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Amazing Grace in D - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate-Advanced

Amazing Grace in D - The Lesson explained

Here's another look at Amazing Grace. I did it as a lesson years ago in the key of C, but it's such a beautiful piece of music that I thought I'd try an arrangement in D for you. It's always interesting to see how different keys affect the way tunes are arranged on a guitar. Each has its own pros and cons, but all are good.

I've tried to keep it as clean and open as possible. Once you get into this style of playing, it's very easy to add all kinds of detail -- usually extra chord tones picked from the shapes that are already under the fingers -- but I know how daunting it can sound and look if you're just starting out, so I streamlined the arrangement. However, there are a few techniques in this version that will require a lot of practice and concentration.

The first thing you'll notice is the traveling up and down the neck. This is a very good thing to practice and become familiar with. There's a whole fretboard there, full of music, so the sooner you start venturing up the better. Those fretboard markers are there for a reason: to use as guides. Check the positions against those dots and lock them into your gray matter forever.

The piece is full of repeated sections, so it's easier than it seems. In this version, I've used a neat little two-fingered chordlet plus open string for one of those repeated bits. It will no doubt take a few attempts to get the right sequence of fingers, but once you do, it will apply each time. The nice thing about it is that it allows all notes to ring on. Any other position would require at least one note to disappear, losing that harp-like effect. Apart from that, the rest is very straight forward fingering wise. Rarely are more than two fingers used except when playing those fairly well known chords. That D9 may be new to you. If so, remember that shape! It's the 9 shape, applies to all 9th chords. That chord could be replaced by a C, but the 9th has a wonderful gospel feel about it.

Toward the end, I add a couple of bass notes in which combine with the melody to suggest new chords. The E is a E/G# (another player could play a nice big E chord there); the Bm is really a Bm7, again, it's more hinted at than played in full. Why did I add those in? Because I wanted it to build there, to be 'bigger' and more dramatic than the first time though.

This piece is very much 'in key', revolving as all tunes do around the I - IV and V chords. I decided to add that E chord (which is not in the key of D) ... I like the way it sounds in that context. It becomes a V chord to that A, so in a sense the key changes to A for that one bar, which to my ear is very effective. Other than the two E chords though, all chords are related through the key the of D.

In the first couple of seconds, I slide a note up from the second to the seventh fret. If you look at my fretting hand, you'll see that I start with the index finger, slide up with it pressing the string, but then I switch to my middle finger when I arrive at the seventh fret; I then switch again and fret that same note with my ring finger when the double stop comes into play. I only point this out to illustrate that there is no one way to do anything on a guitar. Why did I make it so complicated for myself? I have no idea! It wasn't until I edited the movie that I noticed. I think I break everything down to small moves and use the best fingering (for me) for each small move. So experiment, try different ways yourself, don't feel that there's just one way of playing any one passage. I know that some of you may not want to hear this, that you want to be told exactly which fingers to use. I encourage you to stop thinking this way and accept that there are many ways to skin a cat and to do some experimenting.

The end bit: I play the 1-b7-5 of a A7 chord as natural harmonics at the 12th fret where they all happen to line up nicely. I then play a very major D chord that is spread the length of the fingerboard, using the open D string as bass note, a 5 and 3 middle of the fretboard and another 1 at the 10th fret. The old 1-3-5.

Have fun with this one, it's very satisfying to play.