known composition—and by extension one of the most popular pieces in the classical guitar literature.

“Lágrima” happens to work out very nicely on the ukulele, as this arrangement for high-G ukulele by Tony Mizen demonstrates. Before you tuck into it, get to know the piece by listening to a few guitar recordings, of which there are many on YouTube [Editor’s note: the one above is by Michael Chapdelaine]. While you’re listening, note the piece’s A–B–A structure. Each section is eight bars long; the A section is in the key of E major and the B in E minor.

Play the piece andante, meaning moderately slow tempo (76–108 BPM), and fingerstyle, with your thumb on string four, index on three, middle on two, and ring on one throughout. Using the suggested frethand fingerings will help you articulate the melody smoothly. Let all notes ring as long as possible, and allow yourself to luxuriate in the sound of the beautiful arpeggios.


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Once you’ve got the prelude down and can play it in a flowing way, try experimenting with dynamics and tone color. For example, add a crescendo (gradual increase in loudness) to an ascending phrase by picking louder as the notes get higher; do the opposite (decrescendo) for a descending line. Pick the A and B sections with your hand in a different position relative to the bridge or fretboard. Touches like this will add expressiveness and individuality to “Lágrima”—or any other piece. 

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Ukulele. The arrangement below is based on an arrangement that originally appeared in The Romantic Ukulele: Classical Music for Ukulele [Flea Market Music].

Tarrega's "Lagrima" sheet music for ukulele

The Ukulele Owner’s Manual is the book that belongs in every ukulele player’s instrument case. Each chapter was written by the experts and performers at Ukulele Magazine, with topics ranging from commonsense instrument care to fixing rattles and buzzes to a pictorial history of the instrument. Book owners can also download how-to videos with step-by-step guidance on common set-up and maintenance topics.