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Mona Lisa - a fingerstyle guitar lesson.


Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
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The video with un-blurred virtual fretboard can be downloaded from a link at the top of the TAB


Order the TAB - Notation - Video here

Mona Lisa - The Lesson explained


Here is my rendition of this great old classic from the 1950s, made famous by Nat King Cole. 

I did mine in Dropped D tuning, which you have probably guessed by now is my favorite and if you've been learning some of the tunes I've done in this tuning, you'll recognize many of the moves and positions.

A word of warning first off: Because of the way I played it, with a floating tempo and extraneous inserts of harmonics here and there, I had a horrible time trying to write the tab/notation. I found myself pulling my hair out trying to decode what I played and figuring out which notes were triplets, which were not, where the tempo slowed, where it sped back up etc, so I decided in the end to just make sure the notes that I played were there in the score. You will have to listen to the audio in the video to capture the exact timing. DO NOT trust the timing symbols in the tab/notation.

Also! I have vastly simplified the chord names in the video/tab/notation. For example:

The whole opening section where you see 'D' is actually more complex that 'just D'. It would have cluttered both the video and the tab/notation to write out what is really happening, but I can show you here in the commentary:

The main theme is D - Ddim - G/D - D ... one chord for each syllable of the word Monalisa. Mo-na-li-sa. You can see why I didn't insert each name! 

When the chord changes to A at bar 8, the same kind of thing happens ... one chord per syllable.

OK, now that I've got that out of the way let's look at the tune.

I shot and recorded the second half first, up the neck in a high register, then I started fooling around in the lower octave and decided to shoot/record that too. That's why you see the edit in the middle of the piece. 

It's a wonderful example of complexity out of simplicity. At its stripped back, no frills structure, this is a very simple tune. It basically all I-IV-V chords (D, A,G) with that one Gm (which I like to call a 'minorized four chord', or iv) and a couple of diminished and augmented passing chords. Very straight forward. But it's that melody line that, when harmonized, introduces all those secondary chords, chords that you can either play or not play. Try it yourself. Just strum D and sing or hum the melody ... it sounds fine, but boring. It's so much more pleasing to hear all the subtleties  of the harmonized chords. And, as I mentioned before, this happens through out the whole tune. Towards the end, at bar 78, I have written 'A7', but in fact the chords are A9 - A13 - A9 - Gm/A.

There's nothing tricky about this. You can dispense with the two or three little twiddly bits if you find them  too much, but it's all very straight forward fingering, no acrobatics. It is long, though, so a lot to remember. You'll notice that I use a lot of open strings in some of the melody lines. These are a bit un-intuitive at first but after a bit of practice they will just roll off your fingertips. There's also a little passage at bars 53-54 that may take a few minutes to lock in. Great fun to play once you do, though, so work on it.

I'm glad I've got this one out of the way. I've been meaning to do it for years, it's been haunting me for years. Now it's done.

I hope you like it!


Order the TAB - Notation - Video here