From very early on in my playing I was always amazed when I heard guitarist’s play arrangements of songs where they covered the bass, harmony, and melody parts all at once. It was more like I was hearing someone play something on a piano, than a guitar.
This was definitely a style of guitar I wanted to be able to do myself. However, I found it very difficult to do for a long time. I made many attempts at creating my own fingerpicking arrangements of songs on guitar, and failed many times.
The problem was I didn’t have any real strategy or method in place for playing arrangements that covered all bases of a song, that being the bass, harmony, and melody parts.
I was making things difficult for myself, and like many others, started to believe this was beyond my ability, and that playing this style of guitar was just too hard to do.
Truth is, as I discovered later on down the track, it really isn’t. Having a solid strategy in place is the key. By doing so, it allowed me to keep things simple.
Today I am going to share part of this strategy with you. Like me, you are going to find that creating your own fingerpicking arrangements of songs on your guitar doesn’t have to be difficult.
What it is however, is loads of fun!
I’ll show you how to create a solid foundation of an arrangement where you can later add to it to make it even better and more intricate.
We will expand on this in part 2 of this article lesson, but for now let’s get started building that foundation for creating and playing fingerpicking arrangements of songs on your guitar.
The Different Layers Of A Fingerpicking Arrangement
There are really only 3 main layers to any song. They are:
In a band you typically have the vocal taking care of the melody most of the time.
The guitar and perhaps keyboard/piano essentially take care of the harmony, and the bass, well it takes care of the bass believe it or not
Think of a choir.
There are the soprano voices taking care of the melody, the alto and tenor harmonising, and the baritones providing the bass.
You need to think in the same way when creating fingerpicking arrangements of songs on your guitar. That is, you need to break the song down into these areas and work on them individually before bringing them together to create your arrangement. Trying to do everything at once is a surefire way to fail miserably and give up in frustration. I know, I’ve been there.
So let me take you through this process with an tune called “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”
Step 1: Chords Of Your Guitar Fingerpicking Arrangement
The first step is simple, but important. Memorise the chords to the tune you are arranging, and know them by heart in at least the open position on your guitar.
Here are the chords to our tune:
Step 2: Melody Of Your Guitar Fingerpicking Arrangement
Next up is to learn and memorise the melody of the tune you are arranging. You need to be able to play it in at least one position on your guitar. Here I will arrange the melody of our tune in the open position:
Step 3: Chords And Melody Of Your Guitar Fingerpicking Arrangement
Once you have the chords and melody of your tune down and memorised, it is time to put them together. I purposely put the chords and melody in the same position on the guitar for our tune to make this possible.
Be sure to watch the video for a detailed explanation and demonstration of how to go about this:
Step 4: Fleshing Out Your Guitar Fingerpicking Arrangement
Once you have completed the first 3 steps, your tune really starts to take shape, however there is more we can do to make it even better!
Let me show you:
In the arrangement above, I have broken up the chords and melody to sound a little more musical and less exercise like. In bars 8, 9, 11, and 12, I have also arpeggiated some of the chords to flesh things out a little, and bring some variety to our arrangement.
To this point in time you have a really cool and complete sounding fingerpicking arrangement of “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”.
However there is so much more we can do!
What you have done today, provides you with a great foundation from which to launch into some really cool ways in which to create fingerpicking arrangements on your guitar.
In part 2 of this lesson, I am going to introduce you to one particular fingerpicking technique that will take our arrangement in a whole new direction.
Better yet, combining what you have done in todays lesson, with what I will show you in part 2, will provide you with a more sophisticated, full, and complete sounding fingerpicking guitar arrangement.
About Author: Simon Candy is a professional musician and guitar instructor from Melbourne, Australia. Specialising in acoustic guitar, Simon offers acoustic guitar lessons online teaching a variety of styles including blues, rock, pop, jazz, and fingerpicking.