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Pachelbel Canon - Lesson 2 - The Melody

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Brass guitar slides

The Lesson explained

Here is another look at Pachelbel's Canon. This time I've taken one the most memorable parts of the melody line and played along to a backing track that I put together in Guitar-Pro. It's a good one to practice to limber those fingers up for playing melodically.

Since all the chords in this piece are from the key of D, the melody line uses the D scale. This melody is a great way to practice your D major scale. As you know by now, I'm not one to advocate endless practicing of scales in the linear do re mi fa manner, mainly because those who do often wind up using them later on in their playing as 'solos' or 'improvisation', which they are not. They're still just scales. Playing melody is another matter, and this one is great.

Disclaimer: I'm not a trained classical guitarist, so don't take my technique in this lesson as 'correct'. I have developed my own right hand technique over the years and it works for me. You'll notice that I mute out all strings that are not being played with my thumb and idle fingertips. I do this to keep what I am playing nice and clear and unaffected by any harmonics coming from other strings and also as a guarantee that if I mistakenly hit another string, no sour note will ring out. You'll also notice that I never used my thumb in this lesson to pluck a melody note, only my fingers. I'm sure I'd be pulled up by a classical guitar teacher for not using the thumb on that D string. But, this lesson is really for the left hand, the fretting hand ... if you use a flat pick or finger picks, use them. The main thing is to make music.

I run through the very same melody three times in this, then fade out into a bit of an improvisation over the chords. I think I managed to get the melody exactly as written. As I mention before, the whole thing uses the D major scale, but if you're a chord tone guy like me, you'll quickly see that the melody does in fact hinge around chord tones (it has to) and that was my mindset while figuring it out and playing it. I kept my playing as clean and undecorated as I could (a little too stiff listening back now), there are just a couple of little pull-offs that you can either do or not do. You'll notice that the first and last notes in the whole sequence are the same A at the 5th fret of the e string.

The left hand fingering is easy: index/2nd fret; middle/3rd fret; ring/4th fret; pinkie/5th fret. The whole thing takes place on these four frets.

The chord names in the movie are simply there to tell you what the backing track is doing. If you have a friend, he or she can strum these while you play the melody, which is always a fun thing to do.

There are, of course, many other ways of playing this melody. That's the beauty of the guitar (and the thing that makes it seem so complicated) but I just used one for this. You'll notice that even though I could have used open strings for many of the notes (the E, B and G), I chose to use all fretted notes. Once you commit this to memory, you'll be able to move the whole thing up the fretboard and play it in other keys. If you have enough playing under your strap to do so, I suggest exploring all the other possibilities as well.

Here is the backing track (repeated 10 times) to play along to, and here is the GuitarPro file that you can manipulate as you wish if you have the software. If you do, you can see the way I built up the string ensembles, bass, voices, harpsichord and pizzicato strings that make up the backing.

The aim for this lesson is to get that left hand opened up, get that pinkie stretched out and strong, keep the notes nice and ringing and flowing smoothly. Playing along with a backing track really is great practice; it's like a metronome, only better.

>> Lesson 1 -- Pachelbel Canon (The Chord Progression) is here.

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.