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Giorgio Serci - Creative Fingerstyle Guitar Advancing Studies Part 8: Study n.24

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 38 **

In this column we'll be looking at another solo fingerstyle guitar composition of mine called Study n. 24.

As always, all short acoustic guitar pieces I write for Guitar Interactive feature various compositional ideas I really enjoy using. Composition could be compared to a game with its own rules and the added benefit of allowing us to use our creative side of the brain as well as the pragmatic one. Composing entirely with our pragmatic side could easily result in uninspired, square or cold pieces. Similarly, relying exclusively on the divine inspiration might mean having to wait days or weeks before we can actually complete a piece. The moral of the story, as nearly always, is that both sides have to work in a collaborative manner, meeting halfway. This ‘should’ ensure compositions that transpire internal logic as well as invention.

This piece features a few compositional and arranging ideas gravitating on what is known as ‘quartal harmony’, which consists of using intervals of 4ths to construct less predictable harmonic structures, with a distinct quality compared to the more common triadic harmony. Once a melodic idea consisting of a descending E Mixolydian mode (Major scale with a b7) was conceived, each melody note was harmonized in diatonic fourths, as evident in bar 1 etc.

Another strategy evident from the beginning of the piece is the ‘ostinato’ bass figure played by the ‘p’ finger, which acts as a pedal note, but also as rhythmic propeller, particularly when juxtaposed to the chords played by the ‘i, m, a’ fingers, at times implying a polyrhythm, including a 5/8 against a 4/4. This is evident in bar 3, 4 etc.

The harmonic content of this piece can be described as follows, and it could be described as 16 bars Blues.

E7

               %

               %

               %

               %

               %

               %

               %

A7

A#O7

E7

C#7#9

F#m7  E/G#    A7    A#O7

B7

E7

B7

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 of 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 1-2: The ‘ostinato’ E bass will alternate with the following chord shapes:

Ring f on fret 12 of e, middle f on fret 12 of B and index on fret 11 of G.

The same shape played down 2 frets.

Index on fret 7 of G, ring f on fret 9 of B and little f on fret 9 of e.

Index plays 3/6 barre’ on fret 7.

Bar 3-4:  Same ‘ostinato’ E bass with the following chord shapes:

Ring f on fret 12 of e, middle f on fret 12 of B and index on fret 11 of G.

The same shape played down 2 frets.

Index on fret 7 of G, ring f on fret 9 of B and little f on fret 9 of e.

Index on fret 6 of G, middle and ring f on fret 7 of B and e.

Same shape down two frets.

Middle f on fret 3, index on fret 2 of B and ring f on fret 3 of e.

Same chord shape, slides up a semitone.

Bar 5-8:  As from bar 1 till 4, except the final fill.

Bar 9-10: The ‘ostinato’ A bass will alternate with the following chord shapes:

Ring f on fret 5 of e, middle f on fret 5 of B and index on fret 4 of G.

The same shape played down 2 frets.

Open G, middle f on fret 2 of B and ring f on fret 2 of e.

Index on fret 1 of A, open G and e, while the middle f is on the 2nd fret of B.

At this point, play an arpeggio featuring the A# played above, hammer-on to fret 4 of A, middle f on fret 2 of D.

On the ‘+’ of 4 play and E minor with the open E, G, B and e strings and add index on fret 1 of G. Next, fret 2, 4 and 2 of A.

Bar 11: Open E, index on fret 2, middle f on fret 3 and then fret 4 of the same string.

Bar 12:  Index on fret 2 of D, and of A. Middle f on fret 3 of A, and ring f on fret 4 of the same string. Next, play a C#7(#5#9), with ring f on fret 4 of A, middle f on fret 3 of D, index on fret 2 of G, open B and e. On the ‘+’ of 4, play an F#m with barre’ on fret 2 and little f on fret 5 of e.

Bar 13: Play a E/G# with barre’ on fret 4 and middle f on fret 5 of B. Next, play an A7 with open A, G and e with the middle f on fret 2 of B. Finally, add index on fret 1 of A.

Bar 14:  Play a B7 with middle f on fret 2 of A, index on fret 1 of D, ring f on fret 2 of G and open B. Next, the fill with ring f on fret 9 of e, middle f on fret 8 and then 9 of B (by sliding), open e, B and e with G on the ‘+’ of 4.

Bar 15:  Open e, little f on fret 4 of E, open A, index on fret 1 of A.

Bar 16: Play a B7 as per bar 14. Play lick, featuring fret 2 of D, fret 3 and 4 of A, fret 3 and 2 of E and open E.

Repeat the 15 bars from the top and take the final bar.

Final bar: Fret 2, 4 and 2 of A. Fret 2 of D. Finish with an E7#9 chord (middle f on fret 7 of A, index on fret 6 of D, ring f on fret 7 of G, little f on fret 8 of b, open e and E.

Congratulations, you have completed Study n.24!

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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