Guide to Applied Levels for the USC Guitar Department

Etude, Technique and Repertoire requirements

The following guide is to provide students with a “syllabus of precedent.” That is, a listing of material that has been successfully studied and performed by students at the various levels, as opposed to a rigid and often unrealistic progression of pieces imposed upon the student. There will often be an overlap of material between levels. Go to the Downloads for lessons page to get a hard copy of the Guide to the Applied Levels.


Some guitar students may lack substantial pre-college training on the guitar. The 101 level of study provides an opportunity for motivated students to cover basic techniques and procedures. The successful study of this material is essential for admission to the applied sequence. Potential music majors may study at the 101 level for two semesters, after which they must pass an audition for entry into the applied sequence.

Basic Technique: A thorough study of Christopher Berg's Mastering Guitar Technique: Process and Essence (Mel Bay Publications, Inc.) and Aaron Shearer's Learning the Classic Guitar, Parts One and Two (Mel Bay Publications, Inc.). The degree of mastery of this material will be demonstrated by the application of basic skills to the exercises and etudes listed below.

Scales: Memorization and performance of all major and harmonic minor open position scales. These are presented in Aaron Shearer’s Scale Pattern Studies. Students seeking admission to the applied sequence must be able to perform these scales in eighth notes, triplets and groups of four sixteenth notes with the quarter note set at 80 beats per minute on the metronome.

Arpeggios: Study of all patterns from Groups One, Two and Three from Mastering Guitar Technique. The study of the Giuliani right hand exercises from Op. 1 or Christopher Berg’s Giuliani Revisited should begin at this time.

Left Hand: Selected independence and slur exercises from Mastering Guitar Technique.
Etudes and additional material will be drawn from the following:

Brouwer, L.   Etudes Simples, Vol. 1
Sor, F.   Op.44, 60

Sight Reading for the Classic Guitar, by Robert Benedict, Levels 1-3 (first book)
Sight-reading of open position scale exercises in Aaron Shearer’s Scale Pattern Studies

The Applied Sequence

The applied sequence consists of two tracks, each with a lower division and an upper division. The performance track consists of MUSC 211N (lower division) and MUSC 411N (upper division). Students on the non-performance track will study at MUSC 111N (lower division) and MUSC 311N (upper division). Although each level normally takes two years to complete, some students will be required to study at the lower division for more than two years before qualifying for admission to the upper division of applied study.

The following guide is based on the performance track. Students studying for non-performance degrees (B.M. in Theory or Composition; B.A. in Music) will draw from the same materials but will not be expected to cover as much. Throughout the applied sequence students will study material from the standard etudes of Fernando Sor (Op. 6, 29, 31, 35,) Mauro Giuliani (Op. 48), and Matteo Carcassi (Op 60).

Sight-reading practice will be spread throughout the applied sequence.  Material for sight-reading (and other work) will be drawn from the following:

Aquado, D. New Guitar Method
Benedict, R. Sight Reading for the Classical Guitar, Levels 4 and 5 (Book 2)
Carulli, F. Preludes from Op. 114
Dodgson/Quine Progressive Reading for Guitarists
Muro, J.A. Basic Pieces for Beginning Students
Pick, R. Guitar School
Pujol, E. Exercises, Vols. 1 & 2
Pujol, E. Guitar School, Books 1 & 2
Sagreras, J. Lessons, Vol. 1 & 2
Smith-Brindle, R. Guitarcosmos, Vol. 1 & 2
Tarrega, F. Scale Studies

Etude Requirements: Some etudes, such as those by Sor and Villa-Lobos, will be studied as memorized repertoire. Other etudes, though, will not need as much attention. Sometime beginning in the first year of study, a group of 4-8 etudes will be assigned to each undergraduate student at the start of each semester. These etudes are to be worked on consistently throughout the semester and must be performed at tempo (with music) by the end of the semester. Failure to do so will result in an incomplete for the semester.

Please see the Required Editions list for publisher information on basic texts and etudes.