** As featured in issue 34 **
Hello there, in this acoustic guitar lesson column we'll be looking at another composition of mine called Study n. 22. As always, all short fingerstyle guitar pieces I write for Guitar Interactive feature various compositional ideas I really enjoy using. Composition could be compared to a game with its own rules and the added benefit of allowing us to use our creative side of the brain as well as the pragmatic one. Composing entirely with our pragmatic side could easily result in uninspired, square or cold pieces. Similarly, relying exclusively on the divine inspiration might mean having to wait days or weeks before we can actually complete a piece. The moral of the story, as nearly always, is that both sides have to work in a collaborative manner, meeting halfway. This ‘should’ ensure compositions that transpire internal logic as well as invention.
The first strategy featured in the piece is to present a pickup single line melody in one tonality (Cmajor) leading to the main melodic statement of this piece which is in a different tonality (Gminor). This is an implied direct modulation, as the notes in bar 2 imply a D7.
From bar 3 to bar 6 the bass line descends chromatically from G to E, implying the chords: Gm – D7/F# - Fm - C/E.
This sequence could be analysed as follows: Gm (tonic minor – i) D7/F# (V – 1st inversion, often described as V b). Fm (iv of C – this helps resolving to C and can be described as a modal interchange)
From bar 7 to 10 you’ll find the following inverted chords: Fm/Ab - Eb/G – F/A and G/B landing on a C major root position.
This sequence could be analysed as follows: Fm/Ab (ii of the forthcoming Eb/G)
Eb/G (I - tonic chord).
F/A (IV - subdominant in C).
G/B (V - dominant in C)
At this point the first melodic idea found at the beginning of the piece is repeated, this time with an accompanying open E string, in order to imply a C/E.
Next, we’ll play from bar 3 to bar 9 and then take the second ending, as depicted in the transcription. This final part includes another great compositional/arranging technique, which has been used in the development and practice of strict counterpoint since 1300 and called contrary motion. This consists of having two distinct melodies moving in opposite direction. As you can see in the transcription, the top melody (also known as voice) and the bottom one, move in contrary motion, landing on a C/E chord. (If you would like to read more about the study of counterpoint, you may want to read the iconic book ‘Gradus ad Parnassum’ by Joseph Fux published for the first time in 1725)
As always, I would like to recommend exploring the above-mentioned techniques in order to compose your own pieces. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes and reflect on the reasons 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’ focuses of the bass lines, while ‘i, m, a’ play the melody and countermelody or harmony part.
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 more attack is needed to outline the melody.
Next we are going to look at the left hand part (chord shapes):
Bar 1: Open G, ring f on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 2: Little f on fret 3 of B, index on fret 1 of B, open G and middle f on fret 2 of G
Bar 3: Middle f and ring f on fret 3 of E and G. Open D, index on fret 1 of D and open D
Bar 4: Middle f and ring f on fret 2 of E and G. Open D, index on fret 1 of D and open D
Bar 5: Index f and middle f on fret 1 of E and G. Little f on fret 3 of D, ring f on fret 2 of D and open D
Bar 6: Open E and G. Ring f on fret 3 of A, index on fret 1 of B and open G.
Bar 7: Little f on fret 4 of E, index on fret 1 of B. Ring f on fret 3 of D, open G and index on 1 of G.
Bar 8: Middle f and ring f on fret 3 of E and G. Index on fret 1 of D, little f on fret 4 and 3 of B
Bar 9: Open A and index on fret 1 of B. Middle f on fret 2 and open of G and ring f on fret 3 of D with index still on fret 1 of B.
Bar 10: Middle f on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 3 of B with open G. open e, index on fret 1 and little f still on fret 3 of B.
Bar 11: Ring f on fret 3 of A, open G and e and index on fret 1 of B.
Bar 12: As bar 1, with the addition of open E.
Bar 13: As bar 2. (Let ring E)
Repeat from bar 3 to bar 9 and then take bar 14.
Bar 14: Middle f on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 3 of B with open G. Open A, G and e. Ring f on fret 3 of E, open G and index on fret 1 of e. Index on fret 1 of E, little f on fret 3 of e open G and B.
Bar 15: Open E, G and e with index on fret 1 of B
Congratulations, you have completed Study n.22!
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.