** As featured in issue 41 **
In this column we'll be looking at another composition of mine, called Study n. 28.
This is another bespoke piece dedicated to the Guitar Interactive community, particularly for all the guitarists willing to expand their arsenal of compositional strategies as well as improving their fingerstyle technique. This piece will feature three compositional strategies:
1. Use of a bass pedal as a lower common denominator for a sequence of chords.
2. Utilising mild dissonances as a means to create tension & release.
3. Use chord inversions to present a harmonic structure in a different light.
The first strategy is a particularly popular one, as it enables the composer to simplify the arrangement of a chord sequence from a technical stand point, as we can make the most of an open string. (D in this instance). Furthermore, it forces us to use inversions, which, as previously stated, will present a chord in a different light.
Creating tension & release in music is one of the most natural, recurrent and indispensable trends. This is why music is often considered a metaphor of life, with all its uncertainties and alternating moments of tension & release.
In a similar allegoric fashion, inversions can be compared to a person wearing different clothes. Even though the person is the same, this may be perceived differently from an aesthetic standpoint. Similarly, although the essence of an inverted chord doesn’t change, its sound and textural connotation will.
The melody in this piece is the second of each group of four notes and this will be played by the picking hand ring finger. It is important to make sure this is played with a consistent attack and with singing-like qualities.
The harmonic content is very guitaristic, as it gravitates around the key of D Major, allowing using many open strings with mostly diatonic intervals, such as the most recurrent 6th, including the open D and B strings, which create a bell-like effect.
Inversions are another harmonic ingredient utilised in this piece. This is evident in most bars, but particularly in section B, where the following inversions have been used:
The first four bars (section A) are repeated twice. Next, this section is followed by a 4-bar link part and then D.C. (Da Capo=From the very top). Finally, a modal interchange provides a final opportunity to add tension & release to the piece, with Gm/Bb (chord iv 1st inversion, borrowed from the parallel minor scale to D) and the tonic from the home key, D major.
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’ focuses of the bass lines (occasionally a countermelody in the bass register), 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 ‘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: (beat 1) Open D, ring f. on fret 9 of e, open B and middle f. on fret 9 of G.
(Beat 2): The same shape down two frets.
(beat 3): Middle f on fret 5 of e, open B and ring f on fret 6 of G.
(beat 4): Index on fret 3 of e, open B and little f on fret 6 of G.
Bar 2: (beat 1) Open D, ring f. on fret 7 of e, open B and middle f. on fret 7 of G.
(Beat 2): Middle f on fret 5 of e, open B and ring f on fret 6 of G.
(beat 3): Index on fret 3 of e, open B and little f on fret 6 of G.
(beat 4): Index on fret 2 of e, ring f on fret 3 of G and open B.
Bar 3: (beat 1) Middle f. on fret 3 of E, ring f on fret 3 of G and open B and index on fret 2 of e.
(Beat 2): As beat 1 but bass line with open D.
(beat 3): Middle f. on fret 3 of E, index f on fret 2 of G and open B and e.
(beat 4): As beat 3 but bass line with open D.
Bar 4: As bar 3.
Repeat the first 4 bars from the top.
Bar 5: (beat 1 & 2): Middle f on fret 2 of E, open e, ring f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 3 of B. Alternate with open D on beat 2.
(beat 3 & 4): Index f on fret 1 of E, open e, ring f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 3 of B. Alternate with open D on beat 4.
Bar 6: (beat 1 & 2): Open E, e, little f on fret 3 of B and ring f on fret 2 of G. Alternate with open middle f on fret 2 of D on beat 2.
(beat 3 & 4): Open A, e, little f on fret 3 of B and open G. Alternate with open middle f on fret 2 of D on beat 4.
Repeat the first 6 bars from the top.
Bar 7: Index on fret 1 of A, open D, G and little f on fret 3 of B. Pull-off from fret 2 to open G. Ring f on fret 3 of D, middle on fret 2 and open D. Ring f on fret 3 of A, index on fret 1 of A, open D and G simultaneously, next ring f on fret 3 of E and finally middle f on fret 2 of E, open A and D.
Congratulations, you have completed Study n.28!
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.