Tico Tico | Zequinha Abreu

The melody of Tico Tico is a typical example of the choro style – a virtuosic, almost solo-like melodic line that drives the music without respite. The harmonies, on the other hand, can sit back and relax and only sporadically go beyond the basic functions of tonality. 

There are countless interpretations of this classic tune. Here Paco de Lucia , the maestro of flamenco guitar, performs his rendition: 


In order to become familiar with this way of playing, in addition to thorough preparation of the scales over the entire fretboard, confidence  in the rhythmic figures at the sixteenth level is necessary. 

The main part of the melody consists of a small motif, skillfully woven through the chord progression. As can be seen in the sheet music, there are some non-scale tones that have different origins:

  • harmonic: chord tones of secondary dominants
  • melodic: Enclosures and Passing Tones
The first part of Tico Tico

Melodic Device Enclosures

The melody’s characteristic sound is given particularly by a specific melodic device: Enclosures. This type of device has been common since classical music. Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” is a famous example:

Rondo Alla Turca, W.A. Mozart

In the above example in the Key of A-Minor, the first four notes form an enclosure of the root note A. It is one of the most typical enclosures: The diatonic note B from above and the chromatic note G# from below. When analyzing the beginning of Tico Tico you will find the same device: in this case the note E (the fifth of A minor or the root of E7) is enclosed chromatically from below (d#) and diatonically from above (f). Look for other enclosures in this melody!

Secondary dominant chord tones

Another striking feature is the consistent linking of the melody with the harmonic context. For example, in measure 3, the dominant seventh chord E7 in the melody is spelled with the tones D-H-G#-E. The non-scale tone G# is the third of the dominant and thus the leading tone to the tonic A minor. You will find another example in bar 7, where the secondary dominant B7 is melodically spelled out. This results in the non-scale tones D# (third of B7) and F# (fifth of B7). This type of melody is conceptually very similar to the chord-related improvisations in jazz music. 

Paco De Lucias Arrangement

Paco de Lucia plays Tico Tico in the key of E minor with a capo on the 2nd fret (so, you are actually hearing F sharp minor). With this soundslice you can practice the melody with various useful tools. In addition to slowing down the sheet music, you also have the option of repeating individual passages and practicing particularly difficult passages intensively. 

Get the arrangement!

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