Which Villa-Lobos Book Should I buy? (A Quick Overview)

Which Villa-Lobos Book Should I buy? (A Quick Overview)

This quick overview will help you decide which Villa-Lobos edition to buy, tell you what is available, and point out where you can get free copies. Check it out below.

The Villa-Lobos Edition Confusion.

When I first started playing guitar, we were told to buy the only edition available at the time (see below pic and link), to get our hands on all the music.

Why? Well this being the only edition out there (and had been so since 1950) that was complete, we all did. And like a slowly brewing storm, the questions and confusion began anew for another generation of guitarists! What the hell is going on at the end of Etude 2? What three notes did Villa-Lobos want at the end of Etude 3? Why does bar 20 in etude 10 go up so high, and then come back down into a different idea? These, and many more questions remained.

1928 Villa-Lobos Edition

Then like a careless whisper in a wham video I started hearing rumors of another source. One that differed greatly from my “official” edition, and that had the holy grail: the correct bars to the end of most of the etudes! And *gasp* fingering! (I was stunned at the last one, as fingering Villa-Lobos always took more than one person, and a lot of brain power and head scratching.)

Unfortunately the only way you could get your hands on this source, which turned out to be the 1928 manuscript, was by writing to the museum in Brazil which housed it. This source teased and beckoned to all but the very fortunate. Eventually, once I had graduated and been teaching for years, I managed to get mu hands on a copy, due to the generosity of John Mills. And it proved invaluable to me as a guitarist and as a teacher.

Now however that is no longer a problem. The 1928 manuscript copy is available online – and free! (Of course if you live in a country that allows it to be copyright issues abound so don’t get into trouble.)

Search for it here – IMSLP  (but be aware it is still copyrighted in the USA and EU so you do so at your own risk)

Now you would think that solves all the editorial mistakes and problems in the original print edition? Wouldn’t you! Well it didn’t!

Why 2 Villa-Lobos editions?

From 2017 the Zigante edition be camer availabe, see below, and the truth has emerged! Villa-Lobos was halted just on the end of the 1928 manuscript in the 1940’s due to war. So Eschig had the manuscript, BUT didn’t print it. Why? No one knows! Then he revisited them after the war, and on his own part (and on the meddling of Segovia, who didn’t really like these etudes and found them musically challenging) Villa-Lobos revised and edited down some of the studies.

Then for some completely unknown reason Eschig printed them in 1950 with no fingering and in some parts the 1928 expression and technical suggestions AND the 1950’s ones. And so the confusion started.

One great example of this is the end of Etude 2. On top of the last 2 bars is the 1950 suggestions, on the bottom is the 1928 suggestion. With absolutely no clarity as to what you actually are doing there! (and yes there are lots of corrections as you can see in this picture: correct harmonic notes.)

Modern Critical Villa-Lobos Edition

It has taken until 2017 for another edition to be published. The Zigante edition, see below picture and link. (Update: this book seems to be scarce on Amazon)

This edition has striven to bring all the sources together and add commentary to them. And it does it so very well. But they have taken an editorial line, in reproducing the etudes, which is two fold:

  • 1928 Fingering
  • 1950 Score

Which works well for some of the etudes, but not for others. However as it stands, we are in 2019, this is the best source available. And it turns out, the best value for money. So if you want just one book for your 12 etudes this is the book for you. (Getting harder to source this on Amazon so have placed the link to Hal Leonard directly, see below)

Zigante Book Amazon.com

Zigante Book Hal Leonard Site (USA)

Concise Overview

Best all round value for money, and up-to-date edition is this:

Zigante Book Amazon.com

If you want to be complete and get all of Villa-Lobos’ works, and don’t mind paying extra this is the book for you:

1950 Eschig Edition

If you’re a starving student/artist/Parent then search for 1928 edition here:


Top Tip

If you can, grab one of the books (preferable the Zigante edition) above AND the free 1928 edition. The combination of these two is powerful and like George Michael sang…”cos I gotta have faith.”

This review is in aid of the #villalobos12in12 challenge, if you’re interested check out the the brief introduction to it below.

#villalobos12in12! what is that?

I bet, like me, you want to play all 12 of Villa-Lobos’ awesome studies? And not just kind of perform them, but actually play and understand them!

Have you found it a little tough to get some of them started, or even finished?

Want some help?

#villalobos12in12 is a community led challenge that aspires to inspire and help get these fantastic pieces up and running. And it all starts here at CGRocks. We are going to cover 1 study a month, beginning January 2019. Join up and get a free copy of the study guide to etude no. 1.


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We are kicking off the #villalobos12in12 challenge with Etude 1 and progress from there. Hopefully you gain a deeper understanding of these awesome pieces, be able to confidently perform them and improve your technique. ‘Cos that is what’s going to happen. Being able to play all 12 etudes will drastically improve your technique: if you practice mindfully, that is!

For More details on th #villalobos12in12 challenge click the link below.

#villalobos12in12 challenge


Classical guitarist who strives to share a little #6stringinspiration.

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