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Giorgio Serci Creative Fingerstyle Guitar Inspirational Pieces Part 17: Englishman In New York

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 67 **

Hi there and welcome to Guitar Interactive’s Quiet Room. In this column I would like to share my arrangement of what is arguably one of the catchiest tunes ever written by Sting. This was featured in his second studio album ‘Nothing Like The Sun’ released in October 1987. Harmonic ingredients: The original version is in B minor but I decided to transpose it to an even more guitar friendly key that is Am, so that we could make the most of open strings, mainly for the bass line. The harmonic content of the original is fairly simple, however, not predictable. In a few passages I have decided to explore a few harmonic substitutions, for an added element of surprise but also in order to capitalize on open D, A and E strings. Another important harmonic ingredient is the frequent use of extended chord, such as Dm11 and Em11, which are evident from the beginning. These are played in a very guitar-friendly shapes to complement the main melody. This is a very effective way of enhancing the melody in a relatively easy way and the open strings sustain will add ‘legato’ qualities to the piece.

Rhythmic ingredients: More the most part, the guitar implies a Reggae ‘skunk’ part. In the Middle 8, I have used a 12/8 groove. Take time to familiarise with both for a fluid outcome. Melodic ingredients: The rather singing-like melodic content is mainly in A natural Minor, with only two passages including notes from A Harmonic Minor, in the Middle 8. Articulations: The choice or articulations is very important in the construction of any composition or arrangement as these can be seen as the ‘how we tell our story’.

A few articulations were used such as grace notes, recurrent hammer-ons and pull-offs often featuring ghost notes, to imply a swung 16th feel and finally the ‘campanella’ technique, as notated in the embedded PDF. 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 predominantly on 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: Barre’ on fret 5 with middle finger on fret 6 of B. Same shape up two frets.

Bar 2: Barre’ on fret 5 of D, G and B and open A. Ring f on fret 7 of A and middle f on fret 6 of A.

Bar 3-4: As bar 1-2

Bar 5-22: As bar 1-2 with added melody, as depicted in the score. Section C.

Bar 23: C major (C shape) with melody as depicted in the score

Bar 24: G major (G shape) with melody as depicted in the score

Bar 25: A minor (A shape) with melody as depicted in the score

Bar 26: E7 (E shape) with melody as depicted in the score

Bar 27: Fmaj7 (E shape) with melody as depicted in the score

Bar 28: G major (G shape) with melody as depicted in the score

Bar 29: G# Dim7 with middle f on fret 4 of E, index of fret 3 of D and B and ring f on fret 4 of G.

Bar 30: Am7, with barre’ on fret 5 of D, G and B and open A.

Bar 31-39: As bar 5-9.

Bar 40: A natural minor scale, (descending in 2 octaves) ‘a campanella’

Bar 41: Am6/9 with open A, index on fret 4 of D, middle f on fret 5 of G and V and little f on fret 7 of E.

Congratulations, you have completed ‘English man In NY’! 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.

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