** As featured in issue 50 **
In this column, I would like to share a short and relatively simple composition of mine called Spanish Sunset. This piece was created utilising a D minor scale and its harmony in conjunction with a D dorian mode, utilizing pedal notes to make the most of the open strings D and A.
The harmonic content of this piece is very common and popular in most music styles and it is illustrated in the table below:
Am/D G/D Gm/D DmAm/D G/D Gm/D Am/DAm/D G/D Gm/D DmDm A7 DmAm/D G/D Gm/D DmAm/D G/D Gm/D Am/DAm/D G/D Gm/D DmDm A7 Dm DAm/D Gm/D Gm/D DmDm A7 Dm DAm/D Gm/D Gm/D DmDm A7 Dm
NB. Am/D = Am chord over D bass. Most of the triads described above have been just implied, as often they don’t include the 5th.
This piece provides an opportunity to improve interpretation skills and presenting the melody in a singing-like manner (cantabile), while complementing it with countermelodies happening in various registers.
For example, inversions have been utilized to create melodic bass lines, which act as countermelodies in the lower register. This is evident throughout.
The term inversion refers to the way a harmonic structure (a chord) is voiced or organised.
Triads can be voiced in three different positions/inversions:
a): Root position: root is lowest note in the chord
b): 1st inversion: 3rd is the lowest note in the chord – (b)
c): 2nd inversion: 5th is the lowest note in the chord – (c)
Seventh chords could also be voiced as a 3rd inversion (7th in the bass) For example D/C = D7 3rd inversion, described by (d)
One of the technical hurdles of this piece is the need to keep the melody at the fore of the arrangement. To do this, it may help singing and playing it at the same time, in order to be sure we are emphasising it as needed.
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’ plays the ‘ostinato’ pedal parts throughout.
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 1: While playing an open D pedal as 8 notes, position the ring and little f on fret 5 of G and e, followed by middle f on fret 4 of G and index on fret 3 of e.
Bar 2: While playing an open D pedal as 8 notes, position the ring and little f on fret 3 of G and e, followed by middle f on fret 2 of G and index on fret 1 of e.
Bar 3: As bar 1
Bar 4: While playing an open D pedal as 8 notes, position the ring f on fret 7 of G and middle f on fret 6 of e, followed by middle f on fret 2 of G and index on fret 1 of e.
Bar 5: As bar 1
Bar 6: As bar 2
Bar 7: Beat 1-2: While playing an open D pedal as 8 notes, position the middle f on fret 2 of G and index on fret 1 of e.
Beat 3-4: While playing an open A pedal as 8 notes, play an open G and e.
Bar 8: Middle f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 3 of B with open D.
Repeat from bar 1 to bar 15:
Bar 16: Beat 1-2: Middle f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 3 of B with open D.
Beat 3-4: Play a D major adding ring f on fret 2 of e.
Bar 17: While playing an open D pedal as 8 notes, position the ring and little f on fret 5 of G and e, followed by index f on fret 3 of G and e.
Bar 18: While playing an open D pedal as 8 notes, position the ring and little f on fret 3 of G and e, followed by middle f on fret 2 of G and index on fret 1 of e.
Bar 19: As bar 7
Bar 20: As bar 16
Bar 21: as bar 17
Bar 22: As bar 18
Bar 23: As bar 7
Bar 24: As bar 8
Congratulations, you have completed ‘Spanish Sunset’!
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 tune and that this will give you some ideas on how to write your own solo guitar compositions and re-arrangements.