** As featured in issue 49 **
In this column, I would like to share a short composition of mine called ‘Spanish Bells’, vaguely inspired by a beautiful Flamenco rhythm and style called Alegrias, which literally means happy. One of my favourite aspects of this Flamenco style is the rhythmic quality, which although is normally studied and counted in 12 beats, it could be felt as a 4 bar pattern in ¾ or 6/8, in places.
The technique used to play most of the melodic content is called ‘Campanella’, which means Bells-like, hence the title ‘Spanish Bells’.
The piece starts with a descending melody played ‘a campanella’ consisting of open strings in conjunction with fretted notes with the purpose to let the sound of these notes overlap like a musical cascade to create a legato, bell-like effect (I know, I should have been a poet…).
The melody starts on the 2nd beat of the bar in a counterintuitive manner, but I quite like this effect, as it creates a little rhythmic tension and makes the piece a little more challenging and satisfying to perform.
Below is the harmonic content of the piece, described with chord symbols. I have highlighted section B.
F#m F(#4)E F#m F(#4)E F#m F(#4)E B7/D# B7/F#E F#m F(#4)E F#m F(#4)E F#m F(#4)E B7/D# B7/F#E Em B/D# Dm6Aadd2/C# Cmaj13Em/B F#7 B7 Em B/D# Dm6Aadd2/C# Cmaj13Em/B F#7 B7 F#m F(#4)E F#m F(#4)E F#m F(#4)E B7/D# B7/F#E
This piece provides an opportunity to improve coordination skills, playing the bass line with consistency and with the intended dynamic variations, as well as presenting the melody in a singing-like manner (cantabile), while complementing it with harmonies, often a third below.
As always, inversions have been utilised to create melodic bass lines, which act as countermelodies in the lower register. This is evident in both sections, as depicted in the example above and the transcription available to download.
As always, one of the main technical challenges of this piece is the need to keep the melody at the fore of the arrangement. To do this, it may help to sing it while playing it, to be sure we are emphasising it as needed.
As always, I would like to recommend researching the above-mentioned techniques and style 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 0 (Pick up bar): Beat 2: Open e, index on fret 4 of B, ring f on fret 6 of G and open B (a campanella quavers).
Bar 1: Ring f on fret 4 of D and index on fret 2 of G, followed by open B. Middle f on fret 3 of D and index on fret 2 of G, followed by open B.
Bar 2: Beat 1: Middle f on fret 2 of D, index on fret 1 of G and open B. Beat 2: as per bar 1, open e, index on fret 4 of B, ring f on fret 6 of G and open B (a campanella quavers).
Bar 3: As bar 1, but check video for RH variation.
Bar 4: As bar 2
Bar 5: As bar 1
Bar 6: As bar 2
Bar 7: Index on fret 1 of D with middle f on fret 2 of G, followed by open B. Ring f on fret 4 of D little f on fret 4 of B, index on fret 2 of e.
Bar 8: As bar 2.
Repeat Section A
Bar 16: As bar 8 but with pick-up phrase: open e, middle f on fret 2 of and little f on fret 3 of e.
Bar 17: Middle f on fret 2 of D and little f on fret 3 of e. Countermelody alternating open B and index on fret 1 of B. (Check specific rhythm on the video and in the transcription)
Bar 18: Index f on fret 1 of D and little f on fret 2 of e. Countermelody alternating open B and index on fret 1 of B.
Bar 19: Open D with index on fret 1 of e. Countermelody, alternating middle f on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 20: Little f on fret 4 of A with open e. Countermelody, alternating middle f on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 21: Ring f on fret 3 of A with open e. Countermelody, alternating middle f on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 22: Index f on fret 2 of A with open e. Countermelody, alternating open G and open B.
Bar 23: Barre on fret 2. Ring f on fret 4 of A, middle f on fret 3 of G.
Bar 24: Barre’ on fret 2 and ring f on fret 4 of D and little on fret 4 of B.
Next repeat section B
Section A with Ending:
Bar 33 to 41: As from bar 1 to 8 but with final E voiced as follows:
Open E, 3/6 barre’ on fret 9 (of G, B, e) and little f on fret 12 of e.
Congratulations, you have completed ‘Spanish Bells’!
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.