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Giorgio Serci - Creative Fingerstyle Guitar Advancing Studies Part 1 - Study n.17

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 28 **

In this acoustic guitar lesson column we'll be looking at another composition of mine called Study n. 17. This piece features a few arranging and compositional ideas, the most recurring one being the use of descending chromatic bass lines. A myriad of composers have used this strategy for writing their masterpieces, from Chopin to Jimmy Page. This compositional technique requires us to use our harmonic ingredients in a purposeful manner and to consider various chord inversions and substitutions.   

This is evident in the first section, which features the following chords: Bm, F#/A#, A, E/G#, Gmaj7, D/F#, FO7. As you can see, every other chord (the so-called slash chords) is voiced as a 1st inversion (3rd is the lowest note). This way of organising the notes in each chord enables us to create a smooth and singing-like bass line.

Another common compositional strategy is the so-called modal interchange. This technique prevents our pieces sounding harmonically predictable and consists of borrowing chords from the parallel scales/keys. This tune is in the key of Bm relative to Dmajor and I have borrowed chords diatonic to the (parallel) key of Dm. These are the Bbmaj7, Gm and add an element of surprise at the end, before resolving nicely back to the final Dmajor.

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 and ‘m’ and ‘i’ pluck respectively the B and G strings.  The time signature is 6/8 so this pattern is repeated twice per bar.   

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: Index f on fret 2 of e and A (BII), middle f on fret 3 of B and little f on fret 4 of G. Add ring f on fret 3 of e on the 2nd beat.

Bar 2: Index f on fret 1 of A, little f on fret 3 of G, middle f on fret 2 of B and open e. Add ring f on fret 2 of e on the 2nd beat.

Bar 3:  Open A and e, index f on fret 2 of G and middle f on fret 2 of B. Add ring f on fret 2 of e on the 2nd beat.

Bar 4:  Little f on fret 4 of E, open e and B, index f on fret 1 of G. Middle f on fret 2 of D and little f on fret 3 of B.

Bar 5: Middle f on fret 3 of E and open e, B and G. Add index f on fret 2 of e on the 2nd beat.

Bar 6: Middle f on fret 2 of E and open e, ring f on fret 2 of G and open D. Add little f on fret 3 of B on the 2nd beat.

Bar 7:  Index f on fret 1 of E with little f on fret 2 of B. Middle f on fret 1 of G and open D. Open B on the 2nd beat will be added in the descending arpeggio.

Bar 8:  Index on fret 3 of E and B (BIII). Little f on fret 4 of G, fret 2 of D and ring f on fret 4 of A. Middle f on fret 3 of G on the 2nd beat.

Repeat the first 8 bars and continue through section B.

Bar 9: Middle f on fret 3 of E and open B, G, D. Index f on fret 2 of B will be added with the descending arpeggio on the 2nd beat.

Bar 10: Middle f on fret 2 of E and little f on fret 2 of B, ring f on fret 2 of G and open D. Little f on fret 3 of B will be added with the descending arpeggio on the 2nd beat

Bar 11: Open E with B followed by open G and D. Ring f on fret 2 of B will be added with the descending arpeggio on the 2nd beat

Bar 12: Index f on fret 2 of E, with middle f on fret 2 of G. Little f on fret 4 of A and open D.

Bar 13:  As bar 9

Bar 14:  As bar 10

Bar 15:  Open E with little f on fret 3 of e, followed by open B and G. Index f on fret 1 of B and middle f on fret 2 of D.

Bar 16:  Index f on fret 1 of A and ring f on fret 2 of B. Middle f on fret 2 of D, open G, ring f on fret 2 of B, open e followed by little f on fret 3 of e.

Repeat the first 15 bars and take the Coda, from bar 17.

Bar 17:  Open A and ring f on fret 2 of B. Middle f on fret 2 of D, open G, ring f on fret 2 of B, little f on fret 2 of e and back to fret 2 of B

Bar 18:  (beat 1) Index f on fret 1 of A and little f on fret 3 of B. Middle f on fret 3 of D, middle f on fret 2 of G. (beat 2) Middle f on fret 3 of E, open D and G, followed by index f on fret 2 of G and ring f on fret 3 of G.

Bar 19:  Little f on fret 5 of A, ring f on fret 4 of D and index f on fret 2 of G.

Bar 20: Natural harmonic on fret 12 of E (with index and ‘p’ finger)

Congratulations, you have completed Study n.17!

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.


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