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Building a Guitar Part >> Finger Style Guitar

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#1 Kirk Lorange

Kirk Lorange

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Posted 03 November 2005 - 08:32 PM

The TAB, GuitarPro file, midi files and notation that come with this lesson are now only available as part of the "Fingerstyle Lesson Pack" Details here.
The more you play guitar, the more techniques you learn. Most of us go from learning chords to figuring out riffs and licks that we like and on to playing melody lines and solos and knowing what a good bass line is. All the while, we hopefully are filing away all these bits and pieces for future reference. Eventually, we get a point where they all merge back together into one perfectly logical structure called music and we can access these bits and pieces at will, and assemble them, on the fly, into a new and unique guitar part. The old question "Do you play lead or rhythm?" becomes meaningless at that point. Playing with your fingers makes this process a little easier I think, than playing with a pick, but it certainly can be done. I've always seen it as a keyboard approach to playing music. You can't strum a piano, it's just not an option, so keyboard music is more of an assembly of smaller units.

This example is a simple I-IV-IV chord progression, something in the key of A that I played off the top of my head. It's basically assembled out of three different elements: A chord, a bass line, and a top line. I know, you're thinking "this is nothing new, this is what Kirk teaches every week" but this time it's a little different. This time instead of being interwoven, the elements come one at a time in sequence. I take each chord in the progression and treat it in the same way: play the chord, play the bass line, play the top line. The whole thing becomes a 'guitar part', a part you could play solo as self accompaniment, or backing a singer, or in a band, although in a band you might prefer to play just one element while other band member take care of the other two. In that case, your guitar part becomes the arrangement.

The top line, call it the melody line, I play as a double stop, and in each case I accommodate the chord of the moment, choosing my notes with that in mind. I wanted a blues based 7th sound, so I made sure I included the flat 7 (of each chord) in the harmony lines. A good exercise for you would be to analyze the three different top-line harmonies and find where that flat 7 is and what the other notes are.

The elements themselves are pretty straight forward; joining seamlessly into one part is the practice bit. This, as I say, is just a quick, off-the-cuff example. There are countless variations on this set of three elements to this chord progression alone, let alone all the other progressions you can apply this line of thinking to. You could, for example, simply change the order that the three elements come in the sequence ... the more you explore these variations and possibilities, the bigger your musical vocabulary becomes, the more elements you have to assemble. It's a never ending process, exploring music. Add to that the (seeming) complexities of the fretboard, and you've got yourself a lifelong project, sifting through it all. But what fun!

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