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Stranger on the Shore (by Acker Bilk) - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate-Advanced


Stranger on the Shore - The Lesson explained

Here's another suggestion from a member: Stranger on the Shore. This was a huge hit back in the early 1960s, one I remember well. It was written by an English clarinet player called Acker Bilk who died just last month. He was 85. Have a listen to his version here: Stranger on the Shore.

I did this in the same key as the original, B flat, but I used a capo do get here. Bb is a nasty key for the guitar, but if you put a capo at the third fret you can play it as if you're in (you guessed it) G. So we're back to all those familiar shapes, chords and fingerings that we've grown to love.

This tune really is interesting the way it uses the related chords. Just about all of them are covered: I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi ... and there are a couple of instances of VI and II ... majorized minors as I call them. This tune would be a great one to really listen to with those Roman numerals in mind and try to get to hear those chords in context, to hear the flavors and the functions. It wasn't until I started picking it apart for my arrangement that I realized the genius of it.

I have upped the tempo a bit from the original and changed the feel to a brighter, almost finger picking style. You will really need to work on this feel for a bit to get it locked into your fingers. Once you do, it should all just roll along.

The structure of the tune is Verse 1, verse 2, Middle Eight, Verse 2 again, out.

Verse 1 ends differently than Verse 2. It moves to an A for a little turnaround that leads back to a verse. Verse 2 ends with a different turnaround that resolves back to the I chord.

The middle Eight does what most do: it moves up to the IV chord and ends on the V, leading back to a verse.

Most of this arrangement, which as usual I've tried to keep as simple as possible, is bass line/melody line. There's just one little bit where I inserted a 'middle line' to bring out the chord flavors. That bit happens twice, once at bar 12 then again at bar 28. It's a little tricky timing wise but very neat once you get it.

Other than that, there's a little slide up (optional, of course) and some pull offs ... all pretty basic. It's just getting that lilting feel that needs work, or at least did for me.

I hope you like it!