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Maria Elena - A fingerstyle guitar lesson.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Maria Elena - The Lesson Explained

I have to thank a Facebook member for suggesting this one. It's a beautiful tune written by Lorenzo Barcelata written way back in 1932. It's the epitome of a Mexican ballad, I reckon, second only to La Paloma.

I've done in the key of D, in dropped D tuning, a great tuning for this kind of very major sounding music. It's always satisfying to be able to go to that low D, the root, when resolving passages. It's a very strong and solid place to go. So, lower that bass string down from E to D.

This opens with an interesting little phrase that starts with a D to C# back-and-forth move. I first tried playing it on the same string but that meant playing the notes one at a time. So I stretched my fingers to play them on adjacent strings and that allowed both to ring together, giving it that slight dissonance, which I like. The underlying chord is A7th, so I threw in that G note on the D string (which is the 7 of A) to add to the harmony there. You might have to take a bit of time to train your left hand to stretch enough to grab it all cleanly. At the end of measure 1 I use the open B string, allowing it all to flow nicely. (I play this same passage differently later on at measure 17 if you find the stretch too much to handle).

In measure 4 I give a little hint of the underlying rhythm feel I hear in my head, that Latin American feel. It's subtle, achieved mostly by gently muting those double stops with my finger tips. It's a mystery how just adding that little nuance there adjusts the listener's ear to what the feel is all about. I sort of hint at it again in the bass line at bar 11 and 13, but I certainly don't keep it going all the way through. A couple of hints here and there is enough to say "south of the border".

There's nothing very tricky in any of this, just a lot of moving around, sliding to new positions and stretching those digits. Well, maybe that little twiddly bit at bar 24 could be considered tricky ... at first. Just make sure you keep that little double stop shape nice and firmly anchored down and just slide to and fro for the first bit, then slide it down, lift off and hammer back on for the second part.

Arrangement wise I changed a couple of chords. The Gdim is my idea. The original chord is Em and is brighter sounding. I like the tug-the-heart-strings effect of the Gdim myself. Try both, see which you prefer.

As always, make sure you have fun playing this. If you're not, put the guitar back on its stand and mow the lawn ... or shovel the driveway. Never, ever play if you're not having fun.

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.