** As featured in issue 29 **
In this acoustic guitar lesson we'll be looking at another composition of mine called Study n. 18. This solo fingerstyle guitar piece features a few arranging and compositional ideas, the most recurring one being the use of modal interchange. This consists of borrowing chords from the parallel scales. This piece, in facts, starts in the key of E major and as well as featuring diatonic chords (belonging to the key of E major), it includes chords from the parallel scales to E major. This is evident in bar 1, where the second chord can be seen as chord VI of E minor.
This compositional and arranging technique is very common, and it is a fantastic strategy to add an element of surprise to the piece by using non-diatonic chords, which create a more contrasting and less predictable outcome.
Another recurrent strategy, which I have used in this piece, is the use of secondary dominant chords. These create a momentary change of harmony and add another element of tension and release. These are described as ‘direct modulations’ and consist of changing key via chord V7 of the key we are modulating into. This is evident in bar 5, where I modulate from the key of E to the key of A via an E7.
A variety of chord voicings and chord types have been used. For example, drop 2, drop 4, close voicings and quartal harmony. (You may want to research these and try to spot them within the piece)
I would strongly recommend exploring the above-mentioned techniques to write your own pieces. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes and we should try to understand why we like or not a particular sound, a chord progression or modulation. Eventually, these sounds will become part of your musical lexicon and you’ll be able to use these with fluidity and effectiveness.
The picking-hand pattern is predominantly as follows:
(Please note E=low E string, e= high E string)
‘p’ and ‘a’ play simultaneously the outer notes of the chord then ‘p’ ,‘i’ and ‘m’ pluck respectively the D, G and B strings. Next, ‘p’ and ‘a’ play simultaneously the E and B strings, and then ‘mim’. The time signature is 4/4 and this pattern should consist of 8 quavers.
Play this part in a relaxed and clear manner, making sure your thumb is a little forward compared to the ‘i, m, a’ fingers, in order to prevent it from colliding with the ‘i’ finger. As always, focus on attack and tonal consistency. The melody and the supporting harmonies will be played with the ‘a’ finger, so it is important to outline the melody with more attack.
Next we are going to look at the left hand part:
Bar 1: (beat 1 -2) Open E and e, middle f on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 4 of D and index f on fret 1 of G. Open B and e. (beat 3-4) ring f on fret 3 of A, open B, middle f on fret 2 of A and Little f on fret 4 of D. Index to play a G#, fret 1 of G.
Bar 2: (beat 1 -2) As bar 1. (beat 3-4) ring f on fret 3 of A and open B, followed by little f on fret 4 of D and middle f on fret 2 of G.
Bar 3: As bar 1
Bar 4: As bar 2
Bar 5: (Beat 1-2) Open E and ring f on fret 7 of e. Middle f on fret 6 of D, little f on fret 8 of G and index f on fret 5 of B. (Beat 3-4) Open E, then barre’ on fret 7 and little f on fret 9 of e, then fret 7 of e with the still in position index.
Bar 6: (Beat 1-2) Open A and index f on fret 4 of e. Little f on fret 7 of D, ring f on fret 6 of G and middle f on fret 5 of B. (Beat 3-4) Open A, then barre’ on fret 5 and little f on fret 7 of e, then fret 5 of e with the still in position index.
Bar 7: (Beat 1-2) Barre’ on fret 4 – Play fret 4 of E and e, then fret 4 of G and B. Next fret 4 of A and G, ring f on fret 6 of B and middle f on fret 5 of e. (Beat 3-4) Arpeggiate fret 4 of G, fret 6 of B and 4 of e.
Bar 8: (beat 1-2) As bar 7 but two frets down. (Beat 3-4) Arpeggiate fret 2 of G, fret 4 of B and 2 of e.
Bar 9: As bar 5.
Bar 10: (Beat 1-2) Open A and ring f on fret 12 of e. Middle f on fret 11 of D, little f on fret 13 of G and index f on fret 10 of B. (Beat 3-4) Open A, then fret 10 of D, fret 9 of G, open B and fret 10 of e.
Bar 11: (beat 1) Fret 3 of E, G, B and little f on fret 7 of e. (beat 2) Fret 4 of A and G, ring f on fret 6 of B, middle f on fret 5 of e. (beat 3) Fret 2 of E, G, B and little f on fret 4 of e. (beat 4) Fret 2 of A, G and e. Fret 4 of B.
Bar 12: (beat 1-2) Open e, B, G with fret 3 of E. Arpeggiate fret 2 of D, open G and B. (beat 3-4) Open A, e and G with middle f on fret 2 of B. Arpeggiate fret 2 of D, open G and fret 2 of B.
Bar 13 till 16. Same as bar 1 till 4.
Bar 17: (beat 1-2) Open E with index on fret 1 of G. Fret 2 of A, fret 4 of D. (beat 3-4) Fret 1 of G, open B and e, followed by little f on fret 4 of e.
Bar 18: Open E, fret 3 of G, index on fret 2 of B and e. (beat 2) fret 2 of B. (beat 3) Open E with fret 2 of D and G. Fret 1 of B. (beat 4) Little f on fret 2 of e.
Bar 19: Open E, e, B. Fret 2 of A, fret 4 of D and fret 1 of G.
Congratulations, you have completed Study n.18!
As always, you will be able to download a transcription by selecting the menu option in this page.
I strongly recommend experimenting with a few picking variations, changing the chords as you wish in terms of voicing (higher or lower), as well as trying the same picking pattern on a different chord progression, or using a ‘capo’ on fret 2 for a brighter outcome.
When repeating any section twice or more, you may want to play ‘sul ponticello’, (closer to the bridge) or ‘sul tasto’ (over the frets) for more contrasting results.
Make sure you highlight the melody (singing is a great strategy to play the melody in more assertive and singing-like manner)
Focus on minimum-movement approach, as this will help delivering the piece in a more accurate and consistent manner, while saving energy.
This will complete this creative fingerstyle lesson.
I hope you will enjoy playing this study piece and that this will give you some ideas on how to write your own solo guitar compositions.