Theme from M*A*S*H - Fingerstyle Lesson (version 1)
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Beginner-Intermediate
Theme from M*A*S*H (version 1) - The Lesson explained
If you have never heard the theme from the TV series M*A*S*H it's because you come from another planet, in which case: Welcome to Earth.
Johnny Mandel, the co-writer of this piece, must be a very rich man. This series ran for 11 years solid and has been on syndication ever since. The lyricist of the sung version (Suicide is Painless) would also be rolling in it. The original was played in Dm, I did mine in Am as it suits the fretboard better for those who haven't been playing for very long.
I did three versions of this, this is the first. I kept this one to melody line and bass line which is the basic framework of any fingerstyle arrangement. We all know the melody (apart from you Martians) and the bass line tells us the basic harmonic structure, adds context to the melody line. Simple bass lines, like this one, usually consist solely of roots of the chords in the progression, so by adding them to the melody line we listeners can hear the chords without them actually being there. Our brains fill in the missing tones.
I start with a little intro -- Em to D -- being the v and IV chords of the piece. Minor keys can use either minor or major chords as their 'four' and 'five' chords. That's because there are three different minor scales to choose from and each throws up different related chords. In this tune there is one version of the Four chord (the D) but two different Five chords (Em and that E at bars 13 and 14). I'm not an expert in the details but I believe that the major Four chord comes from the Dorian mode and the E comes form the Harmonic minor scale. MASH is one of those tunes that uses chords from different scales.
The body of the tune is fairly straight forward. There's a 2/4 bar in there which might snag you at first but I think that we all know this tune so well that counting out beats will not be necessary. The only place I added more than melody/bass line is where that E7sus chord comes into play. I pluck the 4 and major 3 of that E chord so we can hear that this a featured section of the tune. If I'd left it blank -- and if we all didn't know this piece so well -- we would have assumed that the E chord was minor, since we've been hearing Em up until then.
I ending is the same as the intro: Em to D.
The next version is almost identical except that I sandwich some chord tones between the top and bottom lines.
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
As 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.