** As featured in issue 27 **
In this acoustic guitar column we’ll be looking at another composition of mine simply called Study n. 16. This fingerstyle guitar piece features a few arranging and compositional ideas, the most recurring one being using upper structure triads, which consist of implying various extended chords (like major9 etc) with simple triads over bass notes other than the root, 3rd and 5th.
The first chord C/F depicted in fi g 1 is a perfect example. This C major triad over an F bass implies a colourful Fmaj7sus2, which as well as being a lovely sounding and less predictable harmony, it is also a very guitaristic one, as it is easy to play and it makes the most of two open strings: high e and G.
Fig. 1 Another important compositional aspect of study n.16 is its syncopated nature. This is evident from the very first bar and throughout. The B section demonstrates how we can displace a melody, which would sound and feel more predictable in 8th notes (Fig. 2), of a 16th, resulting in a more driving rhythm (Fig. 3).
Fig. 2: Simpler melodic statement
Fig. 3: Syncopated (displaced of a 16th) variation.
Another recurrent harmonic strategy has been used to navigate the two main key centres of this tune, namely Fmaj and Em. The most effective way to modulate (change key) is to do this via the V chord of the key we are modulating into. For example from F to Emin we could use B7 (V in E harmonic or melodic minor). Similarly, from Em to F via a C7 (V of F). This strategy is commonly referred to as a direct modulation. Modal interchange was used too. This is evident in bar 14 where the Bbm6 has been borrowed from the key of Fmin, the parallel key to F major. Finally, chord inversions have been used to create an ascending chromatic bass line (from bar 9 to 12).
And to create more colourful sounding extended chords For example the final chord, Fmaj9/A. This could be described as an Am7 with a b6. The picking-hand pattern is predominantly as follows: (Please note E=low E string, e= high E string) ‘p’ and ‘a’ play simultaneously the outer notes of the chord and ‘i’ , ‘m’ and ‘a’ pluck respectively the G, B and ‘e’ strings. Then the ‘m’ finger plucks the e string on the last 16th of bar 1 and bar 2 progressed with ‘p’, ‘i’ and ‘m’. 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:
Bar 1: Ring f on fret 3 of D, open G and e and index on fret 1 of B.
Bar 2: Middle f on fret 2 of D, open G and e and index f on fret 1 of B.
Bar 3: Ring f on fret 3 of D, open G and e and index on fret 1 of B. Little f slides from fret 3 to 5 of e, and back on fret 3 of e.
Bar 4: As bar 2
Bar 5: Index f on fret 1 of D, middle f on fret 2 of G, open B and ring f on fret 2 of e.
Bar 6: Index or middle f on fret 2 of D, open G and B and little f on fret 3 of e.
Bar 7: As bar 5, but with little f sliding from fret 3 to 5 of e, and back on fret 3 of e.
Bar 8: (beat 1) index f on fret 2 of D, open G followed by middle f on fret 3 of G and ring f on fret 3 of B with index on fret 3 of A and open e. Repeat the first 8 bars and continue through section B
Bar 9: Index on fret 1 of A, open D, ring f on fret 3 of D, middle f on fret 2 of G and open G.
Bar 10: While we let the open G string from the previous bar ring, we should place our middle f on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 3 of D, followed by the ring f on fret 2 of D and open D and little f on fret 3 of D once more.
Bar 11: While we let the last note from the previous bar ring, we should place our middle f on fret 2 of A, little f on fret 3 of D, followed by the ring f on fret 2 of D and open D.
Bar 12: While we let the last note from the previous bar ring, we should place our ring f on fret 3 of A, middle f on fret 2 of D, followed by the index f on fret 1 of D and back to fret 2 with the middle f, followed by index f on fret 2 of G.
Bar 13: While we let the last note from the previous bar ring, we should place our ring f on fret 4 of A, open G, then middle fret 3 of D, followed by the index f on fret 2 of D and back to fret 3 of D with middle.
Bar 14: While we let the last note from the previous bar ring, we should place our index f on fret 1 of A, ring f on fret 3 of D middle f on fret 2 of G and little f on fret 3 of B. Finally, a Bm6 chord fretted as follows: index on fret 1 of A, ring f on fret 3 of D, open G and middle f on fret 2 of B.
Bar 15: Let the last chord from the previous bar ring.
Bar 16: Fmaj9/A fretted as follows: Open A, ring f on fret 3 of D, open G, index f on fret 1 of B and open e. Congratulations, you have completed Study n.16! 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.