‘Spanish Fandango’: Learn a 19th-Century Acoustic Classic in Open-G Tuning

Henry Worrall scored his biggest hit with this tune, a bright melody in triple meter, played in open-G tuning.
This arrangement is excerpted from Roots and Blues Fingerstyle Guitar Explorations.

The story of “Spanish Fandango” begins in 1825, when Henry Worrall was born in Liverpool, England. Worrall immigrated to New York as a child, and his biography is a classic American tale of energy and self-invention. After his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, around 1835, young Worrall left his occupation as a newsboy to work for a decorative glass cutter.

At the same time, Worrall set about teaching himself to play guitar—and, eventually, painting, engraving, and design. In the 1850s, he published a popular tutorial, Worrall’s Guitar School, and his original compositions, with evocative titles like “Mexican Airs,” “Saint Louis Rondo,” and “Sebastopol—A Descriptive Fantaisie for the Guitar,” became part of America’s popular music canon.


Perhaps the original exponent of the British guitar invasion, Worrall scored his biggest hit with “Spanish Fandango,” a bright melody in triple meter, played in open-G tuning. The piece was originally published in 6/8, but I’ve notated the main theme here in 3/4, which many guitarists find easier to read.

The picking hand plays a fairly active role in the piece. Worrall intended for the down-stemmed notes to be played by the thumb and the up-stemmed notes by the index, middle, and ring fingers. Feel free, though, to pinch the notes on beat 1 of each measure with your thumb and middle finger and pick the notes on beats 2 and 3 with your thumb and index, respectively.

As for the fretting hand, the I chord (G) is sounded mostly on the open strings, while the IV (C), V (D), and III (B) chords can be conveniently played at frets 5, 7, and 4, with a first-finger barre across strings 1–5.

Spanish Fandango

Steve James
Steve James

The late, great Steve James was a noted roots musician and raconteur. He is the author of several well-regarded books on blues guitar.

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