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Begin the Beguine

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

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For this lesson, I will now be charging a small fee of US $4.95 for the Printable PDF of the TAB/Notation. Click here to order it.

This Lesson explained

Here is my arrangement of this great old Cole Porter tune, Begin the Beguine. It's a tune that I grew up with, my dad loved his Big Band records, and he listened to them loud. It was the Artie Shaw version I heard and over time every little nuance of the arrangement made its way into my grey matter. The 'beguine', by the way, is a Latin American rhythm/dance, a sort of slow rumba.

About 11 years ago, I decided to strip back the Artie Shaw version for guitar and I posted the arrangement on YouTube, not as a lesson, just as a performance. That video has had about 50,000 views and I've received many requests to turn it into a lesson. I finally got up the nerve to do just that last week. I say that because it's a long tune -- over 4 minutes -- and I knew I'd have to re-learn the arrangement pretty much as I played it 11 years ago. That's easier said than done, for me anyway. I also knew that the dynamics of the first version, when I was playing, would be diminished once I started recording it with a lesson in mind. It's often very difficult to transcribe off-the-cuff renditions, to tab them out and notate them, so I play a little more deliberately, with a little less verve, when I'm playing for these lessons.

You may have noticed over the many lessons I post that there are never any edit points. When you're shooting video, you really do need to get it in one take, and if it's going to be a lesson, there can't be any mistakes, even small ones. To do that with a 4 minute tune is no small feat, for me anyway, and I must have played this 100 times over two days of recording, taping and videoing every one of them. Even the tiniest dead notes, or slip of the finger, or string rattle was a no-no. I can't remember how often I got to about the 3:50 mark and made a blue. I finally got one that only has one weird bass note, when my thumb snagged the low string, but I decided that it was acceptable. I'll let you find it!

I won't delve too deeply into the theory side of this, but the tune is a masterpiece of composition. It sticks mainly to the related chords of D -- and Dm when it changes key -- but with wonderfully effective extensions. The melodic phrases in (what I call) verses 1 and 2 keep ending on successively higher notes, first A (bar 4), then B (bar 11), then E (bar 15). The second time through the corresponding notes are A (again, in bar 23), then C# (bar 27), then a big jump up to F# (bar 36). It's a combination of repetition and surprise, a wonderful way to keep the listener listening.

Then comes the key change in verse 3. That last note of the repeating melodic theme is F, the minor third. That's when you hear the key change. Then another key change to Cm.

The theme goes back to the major version for verse 4 and here the melody line changes to something completely new and unexpected, moving to high note of E (bar 57) and new phrasing. Next -- you guessed it, another key change, to Gm this time with that corresponding note becoming A#. So, in all, that last note of the melodic theme has been A, A#, B, C#, E and F#. Amazing. It truly is genius once you start picking it apart.

The ending chords -- D, D6, Dmaj7 -- echo the chords in the opening verses , only this time the extensions are in the chords themselves, not the bass line , in other words D/B could be written D/6 and D/C# could be written D/7.

The intro is mine, something I tacked on in 2006 and kept for those who have been asking for the lesson.

You'll notice new looking TAB. I upgraded Guitar-Pro and had no end of problems with it, had to write support several times. I lost an entire day when it crashed and I hadn't Saved. There's not auto-save programmed into it, which is ludicrous. Don't worry too much about all the timing symbols, I did my best to make it sound right in Guitar Pro, but, as I mentioned before, it's not easy to turn this kind of playing into midi. Just remember that the bar numbers in the tab correspond to bar numbers in the video.

It's in my favorite tuning, Dropped D, make sure you lower that bass string down a whole tone. There are no real tricky parts that require double jointed fingers, but it is a long piece of music to remember , but once you know it, you'll want to play it over and over.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these fingerstyle 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.