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Killing Me Softly - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Killing Me Softly - The Lesson explained

I found myself humming this the other day and decided to make a lesson of it. I didn't know at the time that there are countless other lessons for it out there already but ... what the heck. I'll throw mine in there as well.

The song was apparently written about Don McLean. The story goes that Lori Lieberman, a singer, had gone to one of his shows in LA and heard him singing one of his songs and that it touched her so deeply that she wrote down some words. Later on Charles Fox and Norman Gimbell turned it into the song that Roberta Flack made famous in the early seventies.

I did my version in the key of Em but it's an unusual composition. It starts on the iv chord (Am) and ends on a I chord ... E. Not Em but the major version of E.

I've tried to keep the arrangement as clean as possible, without being boring. In many instances, I opted for positions that allowed open strings to ring out rather than stick to the usual shapes.

The Intro: basically a D7 chord with a bit of a syncopation going on rhythmically. It's a bit like the one Roberta plays on the piano, but not quite. I call it a Dsus4 in the video/tab ... it also has a flat 7 and that open E string ringing out throughout is a 9, so it's also an 'add 2', or maybe major 9th? Who cares? It's what it is, some sort of D chord that does a nice job of keeping us waiting for the tune to start.

There's nothing too difficult about this arrangement. If you're wondering why I don't keep the moves more compact, it's really just personal choice. At bars 14 and 15 I could have kept all those harmony lines confined to the first three or frets, but I prefer to stick to the same string sets for lines like that. It just seems to make more sense that switch over to other strings; having said that, later on at bars 21 and 22 I play pretty much the same harmonies in different string sets. That's because of what came before, the B7 bit. There is some logic to it!

At bar 26 I do jump up the fretboard for that A7 ... I found it much cleaner to do that than to grab the same notes at the second fret and I think you will too.

The tune has no middle eight or any other sections, so I decided to play some fingerstyle rhythm for another pass and play some improvised lines to entertain you. This kind of melodic improv is (as you probably know by now!) based on following the chords rather than scales. Many years ago I moved away form the scale/mode mindset to the chord mindset and never went back. In tunes like this, where there are many 'out-of-key' chords, it's a much more efficient way to always be seeing those sweet notes. This mindset is what my PlaneTalk package teaches: how to see the fretboard as one long chord so you can use the notes to make melody and harmony.

I hope you like this one, I'll be back soon with more lessons soon..

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs 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.