Villancico de Navidad (Christmas Carol) Agustín Barrios Guitar Lesson

Villancico de Navidad (Christmas Carol) Agustín Barrios Guitar Lesson

Villancico de Navidad (Christmas Carol) by Agustín Barrios is a festive guitar lesson that will walk you through this beautiful arrangement, in a step-by-step manner. You will learn the three harmonisations, with fingerings, and hacks to get the dots off the page to on your fretboard. There are some amazing moments in Barrios’ arrangement, full chords, and a tender harmonic melody. So let’s dive into this traditional Christmas Carol arranged by a master guitarist of the early 20th century.

Villancico de Navidad (Christmas Carol) Agustín Barrios

Villancico de Navidad, translated in English: Christmas Carol, is a workshop by Agustín Barrios on how to arrange music for the guitar. Written in the last few years of his life, July 1943. It shows a master craftsman using only what is required to make the melody come alive under his fingers. It also uses the entirety of the fretboard, practically all 12 rest. Furthermore, it has three distinct harmonisations for the melody, and some interlude material. 

Need more information? Check out this link to what a Villancico actually is: wiki link.

Quick Guitar Lesson  – Under 10 min

This is a new series here aimed at getting the music off the page and under your fingers in less than 10 minutes. It may take longer to perform, but the initial learning should be relatively quick. Villancico de Navidad has a lot of repetition to it, so once the material is learnt, it is just a case of getting the different chunks of information in the correct order to play.

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Villancico de Navidad – Structure

  • Harmonisation 1  bar 1 – 9 (major)
  • Harmonisation 2 bar 11 – 18 (major)
  • Harmonic interlude bar 18 – 26
  • Harmonisation 3 bar 27 – 34 (parallel minor)
  • Coda bar 43 – 45

Agustín Barrios’ Christmas Carol Opening


The opening can be played in three different positions on the fretboard. In the video I highlight all of them, showing you how to finger, and get in and out of the section. My preference is for this first way, above, as it lends itself to being a full, richer, sound to those spare thirds. But the other two places have their merit too. Position V is the compromise position, a little full, and a little bright. Position I is bright, very bright. It lends itself to less experienced players, due to the notes lying under the finger easier. But as always – YOU CHOOSE.

Full Harmony in Villancico de Navidad


Harmonisation 2 uses a series of chord shapes, that Barrios then fills out on the repeat. Watch the fingering, especially when the melody shoots up to the 10th fret D. There is nothing really difficult here, other than knowing your chord shapes, and being clever with your finger choices.

Harmonics in the Carol


The harmonic interlude uses natural harmonics to outline the melody, to get them to POP, make sure your RH is nearer the bridge. It gives the string more room to vibrate. Left hand finger over the nodes, and watch your rhythms here. The tricky bit is when you switch to natural notes, so be aware of the moment, and the fingers. The chord shapes here are used by Barrios in the opening Prelude of the Cathedral. So if you have already learnt that, they will not pose any problems. If you haven’t, it may be worthwhile checking out this lesson on that awesome piece, see below.

Christmas Carol Coda


The coda is a very simple suspension idea, using natural notes into harmonics, and back again. Ending on the D major chord. Place all the notes carefully in time, and make sure that the final chord is even in tone, with all the notes ringing clearly. 

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