Archive Monthly Archives: July 2010

Easy Classical Guitar – Greensleeves

We’re going to harmonize an existing melody. Let’s take the tune Greensleeves (aka What Child is This?). This can be played on an electric guitar as it’s fairly high on the neck.

Here are the chords and melody in the key of Am. The melody moves around a bit on the neck so it will accommodate the notes we add later. Note that some measures have 3 quarter notes and some have dotted quarter/eighth/quarter. We can vary this rhythm as desired, since it might be harder to do with added notes being played at the same time, which we’ll do next.

Some chords last for two measures which is quite long so we will add a few chords to spice things up. One common technique is to replace a major chord with it’s relative minor and vice versa. So for Am we can add the C major chord (relative major). And for G we can add Em (relative minor) to the second measure instead of playing the same chord twice.

In measure 6 and 7 instead of Am, we use F and Dm. The F is used to approach the E major chord and we use the Dm as well since it is the relative minor of F.

The first stage is to add bass notes to the first beat of each measure based on the current chord as in the first 8 or so bars. Then we add more notes to connect these notes together We also add some counterpoint such as in measures 14 and 19. Later on in measures 18 we add more bass notes (these are just chord tones of the current chord, sometimes 3rds or fifths). Here’s the result:

If you like this check out my Baroque Improvisation course.

We could take this further if we want to. Try doing this in another key for example somewhere else on the neck. As you play the melody think of the chords and the moving bass lines. We can also add a 3rd note to the chord.

Easy Classical Guitar

Some of the main challenges when learning classical guitar are all the rules, restrictions and incredibly difficult pieces to play, plus having to buy a nylon string guitar and foot stool, grow and maintain our fingernails, rest strokes, free strokes, and etudes. Add to that all the intimidation of the genre and it’s no wonder most guitarists give up! While putting in the tremendous effort is very worthwhile, most of us simply don’t have the time required to put in the required practice.

So how about getting back to the fun of playing classical guitar music? That is my goal with this post and others. So I have posted a relatively easy classical guitar version of JS Bach’s Minuet in G. It has the melody and a bass note to accompany it.

Learn how to play JS Bach’s Minuet in G arranged for you in a way that is easy to play on an electric guitar. No complex moving bass lines and other issues. Your thumb plays the bass and your index/middle finger play the melody however you’d like to finger it (alternate index and middle if you wish).

The music also shows the chords so you can understand the chord progression. You can listen to Minuet in G here:

Here’s the full sheet music:

Easy Classical Guitar – Minuet In G

This is a free lesson but if this lesson has touched you in some way you can donate what you feel in your heart. Suggested donation is $4.99. 10% of your generous donation will go to Music for a Cure Charity for kids with critical illness.

If you’re so inclined, look at the chords and see the chord progression and cadences (hint lots of I, IV and V in key of G start). You will rarely see any chords or analysis of Bach’s pieces so this can remove some of the fear and intimidation of the genre when you see how basic the chord progressions are! Transpose it to other keys. We can also use this basic structure to expand upon or for classical improvisation, adding more bass notes for example or using the chord progression but making up our own melody.

Harmonizing a Melody

An amazingly effective way to get started improvising is to harmonize a given melody (or use this in your compositions). By that I mean finding the right chord to fit the chord progression that gives you each melody note in the upper voice (ie. the highest note in the chord is the melody note).

Since most songs use a combination of minor and major chords we will start with those. In the following PDF, I have provided a series of minor and major chords in various inversions. Each chord has a chord tone as the highest note which will be our melody note (non-chord tones as melody notes to come later).

We use A minor as an example of a minor chord and E major as an example of a major chord. For other minor chords you just shift the shape up or down the neck. When you play each inversion, be aware of what the melody note is (name of note, whether it’s the root, third, fifth) and what the other 2 notes are (name of note and whether root, third, fifth).

Later we will discuss Dominant and Diminished chords but let’s start simple for now. Here’s the Melody Notes with Chords PDF.

Harmonizing a Melody with Chords

This is a free lesson but if this lesson has touched you in some way you can donate what you feel in your heart. Suggested donation is $4.99. 10% of your generous donation will go to Music for a Cure Charity for kids with critical illness.

The first four measures are the inversions of A minor. Play these ascending and descending. Each chord has a melody note on top, which is a chord tone so our melodies will consist of just chord tones for now. The second four measures are for the E major chord. These shapes can be moved up or down the neck to play any other minor or major chord – this is key!

Next on the second line in the PDF we have a melody with chords. Try and find the appropriate chord from the list in the first line which has that melody note as the highest note of the chord. Do this for each melody note. Then be able to play the melody in time and smoothly moving from chord to chord. Congratulations you’ve played your first chord melody!

If you need to look at the answer you can see it below. Please don’t look at this before you try it yourself. The work to find each chord is the critical skill you need to learn to do classical improvisation!

Work this out in other keys. Just transpose the chords (simple i V progression) to another key. Determine what interval each melody note is in relation to the chord. In our example melody we have 5th (E is 5th of Am), root, major 3rd, root, minor 3rd, major third, root.

Also we can use the same chord progression but alter the melody. You might be surprised how many songs use the same series of chord progressions.

Hopefully by now you can appreciate the incredible power of this type of approach!

Harmonizing a Melody – Answer

This is a free lesson but if this lesson has touched you in some way you can donate what you feel in your heart. Suggested donation is $4.99. 10% of your generous donation will go to Music for a Cure Charity for kids with critical illness.

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Three Blind Mice – Analysis

We can learn a lot from really simple songs like Three Blind Mice. Don’t laugh!

This song oscillates between I and V in the key of G in this example. I’ve provided some basic sheet music in two voices where the bass line uses root movement (G to D back to G) for each melodic phrase. Each phrase starts and ends with a chord tone (G B or D). So B A G twice, D C B twice, then G F# E F# G D. So the same chord progression is used for 3 different melodies.

Here is the Three Blind Mice TAB. We can expand the basic root movement (G D G) by using other chord tones for smoother voice leading. We can also embellish the melody. But this is a good framework to build upon.

Here is a video of some variations of Three Blind Mice written by John Thompson. It starts out in key of G, modulates to key of Bm (the dominant of G is D major or B minor) which is very common modulation as it is a ‘close’ key with one extra sharp) then in Variation II goes to Gm. It’s well worth analyzing Variations on Three Blind Mice.

Lessons Learned:

-Simple melodies and simple chord progressions (eg I V) can be effective
-Modulate to closely related keys (one more/less sharp or flat). eg C to G or C to F
-Melodies with chord tones on strong beats will usually sound good
-Start with a basic framework then embellish with more notes

Please check out my Baroque Improvisation Course if you’re interested learning more of this.

Milking a I-V progression

As songwriters, improvisers and guitarist we can often overcomplicate things. Trying to learn too many things, trying to use overly complex chord progressions in our songs and improvisations. Here’s an example by Chopin to show how beautiful a song can be with just 2 chords, Db and Ab7!

This tune by Chopin repeats a I-V progression for over 5 minutes! Notice how it starts out sparse and becomes more complex building tension, with lots of chromatic or ‘outside’ notes. But the bass line is the same for almost the entire piece. I’ve include the bass line on guitar below the video.

Berceuse by Chopin Bass Line

So try writing a song or improvising using this simple progression. Remember that there are many things you can do – target each chord tone of Db (Db, F, Ab) and Ab7 (Ab, C, Eb, Gb). For 2 notes together you can combine root and 3rd, root and fifth, root and minor 7th, 3rd and fifth, 3rd and 7th as well as the inversion of these. Study the melody of this song and see what Chopin did (eg chromatic approaches).

Please check out my Baroque Improvisation Course if you’re interested learning more of this.

What Exactly is Improvisation?

What exactly is improvisation? I’ve been obsessed with this question for many years, not just what it is but how do we go about learning and teaching it? Many musicians are confused about what improvisation is – one of the biggest misconceptions is that improvising is playing something that has never been played before. While that may be true for the entire improvisation (say during a 5 minute song) as a whole, it is definitely not true for parts of the improvisation. This is especially true for more technical genres such as baroque and jazz which require a certain amount of technical facility. If you don’t believe this try improvising over Giant Steps at 300 bpm, especially if you’ve never seen that chord progression before.

In jazz you often play solos over fixed chord progressions. If you are advanced enough to reharmonize chords on the fly you will be improvising even more so, but often you’re choosing paths to take in your progressions such as cycle of fourths, descending minor thirds, tritone subs and ascending diatonic progressions, to name a few. And when you play you often recall things that you liked, that you know sound good.

So when we improvise both chords and melody such as in baroque improvisation we:
-can choose what key to start in
-choose where to go diatonically from the root (IV, V, cycle of fourths, etc)
-choose which key to modulate to (if any), and this can be done repeatedly
-choose a melody
-choose when to play the melody in the bass or upper voices
-choose how long to play and when to end the improvisation

Sure I could start to record myself, play some chords, get a repeated loop going and then improvise things over the chords. This could entirely be improvised, although bits and pieces of melodies, patterns, arpeggios could’ve been practiced before. But for challenging jazz progressions, or baroque improvisation you often need to have practiced certain things ahead of time – like having a moving bass line while the upper voice is stationary, playing difficult counterpoint lines, working out how to change keys effectively and so on.

It is clear that just playing existing pieces will not make you a good improvisor (just look at all the classical musicians who can’t improvise and probably don’t understand what they are playing other than the initial key of the piece). It is also clear that just grabbing an instrument and making stuff up is not what we are after as it is usually too unstructured, especially for specific, difficult genres.

It is also clear that learning scales, triads and arpeggios all over the neck is not enough to make you a good improvisor either. But you do need a certain amount of knowledge so you are not just ‘cutting and pasting’ a series of phrases together. So a certain amount of improvisation is using our ability to recall previously practiced ideas.

Probably the most effective way to learn to improvise is to learn short phrases and understand how they work, whether they are single note solos, or baroque style chord melodies. Make up variations. So you might learn a phrase that is a I IV V I progression for example. Then you need to understand how to modulate to other keys. So you might go from the I chord and try to modulate to the relative minor (C to Am), or the dominant key (C to G) or the subdominant key (eg. from Dm to Gm). So for any key you can decide when to modulate and where to go. Within each key you can learn I IV V I progressions or use the cycle of fourths for example. This is surely enough to get you going!

Please check out my Baroque Improvisation Course if you’re interested learning more of this.

New Focus for Guitar Lesson Website

Hi guys,

Just wanted to mention that I will be tightening the focus of this guitar lesson website towards my own lessons, tips, thoughts, etc with an emphasis on improvisation and really understanding what you are doing. So ways to learn how to improvise, music analysis and theory, chord melodies and so on. Right now I am obsessed with Bach-style baroque improvisation so you will continue to see a lot of that!

Removed will be lessons and content from other sites, although I may link to related content in my own posts. I’m looking forward to a finely tuned focused website and hope you’ll stay with me! You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook as I post links to other lessons more often there than I will be here.

TRANSCRIPTION: Baroque Improvisation Part 1 by Ted Greene

Here is the late Ted Greene showing us how to improvise in the Baroque style:

Using Enounce MySpeed to slow down the videos and literally tens of hours of transcribing and rewinding I was able to finish part 1 which is 9 pages! Subscribe on the right sidebar to get the tab. Ted Greene Baroque Improv Part 1. I added explanation notes as well and while there are many key changes, I did change the key signature on occasion to reflect the main key and to reduce the number of accidentals. Don’t be discouraged by the first part where Ted does a one finger bar across different frets!

Here’s the transcription to Baroque Improvisation Part 1

Note: With Guitar Pro 5 the tablature is king so there may be issues with the musical notation regarding accidentals. If you play the tab and understand what key you are in you should be fine. You may want to move the fingering around to suit your preference/ability. Please send any corrections to me and I’ll update the file.