** As featured in issue 14 **
In this fingerstyle classical guitar lesson we will be looking at a short composition of mine simply called Study n.5. It was inspired by the legendary guitar composer Matteo Carcassi, who has produced a remarkable amount of guitar works, one of the most popular being the ‘25 Melodic and Progressive Studies’, also known as Op.60. As I mentioned in the previous guitar tutorial, study pieces are normally bespoke compositions constructed around a particular concept or technical idea such as an arpeggio, a picking or fretting hand guitar technique a time signature etc.
This composition, for example, makes use of the following picking hand permutation: ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘m’ and ‘a’ respectively on A (or E in bar 5 and 7), G, B and high E (these are sporadically substituted by D, G, B or A, D, G). This 4-note pattern can be used to generate an array of compositions in different styles of music. For example, Folk, Jazz, Pop, as well as being very common in Flamenco and Classical guitar compositions. The melody in this composition will be mainly played by the ‘a’ finger, therefore, particular attention should be paid to attack, tone and dynamics. This will become clearer from the example below as well as from examining the enclosed score.
Most composers’ impetus behind their works could be a set arpeggio, a picking pattern, a chord progression, a melodic statement or all of the above. Mine has been this picking pattern, which repeat itself as a driving force allowing us to navigate the chosen set of harmonic changes implying a singing-like melody on the first string or sporadically on the 2nd and 3rd strings. I recommend trying this strategy to construct your own compositions. Below is the simplified harmonic content I have chosen for this composition: A E /A D/A Dm/A (x2) D /F# E/G# D/A A (x2) A E /A D/A Dm/A Please note the use of slash chords like, for example the E/G#. This is essentially an E major triad with its 3rd on the bass. (This voicing is normally referred to as a 1st inversion, as the third of the chord is on the bass). As I mentioned in the previous column, the finger picking permutation used in this tune (mentioned above) could be changed as you wish. Once you find a chord sequence you like, you’ll notice that any arpeggio or strumming pattern will work nicely. In other words, the most important thing when crafting a composition is to make sure that the harmonic content makes musical sense on its own (even without a melody).
Here is a breakdown of the composition bar by bar. You will be able to download a transcription by selecting the menu option on this page. As always, I recommend starting with learning the above-mentioned picking pattern with open strings, using the planting technique explained in the previous issues.
Fretting Hand positions:
Bar 1: Beat 1:Index f. on fret 2 of G, middle f. on fret 2 of B, ring f. on fret 2 of E.
Beat 2: Lift ring f. and repeat right hand arpeggio 3 times to complete the 1st bar. Bar 2: Beat 1: Index f. on fret 1 of G, open B and ring f. on fret 2 of E. Beat 2: Lift ring f. and repeat right hand arpeggio 3 times to complete the 2nd bar.
Bar 3: Beat 1: Ring f. on fret 4 of D, index f. on fret 2 of G and little f. on fret 5 of B. Beat 2: Replace little finger with middle f. on fret 3 of B.
Bar 4 – Beat 1: Middle f. fret 3 of D, index f. on fret 2 of G and little f. on fret 5 of B. Beat 2: Replace little finger with ring f. on fret 3 of B. Congratulations! You have completed the A section! (This part can be repeated twice, making sure the second time, a contrasting tone or/and dynamic development is applied).
Bar 5 - Beat 1 &2: Index f. on fret 2 of the low E. Little f. on fret 4 of A, open D and middle f. on fret 2 of G. Bar 5 – Beat 3&4: Ring f. on fret 4 of the low E. Index applies a Barré on fret 2 of A and D. Little f. fret 4 of G.
Bar 6 – Beat 1&2: Open A, ring f. on fret 4 of D, index f. on fret 2 of G and middle f. on fret 3 of B. Bar 6 – Beat 3&4: Barré on fret 2 of D, G and B.
Bar 7: As Bar 5. Bar 8 –Beat 1&2: As Bar 6 – Beat 1&2.
Bar 8 – Beat 3&4: Open A, little f. on fret 7 of D, index f. on fret 4 of G and middle f. on fret 5 of B.
Bar 9: As bar 1.
Bar 10: As bar 2.
Bar 11: As bar 3.
Bar 12 - Beat 1: Middle f. fret 3 of D, index f. on fret 2 of G and little f. on fret 5 of B. Beat 2: Replace little finger with ring f. on fret 3 of B. Beat 3: Replace ring f. with index f on fret 2 (barré on fret 2). Beat 4: Replace index f. with open B string.
Bar 13: Play simultaneously the open A and the its octave with the middle f. on fret 2 of G. Next, index f. on fret 2 of D, fret 2 of G, open B, fret 2 of B with the ring f. Open high E. Index f. fret 5 of E, middle f. fret 7 of E, little f. fret 9 and then 12 of E to play a harmonic.
Finally, play another harmonic on fret 7 D string (with the ‘p’ finger) As always, I strongly recommend experimenting with a few picking variations, changing the chords as you wish in terms voicing (higher or lower), as well as trying www.guitarinteractivemagazine.com 161 the same picking pattern on a different chord progression, or using a ‘capo’ on fret 2 or 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 a more contrasting result.
Using a wider dynamic and tonal range is important to keep our listeners engaged, especially when repeating the same section. I guess we could call this a ‘yawn-buster’ strategy.
Now let’s try an additional picking pattern! Try playing this composition with a plectrum. Experiment with the so-called Economy and alternate picking techniques. This may prove a challenging task, but as it will help improving the above-mentioned picking techniques. Congrats! You’ve completed this tune. As always, tonal and dynamic awareness is what makes our playing sound ‘expensive’ or ‘cheap’. To meet the former objective, slow practice is key, as we certainly don’t want memorise wrong parts or develop bad technical habits.
Take one beat at a time, memorising the fretting hand shapes and pattern. As recommended in the previous columns, where we mainly focused on the picking hand, we ought to focus most of all on accuracy and consistency of tone. Strategies to further improvement include the use of the planting technique described in the previous columns, resting our fingers onto the chosen strings, and executing each stroke with a controlled and even pressure and with tonal and dynamic awareness.
Each note we play should sound as full-bodied and as good as the previous one. 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. Whether you will play this composition on a steel strung or a nylon strung guitar, this will provide a great opportunity to improve your muting techniques as well as coordination skills of the picking and fretting hand. 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.
Till the next time, Good-bye!