Libertango Step-by-step

The famous Libertango by Astor Piazzolla! A must for every advanced accordionist. Do you dare? Let’s try it together. There are lots of arrangements and I would like to show you one that even includes improvisation. Here’s a short guide.

1. Listen to a recording of Libertango. And once more. And over and over again… and listen carefully, what happens and how it sounds. Believe me, it will make it all easier for you when you read the scores and practise.

2. Begin practising with the right hand – the first four lines of the composition first (part A1).

All the scores and instructional recordings are provided at the end of the article.

3. Once you’ve managed the right hand (slowly, that’s enough), have a look at the left hand. You will see slashed chords. What’s that? For example, Dm/A is played by pressing the bass A together with the Dm chord. Try playing just the combinations of chords first, so that your hand gets used to the new positions.

4. The left-hand rhythm is played in the typical pattern of Argentinian tango: 3-3-2. You can write that down in your scores for the whole composition. But I hope that for now you keep to the first four lines. Don’t be hasty, that’s important! Enjoy the slow birth of the famous Argentinian theme and don’t lose neither your head nor patience while practising – even tango dancers learn it step-by-step.

Tango Dancers

5. Once you are able to combine the left and the right hand in the first four lines surely enough, have a look at the next four lines (part A2). Everything remains the same, except that an upper melody has appeared. Do you hear it? Do you hear how its beautiful slow tones unite everything together? Again, begin with your right hand only, and if you manage to play both the parts with your right hand at the same time, that’s fine; if not, you can play just the upper melody, it’s more important now. As soon as you are ready with your right hand, add the left one slowly.

6. Just the part B and the final part (half of part A1 + part C) remain there now. The principle is the same: learn the right hand first, and add the left hand in the 3-3-2 rhythm afterwards. If it goes far from smoothly, don’t despair. It took a lot of sweat and tears, too, to build the Panama Canal…

7. As an icing on the cake there’s the improvisation which can be skipped easily if you don’t feel like trying it. The chords and the rhythm are the same as in part A1. And what to play in the right hand? It’s best to play what you can sing or hum along. Any theory of “how to improvise” is useless if one doesn’t enjoy the exploring. Improvisation is a game, an act of creation, playing around. Tone here, tone there… try just long tones and listen how it works together, what you like. If you are creative, you should love this.

A few practising tips:

Practise regularly, every day. It’s better to practise 15 minutes a day than two hours once in a week.
Always focus on one particular problem only, don’t get distracted. If you learn slowly the right hand and it isn’t 100% yet, don’t add the left one. If you have barely managed the first two bars and it seems far from perfect, don’t move to the third one.
Record yourself now and then. Don’t get terrified when it doesn’t sound as you want it to at the beginning. That’s quite normal, believe me.
Practise in short segments (one line, two bars).
Even while practising, enjoy the composition, how it’s being born under your fingers, feel the bellows, the developing dynamic. It begins quietly and grows stronger, have you noticed?

SCORES – PDF (the basic part A1 with the left hand)

SCORES – PDF (the whole arrangement)


part A1
Libertango part A1

part A2
Libertango part A2

part B
Libertango part B

the whole arrangement
Libertango – arrangement

Live recording of Libertango performed by our group at the first accordion concert:

instructional recordings, scores, article | Stanislav Samuel Raška
published on 25/03/2015