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Giorgio Serci - Creative Fingerstyle Guitar Inspirational Pieces Part 1: ‘Peppin’ Blues

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 35 **

In this fingerstyle acoustic guitar lesson we'll be looking at another composition of mine called ‘Peppin’ Blues, dedicated to the acoustic guitar virtuoso Peppino D’Agostino.

When I was asked to interview Peppino for Guitar Interactive I have been listening again his beautiful music, so I decided to write a short solo acoustic guitar piece dedicated to him. It is essentially a 12 bar Blues with a slow Ragtime feel to it, so it features most of the idiomatic ingredients one can expect to find in this style.

Harmonic ingredients:

The harmonic content includes a frequent use of dominant 7th chords, following a typically Blues sequence as depicted below:

I7                 IV7

I7                  

IV7                  

I7                  

IV7                   

#IVo7                  

I7                   

I7               VI7#9

ii     iii     IV   #IVo7

V7                 

I7                  

I7                V7

Another idiomatic harmonic ingredient is the #IVo7 (diminished 7th) chord which create tension and release between chord IV and I, as a result of the ascending chromatic movement from the root of IV (A), of #IV (A#) and the 5th of I (B). This sequence was introduced in gospel music as the #IVo7 chord can be seen as the perfect harmonization of the so-called ‘Blue-note’, namely the b5 (or #4).

Rhythmic ingredients:

The rhythmic content features a variety of 8th note triplets as evident from bar 3 to bar10. Syncopations and pushed chords are also recurrent and the piece is characterised by a swung 8ths feel.

Melodic ingredients:

The melodic content has strong Blues connotations, featuring a combination of major and minor pentatonic scales as well as arpeggios and chromatic passages (as evident between bar 9 and 10). Another recurrent melodic devise is creating melodic tension and release shifting from the minor to the 3rd of a Dominant 7th chord. This is evident in bar 1 as well as between bar 10 and 11 and 11 and 12.

The melodic content is to be found both in the upper part or the harmony as well as in the lower part, particularly in the bass line, like for example in bar 1. The bass line in Ragtime often consists of alternating root and 5th of each chord, however, it is effective to add more melodic or singing-like qualities to it for a more contrapuntal effect.

Articulations:

The choice or articulations is very important in the construction of any composition, as these can be seen as the ‘how we say our story’ or to continue using the metaphor of ingredients, we could see articulations as the way we mix and cook the aforementioned ingredients. A few articulations and punctuations including glissando also known as slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs as well as punctuations such as staccato, marcato have been used, as notated in the embedded PDF.

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 predominantly on 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):

Pick-up bar: little f on fret 3 of e, middle f on fret 2 of B and ring f on fret 3 of G

Bar 1:  Beat 1 and 2: Slide the shape/chord from the previous bar up a semitone and add an open E. Index on fret 2 of A and then of D, with the top three strings played simultaneously. Open D.

Beat 3 and 4: Index on fret 4 of A, open G, little f on fret 5 of B and little f on fret 5 of e. Open e followed by an open A and middle f on fret 2 of B. Open G and D.

Bar 2: Beat 1 and 2: Add and open E and the index on fret 1 of G followed by an open e. Middle, ring and little f to play fret 2 of D, G and B followed by and open D and G.

Beat 3 and 4: Add and open E and the index on fret 1 of G, then an open e. Next ring f on fret 3 of E and little f on fret 4 of E.

Bar 3: Beat 1 and 2: Open A, then open G, ring f on fret 2 of B and little f on fret 3 of e. Add middle f on fret 2 of D.

Beat 3 and 4: Play simultaneously and open A, G, ring f on fret 2 of B and little f on fret 3 of e. Open e. Next, middle f on fret 2 of D, open G and ring f on fret 2 of B. Pull-off to an open B, followed by an open e.

Bar 4: Ring f on fret 4 of G and middle f on fret 3 of B. Play the same double-stop in 8th note triplets, accompanied by a walking bass line including an open E, then ring f on fret 4 of E, fret 4 of A and open D, followed by an open e.

Bar 5: As bar 3.

Bar 6: As bar 3 but with the index on fret 1 of A and subdividing in 8th note triplets.

Bar 7: As bar 4.

Bar 8: Beat 1 and 2 as bar 4.

Beat 3 and 4: Optional percussion on the down beat (on the top of the guitar) followed by a C#7alt played with ring f on fret 4 of A, middle f on fret 3 of D, index f on fret 2 of G, open B and e, followed by an open E.

Bar 9: Index on fret 2 of E, little f on fret 4 of D. Same pattern up a tone, then a semitone, one more semitone and a final one, landing on fret 7 (beat 1 of bar 10).

Bar 10: Beat 2: index f on fret 7 of e, middle f on fret 8 sliding to fret 9, open e and B, middle f on fret 2 of G followed by open G.

Bar 11: Add open E and index on fret 1 of G followed by open e. Next, middle f on fret 5 of A, index f on fret 4 of G followed by e. Next, middle f on fret 4 of A, index f on fret 3 of G followed by e. Next, middle f on fret 3 of A, index f on fret 1 of G followed by open D, G and middle f on fret 1 of A.

Bar 12: Slide from fret 1 to 2 of A and add open E, D and index on fret 1 of G, followed by open e. Next, middle f on fret 2 of D, index on fret 1 of G and ring f on fret 2 of B, followed by and open E, D, index on fret 1 of G and little f on fret 3 of B.

Congratulations, you have completed Peppin’ Blues!

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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