** As featured in issue 47 **
In this column, I would like to share a short composition of mine, which starts on a chord often associated to a major scale mode called ‘Lydian’. This mode is essentially a major scale with the #4 and it is often used in movies’ sound tracks to add dreamy connotations to a particular scene (Composer John Williams is the master of this), hence the title: ‘Dreamer’.
As well as being constructed around the above-mentioned harmonic structure, the piece was tailored around a simple ‘ostinato’ percussion pattern, consisting of two main hits; on beat 1 and on the ‘and’ of 2. Having a steady rhythmic component can help structuring a composition, as this can give unity and narrative qualities to the piece. I often try a variety of time signatures, including with odd meters, particularly if the chosen melody and harmony are not too challenging from a technical standpoint. In this instance, however, I have opted for a simple time signature (4/4).
Another essential ingredient for any given composition (definitely for my favourite ones) is the melody. For this piece, I have decided to have a relatively simple and singing-like melody. While this may be perceived as a way of diminishing the level of technical complexity of the piece, I actually find this can add technical challenges to the piece, such as letting the melody ring with expression and singing-like qualities. These challenges become more apparent when recording, as, unless we use a consistent technique with a ‘minimum-movement’ approach, the piece can sound disjointed and lack cohesion. These may challenge us in a few places within this piece, particularly from bar 9.
The harmony gravitates around the key of E minor and its parallel key, E Major. To add contrast to the piece, I have extended my harmonic palette of colours by using chords diatonic to both the aforementioned keys. This technique is normally referred to as a ‘modal interchange’, and enables us to use chord IV and chord iv (namely, A major and A minor), as well as many other harmonic devices evident in the table below, depicting the chord progression in roman numerals. These are useful as an analytical tool, as they makes it easier to transpose the piece in all the 12 keys, if need be. These are referred to the key of E.
bVI bIII (b)bVI bIII (b)ivm7 I (b)iim7 V7 I bVI bIII (b)bVI bIII (b)ivm7 I (b)iim7 V7 I – (b)IV VIV VIV V – (c)iiim7 bIII7 iim7 bII7I
NB. Lower case roman numerals indicate a minor chord quality
(ivm7 = A minor in the key of E )
This piece provides an opportunity to improve interpretation skills and presenting the melody in a singing-like manner (cantabile), while complementing it with countermelodies happening in various registers.
For example, inversions have been utilized to create melodic bass lines, which act as countermelodies in the lower register. This is evident throughout.
The term inversion refers to the way a harmonic structure (a chord) is voiced or organized).
Triads can be voiced in three different positions/inversions:
a): Root position: root is lowest note in the chord
b): 1st inversion: 3rd is the lowest note in the chord – (b)
c): 2nd inversion: 5th is the lowest note in the chord – (c)
Seventh chords could also be voiced as a 3rd inversion (7th in the bass) For example D/C = D7 3rd inversion, described by (d)
One of the technical hurdles of this piece is the need to use keep the melody at the fore or the arrangement. To do this, it may help to sing it while playing it, to be sure we are emphasising as needed.
As always, I would like to recommend researching the above-mentioned techniques in order to be able to use these 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 we should be able to use these effectively and creatively.
The picking-hand pattern is predominantly as follows:
(Please note E=low E string, e= high E string)
‘p’ often plays the first two notes of each broken chord, as in bar 1 and ‘i, m, a’ follow.
Play each 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 ‘i, m and a’ fingers, so attack is needed to outline the melody.
Next we are going to look at the left hand part (chord shapes):
Bar 1: Middle f on fret 3 of A, open G, ring f on fret 3 of B and index on fret 2 of e, followed by open e and 3rd of B. Next, index on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 4 of D, open G and ring f on fret 3 of B (hold this from the previous bar).
Bar 2: As bar 1.
Bar 3: Open A and G, middle f on fret 2 of D, index on fret 1 of B, followed by little f on fret 3 of B and open e. Next, ring f on fret 4 of E, index on fret 2 of D and little f on fret 4 of G in unison with open B.
Bar 4: Index on fret 2 of E, middle f on fret 2 of D and ring f on fret 2 of G, followed by open B. Next beat, middle f on fret 2 of A, ring f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 2 of B, followed by a slide from fret 1 to fret 6 of D, with the index f. Next, open E followed by open B and e.
Bar 5: As bar 1, but with the added broken chord.
Bar 6: As bar 5.
Bar 7: As bar 3, but with the added broken chord.
Bar 8: As bar 4, but with the arpeggiated B, e and B with index on fret 4 of E.
Bar 9: (beat 1) Open A, ring f on fret 7 of D, middle f on fret 6 of G, followed by open B. (beat 2) Ring f on fret 4 of D, index on fret 2 of G, followed by middle f on fret 2 of D and index on fret 1 of G. (beat 3) Middle f on fret 2 of A, index on fret 1 of D, ring f on fret 2 of G and open B, followed by fret 1 of D. (beat 4) Fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 10: (beat 1) As per bar 9. (beat 2) Ring f on fret 4 of D, index on fret 2 of G, followed by middle f on fret 2 of A, index on fret 1 of D, ring f on fret 2 of G and open B. (beat 3) play fret 1 of D on the ‘and’ of beat 3. (beat 4) Fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 11: (beat 1) Open A, ring f on fret 7 of D, middle f on fret 6 of G, followed by open B. (beat 2) Ring f on fret 4 of D, index on fret 2 of G, followed by middle f on fret 2 of D and index on fret 1 of G. (beat 3) Middle f on fret 2 of A, index on fret 1 of D, ring f on fret 2 of G and open B, followed by little f on fret 2 of B. (beat 4) Open A, ring f on fret 4 of D, index on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 4 of B, followed by open e.
Bar 12: (beat 1) Middle f on fret 4 of E, ring f on fret 4 of D and little f on fret 4 of G, in unison with open B. (beat 2) Middle f on fret 3 of E, ring f on fret 3 of D and little f on fret 4 of G, in unison with open B. (beat 3) Middle f on fret 2 of E, ring f on fret 2 of D and little f on fret 2 of G, with open B. (beat 4) Middle f on fret 1 of E, ring f on fret 1 of D and little f on fret 2 on G, with open B.
Repeat from the top and then play bar 13.
Bar 13: Open E, middle f on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 4 of D, index on fret 1of G, open B and e. Next, play the natural harmonics found on the 12th, 19th and either on the 5th fret or directly above the sound hole.
Congratulations, you have completed ‘Dreamer’!
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 classic tune arranged for solo guitar and that this will give you some ideas on how to write your own solo guitar compositions and re-arrangements.