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The Light In The Piazza – Detailed Notes on the Guitar Book

Light In The Piazza featured image

Music/Lyrics: Adam Guettel
Book: Craig Lucas
Year: 2003 (original production, Seattle), 2005 (Broadway)

In this article I take a detailed look at the guitar book for Adam Guettel’s beautiful and much-admired Tony Award-winning score, The Light In The Piazza. 5- and 11-piece orchestrations are available, but only the larger version has a Guitar part. I outline the instrumentation required and how that fits into the overall orchestration, make some general comments on the layout and level of detail of the book, then provide a detailed song-by-song review of the entire book. If my notes on some numbers are (slightly) briefer than usual, it is because so much of the book simply has to be played as written, and because to play this show at all requires a level of ability that makes detailed descriptions of how to play the material redundant.

In a separate, more general article, Playing The Light In The Piazza – Guitar, I reflect on the role of the guitar in the show, describe my experience preparing for and playing it and review the equipment I used. This article is intended primarily as a resource for guitarists preparing to play Piazza, and makes frequent and specific references to the score. Consequently much of the article will only be meaningful if the reader has a copy of the guitar book to refer to.

I recommend listening carefully to the Broadway cast recording of the show as you read through the guitar book when preparing for this show; this will aid understanding of the songs’ complicated structures, meters and tempos. It’s also useful to refer to the full orchestral score for context, if you have a copy. For those who really want to delve into the music, I highly recommend Peter Hilliard’s excellent blog post on music directing the show.

The Light In The Piazza is not typical Broadway fare. If you had to pick an overarching label you could call it “neo-classical”, but it actually encompasses many styles to create something quite unique. The primary style is a kind of modern romantic classical music. Mixed into this are stylistic elements of opera, jazz, classic Broadway showtunes, and what the French call “musique de variétés”: basically jazz-tinged pop music which eschews the rhythms of rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a hint of a West Side Story feel in there too, occasionally.
The orchestration comprises piano/celeste, harp (very prominently), bass, percussion, two reed parts, cello (doubled), and three violin parts (doubled, so six players), and of course guitar. The guitar book includes nylon-string guitar, steel-string acoustic guitar, mandolin and a surprising abundance of suspended cymbal.

Margaret Johnson & Signor Nacarrelli

Margaret Johnson & Signor Nacarrelli.
Image courtesy of Showtunes Theatre Company and ©Chris Bennion 2019

This isn’t a particularly busy book for a guitarist. Of its 69 pages, if you exclude pages which are blank, where guitar is Tacet, or where there are only suspended cymbal rolls, there are only 49 pages where a stringed instrument is played.

The material is divided among the instruments as follows:

  • Nylon-String Guitar: used in 22 numbers, the most common instrument in the book. Parts have mostly a classical feel, although a range of styles are present.
  • Steel-String Acoustic Guitar: used in 2 numbers, both quite different and very challenging. One (#5: American Dancing”) is a light jazz instrumental piece, and is the guitar’s highlight of the show. The other (#19: “Love To Me”) is a romantic folk ballad, all picked 1/8-notes, but with a very unusual meter. Both numbers use a highly unusual D-A-D-F-B-D tuning (basically a Dm6 chord). I cover these in detail below.
  • Mandolin: used in 6 numbers, mostly Neapolitan-style playing, and doubling string parts.
  • Suspended cymbal: used in 20 numbers, invariably simple cymbal rolls and crescendos.

Notwithstanding its relative brevity, the material is complicated and difficult to play. I recommend allowing plenty of time to practice it and prepare to play the show. I cover preparation in more detail in my companion article Playing The Light In The Piazza – Guitar. The short version: do not underestimate this material!

The book is accurate with only two minor errors that I was able to identify:

  • #2: “Statues and Stories (Part 1)” lists only suspended cymbal, but should list both cymbal and nylon-string guitar.
  • #9: “Hysteria/Lullaby” is incorrectly numbered as #9A.

I suspect there may be a few errors in #5: “American Dancing”, but it’s hard to be sure as the chords in this number are so unusual. However, a few chords on the cast recording do seem to be different from what’s in the book. All page turns are good.

In the following notes, I include only numbers where the part includes a stringed instrument. I exclude numbers where the guitar is Tacet, or where the part is has only suspended cymbal. Since almost the entirety of the book has to be played exactly as written (with the notable exception of #10: “Say It Somehow”), the notes focus mainly on technique, or departures I made from the ink. “Play as written” should be assumed as a given throughout.

Several numbers segue directly into each other, forming sequences. I identify these in the notes. As described above, the guitar book doubles other instruments for much of the show, and I include details of which instrument is being doubled where there is an obvious doubling. I also identify places where the guitar is “featured”, or has an exposed or solo passage.

SEQUENCE: #1, #2, #2A, #2B

#1: Overture
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: harmony with harp (m.14-16), unison with harp (m.132).

Play exactly as written. I used a capo at the 2nd fret for this number. It isn’t necessary, but there is no time to attach it before the next number, where I found it very useful indeed, so I attached it at the top of the show.


  • m.14-16: play the arpeggios crisply but lightly. Guitar is playing in parallel with the harp.
  • m.17: very quick change to mallets for a cymbal roll.
  • m.132: bring out this little 2-note phrase – it’s the melody. Guitar is in unison with harp. The clarinet and cello pick up the melody in the following measure.
  • m.135: segue directly into #2: “Statues And Stories (Part 1)”.

#2: Statues And Stories (Part 1)
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar (capo 2nd fret – optional), suspended cymbal.

I played this number (almost) exactly as written. Some of the fingerings are quite tricky, but I found that using a capo at the 2nd fret made this number a lot more straightforward to play.


  • Top of number: the headings at the top left of the first page incorrectly omit “Nylon” from the list of instruments required for the number.
  • m.64-69: there is a cymbal roll at m.66-68. You have two measures either side of this to pick up the mallets and put them back down. It’s a fairly quick change.
  • m.70-71: if you decide to use a capo, you will need to play the low E an octave higher. This (along with a similar note in #2A: “Statues And Stories (Part 2)) is the only modification you need to make to accommodate the capo.
  • m.76: segue directly into #2A: “Statues And Stories (Part 2)”. As the score notes, the last beat of the measure is the pickup of a solo played in unison with the harp in the next number, so bring this out.

#2A: Statues And Stories (Part 2)
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar (capo 2nd fret – optional).

This is a continuation of the previous number. If using a capo, it remains in place for this number.


  • m.1-14: a solo passage for the harp and guitar in unison. Bring this out, but keep it clean and simple.
  • m.15-22: note that the chords in this sequence, which also appear in Part 1, are rolled this time.
  • m.52-53: play the low E an octave higher if using a capo.
  • m.59: I played the high voicing of D at the 10th fret.
  • m.60: if using a capo, remove it very quickly at the end of the number, as there is an applause segue into the following number.

#2B: Margaret/Hat Underscore
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.

This short piece of underscore is the first really exposed moment for the guitar. It’s quite tricky to play, but needs to be played accurately. Measures 1-4 feature only the guitar and clarinet. The clarinet has the melody; the guitar has a countermelody underpinned by chord changes. The harp joins in at m.5.

I played this number as written, except that I didn’t need to use a pick for the tremolo section (m.23-26), because I had hardened my nails to play this show.

The fateful Hat Scene. Clara & Fabrizio

The fateful Hat Scene. Clara & Fabrizio.
Image courtesy of Showtunes Theatre Company and ©Chris Bennion 2019

#3: The Beauty Is
Instruments: Mandolin, nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: harp (m.1-7), violins (all other mandolin parts), piano (nylon-string m.51-62).

This number has several very quick instrument changes. The parts themselves aren’t too difficult, but the changes can be. I played this exactly as written.


  • m.13-14: very quick change from mandolin to nylon-string.
  • m.35-37: the score has music for the nylon-string, but the parentheses indicate that you should be changing to the mandolin in time for m.38. This is another very quick change.
  • m.47-50: another change from mandolin to nylon-string guitar. This time you have four measures, so it’s a little easier.
  • m.63-64: grab the mallets for a few cymbal rolls at the end of the song, but be ready for the next number on nylon-string. It’s not quite a segue, but there isn’t much dialogue between the numbers.

SEQUENCE: #4, #4A, #5

#4: Il Mondo Era Vuoto (Part 1)
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.

This number has an operatic feel, and the “classical” guitar part is quite tricky. I recommend spending some time learning to play this number. The guitar is “featured” and has a few solo flourishes, so it’s fairly exposed, even though the part is doubled by various instruments during the number. There are a few measures where the score has slash or rhythm notation, and I used low voicings for the chords in these passages.


  • m.1-13: exposed passage for the guitar. Bring out and play expressively. Measures 12-13 are a brief solo moment for the guitar.
  • m.65-71: another brief solo for the guitar. Play expressively. I added vibrato to the whole notes in m.67 and m.71.
  • There is a direct segue into Part 2 of the number.

#4A: Il Mondo Era Vuoto (Part 2)
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.

The number continues. The guitar doubles the strings and harp with tremolo chords in the first few measures. Most of the number gives only rhythm notation and chords. I played generally low voicings, and recommend working out in advance which voicings you plan to play.


  • From m.23 onwards the part is all in parentheses, and indicates that you should change to the steel-string acoustic to be ready for #5: “American Dancing”. There are a few cymbal rolls at the end of the number. I found that you can play as far as m.35 and still make the change comfortably.
  • m.42-43: play the cymbal rolls at the end of the number, then quickly put down the mallets, turn the page quickly and be ready to hit the all-important downbeat of #5: “American Dancing”, which is a direct segue.

#5: American Dancing
Instruments: Steel-string acoustic guitar, tuned D-A-D-F-B-D.
Doubling: none. Guitar is the featured solo instrument throughout this number.

And so we arrive at standout moment for the Guitar in the show, arguably it’s raison d’être in the orchestration. This brief but delightful 1940’s-style jazz swing isn’t actually a song. Rather, it’s an instrumental underscore to a comedic scene, where Fabrizio’s father and brother respectively try to dress him presentably for his date with Clara and teach him some “American” dance moves.

This is a challenging number to play, for several reasons:

  1. The rhythms are complex, and need to be articulated clearly. There are frequent time changes and some unusual time signatures.
  2. The guitar uses an unusual tuning (D-A-D-F-B-D), and the ink is very dense (i.e. lots of notes), making it more or less impossible to sight-read.
  3. During the “dance sequence” sections, there’s some rapid jumping around the fretboard.

My advice to anybody preparing to play the show is to learn this number very early in your preparation, then practice it daily until you have it memorized. During performance, the sheet music then serves as a rhythmic road map.

The unusual tuning is necessary to play this number with anything approaching the required fluency (in his article on music directing the show, Peter Hilliard argues that it’s possible to play it in standard tuning, but it really, really, isn’t). By using this tuning, most of the fingerings become simple partial barres, enabling you to focus on the complex rhythms and hammer-ons and pull-offs. As an example, the figure below shows the main 4-measure motif as written in the score, with tablature below. This accounts for half of the number (the half where dialogue and dressing takes place).


The other half of the number is where “Dancing” takes place and it’s more complicated. There’s a lot of jumping around the fretboard, the fingerings get more complicated in places and there are several meter changes. Listening to the recording I think it departs slightly from the score, probably to simplify the fingerings (or maybe there are a few errors in the score – who can tell?). I made a handful of such simplifications myself.

In terms of technique, just strumming this number doesn’t really work – it gets too muddy. The score calls for the use of finger picks (I hardened my nails with Sally Hansen Advanced Hard As Nails instead), and you get a crisper, cleaner tone if you “unison-pick” the strings (meaning that you pluck multiple strings simultaneously, 1 string per finger) to voice the chords.

Even though it’s underscore, this is a lovely little piece, unusual in itself and also unlike anything else in the score. Everybody loves it, so make the most of the guitar’s moment in the spotlight.


  • m.1, m.3 and several other places in the score: emphasize the tenuto note on beat 3 slightly, and hold the full value of the note as indicated.
  • m.41 & 42: beat 2 should be played at the 9th fret, not the 8th, as indicated in the score.
  • m.43: the final 1/8-note is at the 15th fret and is very difficult to reach. The jump to the 9th fret for the next note is also very tricky.
  • m.53-55: I actually ignored the lower notes and played the notes in parentheses instead, as I think it worked better.
  • m.64: a “Possible cutoff” is indicated. There’s a dialogue cue “Ciao Van Johnson!” after which you hit the downbeat of m.65. Keep your eye on the conductor to get the cue, as the fermata won’t be very long, even if you reach it.
  • m.66: the score indicates a final glissando, whereas the conductor score indicates a 7th fret harmonic. I recommend going with the chord and glissando.

5B: Piazzale Michelangelo
Instruments: Mandolin.
Doubling: piano (m.10-12), strings (m.14-20).

This brief transition piece is a “pre-prise” of the next number (#6: “Passeggiata”). Play exactly as written. The descending run in m.10-12 is a little tricky because of the fast tempo and is worth practicing many times.

SEQUENCE: #6, #6A, #6B, #6C

#6: Passeggiata (Part 1)
Instruments: Mandolin, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: mostly strings, but also harp and piano at various points.

Passeggiata is really just one number. The three parts segue directly into each other and it sounds like one number, so I’m not sure why it was separated into three parts. The tempo is a fast waltz and the whole piece is counted in 1. There are several instruments changes over the three parts, and the rapid tempo makes it all too easy to lose your place during these changes, no matter how hard you concentrate. For this reason, I recommend writing plenty of vocal cues into the book to help you keep on track.

Part 1 is mostly mandolin, and I played it exactly as written.


  • m.94-101: fast change from mandolin to suspended cymbal.
  • m.104-111: very fast change to nylon guitar, then segue directly into #6A: “Passeggiata (Part 2)”.

#6A: Passeggiata (Part 2)
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, mandolin.

The number continues. This is a straightforward piece (but again, keep counting carefully through the rests, and I recommend adding in plenty of vocal cues). I played this as written.


  • m.39-40: the whole orchestra is tacet for a line of dialogue. Watch carefully for the cue into m.41.
  • m.43-44: another pause for dialogue. Watch for the cue into m.45.
  • m.47-62: change to mandolin. There is plenty of time for the change.
  • m.63-65: a repeat of the fast descending run from #5B: “Piazzale Michelangelo”. Practice! The run ends with a direct segue into 6AB “Passeggiata (Part 3)”.

#6B: Passeggiata (Part 3)
Instruments: Mandolin, suspended cymbal.

The song continues (really, why was it broken into three parts?). Once again I played this as written.


  • m.2-8: the mandolin doubles the strings.
  • m.27-30: the four little descending runs in these measures are tricky to play, and are solo and slightly exposed.
  • m.36-52: change to suspended cymbal. There is plenty of time for the change.
  • m.67: the suspended cymbal is cut off at the end of the fermata. Be ready to mute it on cue, then segue directly into #6C: “Transition To Tea Scene” and change to nylon-string guitar. There is plenty of time to make the change.
The Nacarrelli family

The Nacarrelli family.
Image courtesy of Showtunes Theatre Company and ©Chris Bennion 2019

#6C: Transition To Tea Scene
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.
Doubling: piano and cello.

A short transition piece to close out the sequence, which I played as written. The guitar plays only m.13-16 in this number, and is then tacet through several numbers, including the whole of a major song (#7: “The Joy You Feel”.

#8: Dividing Day
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.

A standout song, melodic and brooding, and with a lovely pulse throughout. The guitar has a couple of solos and helps to keep the “pulse” going, so this is one of the more exposed parts in the show. I played this as written; a few of the fingerings are a little awkward. Listen carefully to the rest of the ensemble and watch the conductor to keep the tempo steady.


  • m.40-43: the guitar has a solo. Play out with vibrato. I played this expressively, and just slightly more freely, varying just a tiny bit from the metronomic pulse of the rest of the number.
  • m.80-85: exposed solo for the guitar. This is the usual rhythmic pulse, but more exposed than elsewhere.
  • m.86-88: another exposed melodic solo. This time I didn’t add vibrato.

#9: Hysteria/Lullaby
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.

(Note: this piece is incorrectly numbered #9A in the guitar score.)

Clara gets lost in the streets of Florence and has a meltdown. As you might expect, this is an angular, dissonant number. I played this exactly as written. It’s not particularly complicated, but some of the fingerings are awkward.


  • m.3: after a quick cymbal roll, switch to nylon-string guitar for the rest of the number. There is plenty of time to make the change.
  • m.91-21: as indicated in the score, the guitar doubles the cello.
  • m.26-27: brief but very exposed solo (there is no other instrument playing).
  • m.53-61A: this is a dissonant version of the “Passeggiata” theme.

9B: Fabrizio At The Door
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.

This is a brief reprise of the “El Mondo Era Vuoto” theme. The guitar has a brief exposed solo from m.1-4. It’s very simple to play. I added a hint of vibrato over the notes with fermatas in m.1 and m.2.

#10: Say It Somehow
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.

The finale of Act 1, this is a love ballad with a pop feel. The opening reminds me of the intro to The Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More”, and, having made that connection, I can’t help waiting for Karen Carpenter’s gorgeous, long-lost voice to come in every time I start to play this song.

This is the one number where I found the guitar book to be lacking in adequate detail. It opens with an arpeggiated eighth-note rhythm, which is written out in full, then switches to slash marks and chord symbols for most of the rest of the number, with a note saying “8th-note feel throughout”. The chords are (of course) very complex, so this isn’t very helpful.

I provide a chart showing how I interpreted this number here. The idea is to keep the rhythmic pulse established in m.1-4A going, so I kept to lower voicings and maintained that feel as far as possible.


  • m.1-4A: exposed solo for the guitar. Keep it even and steady; you are establishing a rhythm for the rest of the orchestra.
  • m.10: brief exposed solo (although it is doubled by the piano). I played it expressively, with a little vibrato.
  • m.26: another brief solo moment starting at beat 4 of m.26. I added a little vibrato.
  • m.28-31: there is a fast ascending run in m.28, followed by some arpeggios in m.31, then a suspended cymbal roll in m.32-33. I found it impossible to play m.31 and switch to mallets in time for the cymbal roll. I opted to play m.28, switch to mallets during m.28-30, then hit the cymbal roll at m.32.
  • m.44: another brief exposed solo moment.
  • m.52-53: another brief exposed moment starting at beat 4 of m.52.
  • m.55: the F/C 16th-note chords are marked “rasg.”, meaning they should be played in a rasgeuado style.
  • m.60-62: quick change to suspended cymbal (this section is in 2/4 time so there are only 6 beats to make the change).
  • m.70-81: switch back to nylon-string guitar. There is plenty of time for the change.
  • m.82-83: a brief expressive, melodic run, slightly exposed, but not solo, as guitar is doubled by the violins.
  • m.84-85: a very quick change to suspended cymbal for the final big roll of Act 1.
  • m.91: watch the conductor for the cut-off and mute the cymbal.

#11: Entr’acte
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.
Doubling: mostly piano.

The Entr’acte is a reprise of #3: “The Beauty Is”, changing to the #12: “Aiutami” theme at m.17. I played this number as written, except that I didn’t need to use a flat pick for m.17-19, because I had hardened my fingernails for the show. The alternating tenuto/staccato feel established in m.2 should be maintained throughout m.3-16.

#12: Aiutami
Instruments: Mandolin, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: see notes below.

Aiutami (“Help Me”) is the mandolin’s last appearance in the show. I played it exactly as written, and, technically at least it’s not too difficult to play. It’s an interesting number, which manages to be dramatic and comic at the same time. The time signature is quite unusual, and it’s useful to look in detail at which instruments the mandolin is doubling, to understand its place in the orchestration.

Time signatures: most of the number uses a mixed meter, with alternating measures of cut common time and 6/8 resulting in an overall 7/4 rhythm. I found it easiest to count each pair of measures as 7/4 as the score states, but it is worth playing along to the recording several times to internalize the feel of this rhythm. There are a few passages of 12/8 time, which should be counted in 4. I provide an excerpt below, showing the typical counting patterns.


Doubling: the mandolin is doubled/doubling for most of the number, but not with the piano and harp as usual. This is how it goes:

  • m.15-22: mandolin doubles Fabrizio’s vocal line.
  • m.24-39: mandolin doubles harp.
  • m.40-51: mandolin doubles Signor Naccarelli’s vocal line.
  • m.63-70: mandolin doubles strings.
  • m.84-91: mandolin doubles piano and harp.
  • m.104-111: mandolin doubles Fabrizio’s vocal line.
  • m.112-127: mandolin doubles Signor Naccarelli’s vocal line.

As you can see, the doubling jumps around a lot, and the mandolin, while not particularly exposed, has at least part of the melody for several sections of the number.


  • m.2-3: start the number with a quick suspended cymbal roll, then switch to mandolin for the rest of the number. There is plenty of time to make the change.
  • m.63-70: this section is tricky to play accurately. The overall feel is in 4 (4 x 3/8 = 12/8), and the pizzicato notes fall on sub-beats 6 and 12. The mandolin plays with the violins and cello. The harp and woodwind have sub-beats 1 and 7. I found that the trick is to keep counting in 4, and focus on keeping together with the strings. Needless to say, practice this section.

#13: The Light In The Piazza
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.

This is such a beautiful song, where Clara lays bare her love for Fabrizio to her mother, who in turn experiences a moment of emotional awakening. Really, it’s the heart of the show. The guitar has surprisingly little to do, but is nevertheless important to the overall texture. This piece should be played fairly expressively, and as written.


  • m.5: the little motif is also played by the harp, and is a semi-exposed “solo” moment.
  • m.12-13: guitar, harp and celesta all double the vocal melody.
  • m.29-31: guitar and piano double the vocal melody.
  • m.47-50: guitar doubles the strings. I didn’t use a pick as I had hardened my nails for the show.
Clara: The Light In The Piazza

Clara: The Light In The Piazza.
Image courtesy of Showtunes Theatre Company and ©Chris Bennion 2019

#13A: Back To Florence
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.
Doubling: cello (m.9-11), harp (m.13-17).

This transition piece is a variation on #9: “Hysteria/Lullaby”. Play as written.

SEQUENCE: #14, #15, #15A, #16

#14: Octet (Part 1)
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: strings (m.12-15), harp (m.33-34), orchestral bells (m.41-42), vocals (m.53-54).

Throughout this sequence, the guitar jumps around between suspended cymbal and nylon-string guitar. There are long passages of rest in each number, and I recommend marking in plenty of vocal cues, as it’s easy to lose your place when you look away from the music for a moment to make an instrument change. I played this number as written.


  • m.41-42: I played these measures as written, ignoring the option to play an octave higher.
  • m.48-49: the score has a note “(w/harp)”. This isn’t a doubling; you’re harmonizing with the harp.
  • m.56-61: change to suspended cymbal. There is plenty of time to make the change.
  • m.63: watch the conductor and be ready to choke the cymbal roll on cue. The switch back to nylon-string guitar for the next number, which is a direct segue. There is plenty of time to make the change.

#15: Clara’s Tirade
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: bass (m.12, m.31).

The guitar again has just snatches of music in this number, all of which should be played as written. Writing vocal cues into the score will help.


  • m.31: change to suspended cymbal. There is plenty of time to make the change.
  • m.46-50: change back to nylon string guitar. There’s some dialogue after m.50 before the start of the next number, so the change is not as quick as it appears.

#15A: Church
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.
Doubling: none.

The sequence continues with this brief number. The guitar has some simple melody lines from m.1-10, and an exposed solo from m.15-25, which I played simply with a little vibrato at the end of each phrase. The solo is underscore to dialogue. Change to suspended cymbal at m.26, ready for the next number.

#16: Octet (Part 2)
Instruments: Suspended cymbal.
Doubling: none.

I include this number in the notes only because it closes out the preceding sequence. There is no guitar part, just a few cymbal rolls.

#17A: Transition To Tie Shop
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: cello (m.9-11), harp (m.13-17).

This transition number is more or less identical to #13A: “Back To Florence”. This time we are in D major instead of C major. Play as written. There is a quick change to from suspended cymbal to nylon-string guitar at m.5-8.

#18: Let’s Walk
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar.
Doubling: Piano and harp (verses), strings (“Let’s Walk” refrains between verses).

This is a lovely moment. Margaret and Signor Naccarelli take a walk and reflect. The “Reliable Groove” called for in the score is another steady rhythmic pulse that actually feels like a leisurely walk. The guitar is doubled by the piano and harp in the verses, but the guitar is prominent and has a key role in establishing the feel of the number. It’s important not to let the number drag (and it’s easy for this to happen), so keep an eye on the conductor throughout. Play the chord changes evenly and steadily without accenting or swinging the tempo at all. In the “Let’s Walk” refrains between verses, the guitar doubles the strings’ melody. I played these sections simply and clearly with no vibrato.

The chord changes are straightforward, with the single exception of the main Gm/Bb to Fdim/Cb change (m.3 & m.7 in the excerpt below), which is quite tricky to play consistently accurately (you play it so many times that it has to be accurate!). I tried using a capo, but that made several other chord changes awkward, so I settled on the fingerings shown below. It just takes a little practice to play cleanly.


#19: Love To Me
Instruments: Steel-string acoustic guitar, tuned D-A-D-F-B-D.
Doubling: harp.

This is such a beautiful number, possibly my favorite in the show. A gentle, pastoral love song, gently picked in eighth-notes, it couldn’t be more different from the other number featuring steel-string acoustic guitar (#5: “American Dancing”), yet it uses the same unusual tuning.

At first glance this looks straightforward: finger picked eighth -note arpeggios throughout. But it’s really quite tricky, and there are several reasons for this:

  • Tuning: the unusual tuning means that you can’t just read this down. You have to work out all the unfamiliar fingerings for the unusual chord voicings, write them into the book and then learn to play it fluently (i.e. memorize it).
  • Meter: the number uses an additive meter, with measures of 5/8 + 4/8 combined to give 9-beat measures throughout. Moreover, the first note of every measure is a quarter note, followed by 7 eighth notes, to give an overall feel of a slightly stretched 4/4 meter. It’s quite unique.
  • Fretboard gymnastics: towards the end of the song (m.43-54), the fingerings jump repeatedly from one end of the neck to the other several times, and this section is difficult to play accurately.

I offer the following suggestions for learning to play this song (and it really is worth it!):

  1. Internalize the meter: instead of thinking of 5/8 + 4/8, it helps to think of the meter as 2/8 + 3/8 + 4/8. Focus on the timing of the first and second notes in each measure, then all the subsequent notes are just evenly played eighth-notes. I mentally counted it “1, 2-and-a 1-and-2-and”. I just played the first few measures over and over until I didn’t have to think about it anymore. Playing along with the recording doesn’t really help in this number – the overall sound is a bit “diaphanous” and it’s hard to focus on your meter and listen to the recording as you practice.
  2. Mark up the chord shapes: I recommend marking all of the fretboard fingerings onto the chart as an aid to learning this piece.
  3. Practice: this piece should be practiced until memorized.

Additional tips for playing this number accurately:

  • Play steadily and evenly, with no emphasis. It is easy to slip into over-emphasizing the longer note at the beginning of each measure.
  • For each chord change, I found it useful to keep my focus on hitting the first (longer) note of each measure accurately, giving myself that extra split second to fully settle into the chord shape for the subsequent notes in the arpeggios.
  • Specific fingerings: there are a few measures in the number where it pays to get your fingers arranged in a very particular order, to help you move onto the next measure smoothly. I provide chord diagrams with my suggestions for these measures below.
  • In every instance where you have to play two or three notes on the first beat of a measure (m.9, m.23, m.25, m.42, m.43 and m.60), the notes are on adjacent strings, and I recommend using your thumb to strum both strings, rather than picking with thumb and a finger.


Specific tips:

  • m.32: note the unusual order of notes. It’s the only measure where the arpeggios are not played low to high notes.
  • m.38: note that the low note drops from B to Bb in the second arpeggio.
  • m.54: the D at the end of each arpeggio should be an open string.

Postscript: YouTube has two interesting video clips of Adam Guettel singing “Love To Me” and playing guitar at Elon University from 2006. The first has reasonable audio quality but is only a minute long. The second has inferior audio, but includes the whole song and provides a better view of his fingers. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t picking the “Gentle and accurate eighths” called for in the score, but is playing a kind of pick/strum hybrid, mostly with the chord voicings used in the book. If you then listen carefully to the Broadway cast recording (the guitar isn’t very distinct on this number) there does appear to be something of this “pick/strum” quality about the recorded part. Guettel is credited with playing some guitar on the album and I am left wondering if it’s his performance we’re hearing on “Love To Me”. The guitar also drops out of the mix in some of the trickier passages (m.35-41 and m.50-53).

#20: Fable
Instruments: Nylon-string guitar, suspended cymbal.
Doubling: piano, then piano and strings (m.1-21)

The guitar plays steady crisp chords in the first section of this song (m.1-21). For the rest it switches back and forth between cymbal and guitar. It’s easy to get lost, so once again I recommend adding vocal cues in to help you keep track. I played this number as written, although there are several slash notation chords (see notes below for recommended voicings).


  • In the previous number (#19A: “Wedding”) there is a cymbal roll, then you have 7 measures to be ready for the top of this number. It’s a fairly quick change, but easily achievable.
  • m.1-21: all of the chord voicings in this section can be played low, around the second fret. Watch the time changes – there are several. Counting is important.
  • m.36: I played G#7 at the 4th fret.
  • m.42-44: I voiced the chords low (1st-2nd fret).
  • m.46: I played C#add9 at the 4th fret.
  • m.47: I played G7(b9) at the 3rd fret.
  • m.48: change to suspended cymbal, the back to guitar at m.67. There is plenty of time to make the changes.
  • m.74-78: I played C#m at 9th fret, BMaj7 at 6th fret and A#m7(b5) at 1st fret.
  • m.79-80: very quick change to suspended cymbal for a roll at m.81.
  • m.92: change back to nylon-string guitar. There is plenty of time to make the change.
  • m.114-115: I played the C# chords at the first fret. As the score states, do not roll the chords.

This number is the last appearance of the guitar in the show. The parts in #21: “Bows” and #22: “Exit Music” are all cymbal rolls, so just relax, play the rolls and bask in the beautiful sound of the orchestra around you!

Playing The Light In The Piazza – Guitar

The Light In The Piazza Wikipedia page
Licensing Information (Concord)
Original Broadway Cast Recording CD and YouTube Playlist
Peter Hilliard article on music directing the show
YouTube video clips of Guettel playing Love to Me at Elon University, 2006:
Short clip with better audio
Longer clip with inferior audio but filmed from a better viewpoint.
Showtunes Theatre website and Facebook page
Sally Hansen advanced Hard As Nails

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