Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy - A Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate-Advanced
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy - the lesson explained.
This truly is a fun one to your fingers around. I know because, for once, I had to learn this one myself ... and I'll tell you why: after deciding to make a lesson of this amazing little piece of music, I had a look online for some versions of the piece. I'd never played it before and I wanted to figure out the chords. What I found in the first 5 minutes was a wonderful arrangement for piano, very clean, very simple, exactly what I wanted to for guitar. I wrote the arranger, Andy Fling, and asked him if I could use it. He said yes, so, for once, I transcribed his piano arrangement into the guitar version, using Guitar Pro, entering his notes (by ear), creating the GP file and then learned how to play it on the guitar the way you will, by following the tab. Normally I noodle around, experiment and explore, come up with an arrangement by building it up bit by bit, and by the time I've fine tuned it all, I know the piece. Not this time. This time I had to do what you're about to do: figure out how to get my fingers to deliver. And, I have to say, I had a lot of (challenging) fun doing it.
It's in the key of Dm and you will notice I didn't indicate any chord progression in the tab/notation. It seemed irrelevant and it would have made it all look way too complicated. It's also in 2/4, two beats per measure. If you were to count your way through it, it would all be "one two one two one two one two ...".
There's an 8 bar intro, which is a 4 bar figure repeated once. It's an odd little progression, slightly spooky sounding, and it sets up the next section, which is truly unique. The melody line and bass line interact in a very unusual way, and getting my fingers around it took a while. None of my 50 odd years worth of muscle memory seemed to apply to this. I think you'll find like me that once you get it, though, it's very neat to play.
The next section which starts at bar 17 is a little more straight forward musically but requires some big jumps up the neck. You need to plan ahead for these jumps, you need to be seeing the target(s) very clearly to hit them cleanly and smoothly. It takes a while, so stick at it. The right hand also needs to do some serious muscle-memorizing. There are some unusual double stops in this, sometimes five strings apart.
At bar 25 -- yippee! -- it's that neat section again, so nothing new to learn here.
At bar 32, the last section starts. This section makes more sense -- aurally -- and has more usual feeling grips. There's also a bit of a repeating fingering pattern that starts at bar 33. Once you get the fingering right for 33-34, you've got it for 35-36 and 37. You'll see how the pattern moves down the neck.
The end needs attention. It's quick and it will take you by surprise.
You'll hear that most of this is played in a very staccato style, not much ringing going on. I keep everything clipped by muting with my thumb and fingertips. You can see in the video how my fingertips come down on the strings I've just plucked to choke the ringing, and how the side of my thumb takes care of the bass strings. Another thing that requires lots of focus and attention until muscle memory takes over. Then you don't have to think about it all.
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
As well as putting together these free guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.