Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt

LA PALOMA (The Dove)
by Sebastián Yradier

Free Guitar Sheet Music and Guitar Tab


Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt

Pepe Romero performs this version on his Philips CD, La Paloma—Spanish and Latin American Favorites, and in the video below. Romero's version is similar to Francisco Tárrega's (see below), with some corrections and minor alterations.

Watch Pepe Romero play his guitar arrangement of La Paloma

"La Paloma" performed by guitarist Pepe Romero

Below is the audio of the free "La Paloma" guitar arrangement from the Philips CD, La Paloma—Spanish and Latin American Favorites. The notes and fingerings are almost identical to the live version, but the audio and performance on the CD are more refined.

"La Paloma" from Pepe Romero CD, "Spanish and Latin American Favorites"

The "La Paloma" FREE Sheet Music Package
is in PDF format (55 pages!)
and contains the following items:

  1. La Paloma by Sebastián Yradier arranged and fingered by Pepe Romero in Standard Notation.
  2. The same in Standard Notation Plus Tab.
  3. The same in tab only.
  4. Francisco Tárrega's arrangement Of "La Paloma" (from the Early Spanish Editions) in Standard Notation.
  5. Francisco Tárrega's handwritten, autograph manscript! (1894) of his arrangement of La Paloma
  6. Three versions of the vocal-piano score of "La Paloma" (different English translations)
  7. Two arrangements of "La Paloma" for the guitar in the key of A major by Luis T. Romero (1889) and Walter Jacobs (1895).
  8. Background information about "La Paloma":
    • The Guitar Arrangements of "La Paloma"
    • The Story Behind the Song
    • Sebastián Yradier—The Man Who Wrote "La Paloma"
    • About Pepe Romero
    • The Lyrics
  9. Notation Key
Gift box with music notes wrapping paper


The Guitar Arrangements of "La Paloma"

Francisco Tárrega's arrangement serves as the basis for most arrangements for guitar. They are in the key of D major and use a drop-D tuning.

Francisco Tárrega
Francisco Tárrega
Page 1 of Francisco Tárrega's arrangement for guitar of La Paloma
Page 1 of Francisco Tárrega's arrangement of "La Paloma"

Pepe Romero's version is almost identical to Tárrega's except for a few corrections, minor alterations, and fingering changes.

Guitarist Pepe Romero
Guitarist Pepe Romero
Page 1 of Pepe Romero's arrangement for guitar of La Paloma
Page 1 of Pepe Romero's arrangement of "La Paloma"

However, a few arrangements are in the key of A major in standard tuning, such as the two I included here in the La Paloma Free Sheet Music Package by Luis T. Romero (1889) and Walter Jacobs (1895).

Cover of Arrangements for Guitar by Luis T. Romero
Cover of "Arrangements for Guitar" by Luis T. Romero
Cover of The Guitar Soloist by Walter Jacob
Cover of "The Guitar Soloist" by Walter Jacobs

These versions preserve the constant habanera rhythm present in the original song, which the arrangements in D major do not.

Page 1 of Luis T. Romero's arrangement for guitar of La Paloma
Page 1 of Luis T. Romero's arrangement of "La Paloma"
La Paloma in the key of A major, arranged for guitar by Walter Jacobs
"La Paloma" in the key of A major, arranged for guitar by Walter Jacobs

The handwritten autograph manuscript by Francisco Tárrega included in the La Paloma Free Sheet Music Package is from The Tárrega-Leckie Guitar Manuscripts.

Autograph manuscript of La Paloma arranged by Francisco Tárrega, page 1
Autograph manuscript of "La Paloma" arranged by Francisco Tárrega, page 1

Tárrega wrote out his "La Paloma" arrangement for Dr. Walter Leckie (a student and close friend of Tárrega) during a visit to the Leckie's home in Nice on August 2, 1894. The notations in red ink are by Dr. Leckie. You can read the fascinating history of Tárrega and Leckie and drool over Tárrega's handwritten manuscripts in two superbly-produced volumes by Brian Whitehouse. They are very expensive but worth every penny.

1. Dr. Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega (The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist)

Book cover Dr. Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega, The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist

2. The Tárrega-Leckie Guitar Manuscripts—Lessons with the Maestro

The Tárrega-Leckie Guitar Manuscripts—Lessons with the Maestro

The Story Behind "La Paloma" (The Dove)

Illustration of La Paloma with flying white dove

"La Paloma" (The Dove) is a popular Spanish song produced and reinterpreted in diverse cultures, settings, arrangements, and recordings over the last 140 years. Sebastián Iradier (later Yradier), a Spanish composer from the Basque region, wrote the song in the 1850s after visiting Cuba. In 1859 it was registered at the copyright office in Madrid as a "Cancion Americana con acompañamiento de Piano." Unfortunately, Yradier died in obscurity within a few years, never to learn how popular his song would become.

"La Paloma" belongs to a genre of songs called "Habaneras," a musical style developed in 19th-century Spain.

Dancers and musicians performing an habanera in 1899
Dancers and musicians performing an habanera circa 1899

Habaneras are still present in folk songs and formal compositions, particularly in the country's Northern Basque Region and East Coast (Catalonia and Valencia) regions. Like all habaneras, the characteristic and distinct rhythm of "La Paloma" reflects the fusion of the local Cuban songs that the Spanish sailors brought back from their travels to Cuba, with the rhythmic structure of the flamenco "tanguillo gaditano" (original from Cádiz, Andalusia).

"La Paloma" quickly became popular outside of Spain, particularly in Mexico, and soon spread worldwide. In many places, including Afghanistan, Hawaii, the Philippines, Germany, Romania, Zanzibar, and Goa, it gained the status of a quasi-folk song. In Zanzibar, they play it at the end of weddings, in Romania at the end of funerals, in Mexico as a second anthem, and in Germany as a sailor's lament.

We can trace the motif of the lyrics of "La Paloma" back to a historical event that occurred in 492 BC. The Persian fleet under Mardonius was caught in a storm off the shore of Mount Athos and wrecked.

Disaster to the Persian Fleet

As you can see in the illustration above, the Greeks observed white doves escaping from the sinking Persian ships. The event inspired the notion that such birds bring home a final message of love from a sailor lost at sea.

The lyrics of "La Paloma" reflect this message that love overcomes death and separation. The original Spanish words tell of a Cuban sailor who laments parting from his "Guachinanga chinita" (his adorable Mexican sweetheart) and asks her to cherish his spirit if it returns to her window as a "paloma" (dove). Then he fantasizes that if he does return safely, they will marry and have seven, or even fifteen, children.

Over the years, the popularity of "La Paloma" has surged and receded periodically but never subsided. It may be considered one of the first universal popular hits and has appealed to artists of diverse musical backgrounds. There are more than one thousand versions of this song, and together with "Yesterday" by The Beatles, it is one of the most-recorded songs in the history of music. "La Paloma" is undoubtedly the most-recorded Spanish song.

Opera singers, pop singers, jazz musicians, rock artists, and folk artists recorded the song in more than 50 languages. One of the most famous renditions was by country music singer Marty Robbins. Even Elvis Presley sang a revamped version with new lyrics in his movie Blue Hawaii.

The song entered the Guinness Book of World Records when sung by the world's largest choir, 88,600 people, in Hamburg on May 9, 2004.

Sebastián Yradier, The Man Who Wrote "La Paloma"

Composer Sebastián Yradier
Composer Sebastián Yradier

Sebastián Iradier Salaverri (Salaberri) (January 20, 1809 to December 6, 1865), or Sebastián Yradier, was a Spanish Basque composer. Yradier has gone down in history as one of a very few Basque composers of note.

Yradier was born in the Basque town of Lanciego in the province of Álava. He was appointed organist first of San Miguel Arcángel in Vitoria (1825) and then of San Juan Bautista, Salvatierra (1827), a post which he won through competition, gaining "marks in excess of highest quality" in sight-reading, prepared works, and accompaniment. He received a leave of absence of three or four months from San Juan Bautista in July 1833 but never returned. In 1839 he was appointed to teach solfège at the Madrid Conservatory, a post he held until 1851.

In Madrid, he collaborated on various theatrical works. In 1847 he collaborated with Cristóbal Oudrid and Luis Cepeda in the production of the zarzuela, "La pradera del Canal." In Paris, in 1855, he taught singing to the Spanish-born Empress Eugénie. On a trip to Cuba, Yradier discovered the rhythm of the habanera. His Spanish songs, many exploiting the Cuban habanera rhythm, became immensely successful in both Europe and the Americas and were performed by such famous singers as Viardot and Patti. Fleurs d'Espagne, a collection of 25 of Iradier's most popular songs with French lyrics, was published in Paris in 1864. "La Paloma" (Madrid, 1859, Paris, 1864) remains perhaps the most famous Spanish song ever written.

His given name was Iradier but he changed it at the request of a French publisher who sought to internationalize him. Unfortunately, as is the case with many Spanish composers, the work of Yradier has yet to submit itself to diligent scholarship, and the extent of his output is not known.

The melody of one of Yradier's songs, "El Arreglito," was a source of inspiration for Georges Bizet. Bizet re-arranged it (he copied the theme, almost verbatim) as the aria "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle," also known as "Habanera" for his opera "Carmen." When he discovered his mistake, Bizet added a note to the opera's vocal score, acknowledging its source.

Yradier died in obscurity in Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1865 at the age of 56.

1. Slonimsky, Nicolas (1978). "Yradier, Sebastian."
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (6th ed.). New York: Schirmer Books. p. 1929. ISBN 0-02-870240-9.

2. Grove Music Online

Pepe Romero

Guitarist Pepe Romero
Guitarist Pepe Romero

Pepe Romero is the second son of "The Royal Family of the Guitar," The Romeros. His father, the legendary Celedonio Romero, was his only guitar teacher. His first professional appearance was in a shared concert with his father when Pepe was only seven years old.

Pepe was born in Málaga, Spain, in 1944. In those days, following the devastating Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and during the Second World War, Spain was in desperate economic straits. Basic survival was the primary challenge. Yet, despite this, Celedonio Romero and his remarkable wife, Angelita, instilled in all three of their children a love of music that transcended the profound misery surrounding them.

By age seven, Pepe set foot on the concert stage for the first time at the Teatro Lope de Vega in Sevilla. And now, more than seventy years later, he continues to mesmerize audiences throughout the world.

His contributions to the field of the classical guitar have inspired many distinguished composers including Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Rev. Francisco de Madina, Lorenzo Palomo, and Celedonio Romero, to write works specifically for him. With his father and brothers, Pepe Romero helped establish The Romeros Quartet as a leading classical guitar ensemble worldwide.

As a member of The Romeros, he has been invited to play at the White House, has performed at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II, and has performed for His Royal Highness Prince Charles-Prince of Wales, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophía of Spain, and Queen Beatrice of Holland. As a soloist, Mr. Romero has appeared in the United States with the Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, Pittsburgh, Boston, San Francisco, and Dallas Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the London Symphony.

He has been a special guest at the Salzburg, Israel, Schleswig-Holstein, Menuhin, Osaka, Granada, Istanbul, Ravinia, Garden State, Hollywood Bowl, Blossom, Wolf Trap, and Saratoga music festivals.

Furthermore, his Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain knighted Pepe Romero and his brothers, Celin and Angel, into the Order of "Isabel la Catolica."

The Lyrics to "La Paloma"

An early edition with English lyrics of the vocal-piano sheet music to La Paloma
An early edition of the vocal-piano sheet music with English lyrics

An early edition of the piano-vocal sheet music to La Paloma
An early edition of the vocal-piano sheet music with guitar chords and English lyrics

There are several different versions of the English lyrics. See the PDFs of the vocal-piano scores.

Here are the Spanish lyrics:

Verse #1:

Cuando salí de la Habana
¡Válgame Dios!
Nadie me ha visto salir
Si no fui yo.
Y una linda Guachinanga
Allá voy yo.
Que se vino tras de mí,
que sí, señor.


Si a tu ventana llega una paloma,
Trátala con cariño que es mi persona.
Cuéntale tus amores, bien de mi vida,
Corónala de flores que es cosa mía.
Ay, chinita que sí!
Ay, que dame tu amor!
Ay, que vente conmigo, chinita,
A donde vivo yo!

Verse #2:

El día que nos casemos ¡Válgame Dios!
En la semana que hay ir Me hace reir
Desde la Iglesia juntitos, Que sí señor,
Nos iremos a dormir, Allá voy yo.


Verse #3:

Cuando el curita nos eche La bendición
En la Iglesia Catedral, Allá voy yo
Yo te daré la manita Con mucho amor
Y el cura dos hisopazos Que sí señor.


Verse #4:

Cuando haya pasado tiempo ¡Válgame Dios!
De que estemos casaditos Pues sí señor,
Lo menos tendremos siete Y que furor!
O quince guachinanguitos Allá voy yo.



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Douglas Niedt is a seasoned, successful concert and recording artist and highly respected master classical guitar teacher with 50 years of teaching experience. He is Associate Professor of Music (retired), at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Fellow of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management—Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Doug studied with such diverse masters as Andrés Segovia, Pepe Romero, Christopher Parkening, Narciso Yepes, Oscar Ghiglia, and Jorge Morel. Therefore, Doug provides solutions for you from a variety of perspectives and schools of thought.

He gives accurate, reliable advice that has been tested in performance on the concert stage that will work for you at home.