** As featured in issue 25 **
In this acoustic guitar lesson we'll be looking at another classical guitar composition of mine simply called Study n. 14. This fingerstyle guitar piece features a few arranging and compositional ideas, the most recurring being shifting the melody line from the higher to the lower register. This is a simple but effective arranging strategy, which forces the guitarist to outline the melody, applying the appropriate pressure with the relevant picking hand finger.
Another melodic feature in this piece, is the use of the altered scale, also known as the ‘super-locrian’ or whole-tone-diminished scale. This is the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale and it is often associated to Jazz for it’s colourful connotations. This mode is mainly used over dominant seventh chords, in order to create a tension and release effect, especially on resolving dominant chords (V – I). The most interesting characteristic of this mode is the presence of both a minor and a major third. The former is often described as the #9 of the chord (For more info on this subject, you may want to research altered chords and melodic minor modes).
This mode is evident in bar 4, where the B7 chord features a D (minor 3rd) and a D# (major third). The final note in bar 4 (C), is the b9th in relation to the B7 chord. As you can see, the altered scale is simply implied, as not all its notes have been used but only the most characteristic.
Compositionally, I have structured the first four bars in a pianistic fashion. In essence using the LH to play an arpeggio or broken chord as an accompaniment while RH would play the melody. The last four bars, feature a hand/voice swap, as the LH plays the melody and the RH the accompaniment. This arranging formula is as effective on guitar as it is on piano, although the more limited melodic/harmonic palette of tonal colours of the former pushes us to simplify the arrangement.
Finally, bars 5, 6 and 7, capitalize on the common chord tones found in the following chords: Em, Cmaj 7 and C#m7b5. These three chords in fact, share the triad EGB.
As usual, our ‘p’ finger will play the bass line. 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.
Next we are going to look at the left hand part:
(Please note E=low E string, e= high E string)
Bar 1: Index f on fret 2 of D and open e, followed by open G, open B and e. Middle f hammer-ons onto fret 2 of e and pull-offs to an open e. Little f on fret 4 of B followed by an open e.
Bar 2: Middle f on fret 3 of A and ring f on fret 3 of e. Open G and B. Index f on fret 2 of e followed by a pull-off.
Bar 3: Open A plus little f on fret 4 of B. Middle f on fret 2 of D and open G. Index f on fret 1 of B followed by a pull-off to an open B.
Bar 4: Middle f on fret 2 of A and ring f on fret 2 of G. Index f on fret 1 of D, open D and little f on fret 3 of A.
Bar 5: Middle f on fret 2 of A, open G, B and E. Ring f on fret 3 of E, Middle f on fret 2 of E and open E.
Bar 6: Ring f on fret 3 of A, open G, B and E. Middle f on fret 3 of E, index f on fret 2 of E and open E.
Bar 7: Little f on fret 4 of A, open G, B and E. Ring f on fret 3 of E, Middle f on fret 2 of E and open E.
Bar 8: (beat 1) Little f on fret 5 of A, open G, B and e. (beat 2) Little f on fret 6 of A, index on fret 4 of D and open G and B (to imply a B7b13)
Repeat the first seven bars and jump to bar 9.
Bar 9: (beat 1) Little f on fret 5 of A, open G, B and e. (beat 2) Index f on fret 2 of A, middle f on fret 3 of D and open G and B (to imply a G7/B)
Bar 10: Ring f on fret 3 of A, open G, B and e. Arpeggiate this Cmaj7 chord, playing fret 2 of D, open G and B.
Bar 11: Ring f on fret 3 of A, index f on fret 1 of D, middle f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 3 of B. Arpeggiate this Cm6/9, similarly to the previous chord and finish the arpeggio on a C, fret 2 of B.
Bar 12: Open E, barre on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 5 of D, ring f on fret 4 of G, fret 2 of B and e (to play an Em6/9)
Congratulations, you have completed Study n.14!
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 in both registers (high and low), particularly from bar 5 till 8.
Please 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 fingerstyle and guitar composition 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.