Arranging songs for various playing skills

Guitar Tricks Forum > Songwriting > Arranging songs for various playing skills

Meridirh

Full Access | The notorious guitar nerd

Joined: 04/07/16

Posts: 28

(TOPIC CONCERNING FINGERSTYLE)

Hey everyone,

Today, I would like to start a discussion that has been a major concern for me for quite a while now. I'm happy with the way my guitar playing evolves. I feel as if I still make progress and that I learn and discover something new almost every day which is great.

However, as my level progresses I am wondering what it takes to push yourself further. Ever since I started to arrange fingerstyle songs, I was wondering what it takes to label a particular song or arrangement as "difficult" or in the terms that I chose for myself to categorize the various arrangement levels:

Early Beginner

Beginner

Late Beginner

Early Intermediate

Intermediate

Late Intermediate

Early Advanced

Advanced

Late Advanced

What does it take an arrangement to be suitable for intermediate players and beyond?

This is a topic I would really love to discuss with you all. There are certainly many factors that play a part here such as technique, rhythm, chords, key changes etc. from a very simple point of view... what is it that classfies an arrangement as easy, medium or difficult or even virtuosic.

Broken down to a very very simple perspective, so far, I have classified my arrangement as follows:

Early Beginner: (Monophony)

Melody Only

No Chords,

No Bass Notes

All Rhythms (maybe without 16th notes and faster)

-> What I consider a goal at the "early beginner level": Learning rhythm, playing in time (thus focusing only on melody), learning the musical alphabet as well as the song's particlar language (i.e. key signature)

Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Chord Bass Notes only (plyed on beat 1 only to keep things simple)

- 1st Position (ideally)

- No Arpeggios

- No Picking Pattern

-> The goal is to add another layer to the playing by introducing chords in their simple form with a bass note accompaniment. This is the base to further build upon other chord tones such as full triads etc

Late Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (beat 1 only however)

Early Intermediate (Homophony + Basic Polyphony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords

- Counterpoint (Basic)

- Techniques (Slides, Pull-Off, Hammer-On, Vibrato, Bend, Thrill (?))

- Picking Pattern

Intermediate

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions (Slash Chords)

- Counter Point (more complex phrases/runs)

- Rhythms (16th notes and beyond)

- Techniques (all before)

Late Intermediate

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions

- Counter Point (complex)

- Rhythms (16th + beyond)

- Techniques (all before + Harmonics, Basic Thumb Slaps, Easy Body Percussion)

Early Advanced : n/A

Advanced n/A

Late Advanced n/A

What do you think? This is a particular question for fingerstyle arrangements but we can also open this up for other genres as well. My main concern however is arranging and labelling arrangements according to their difficulty particularly for fingerstyle players.

I wish you all an amazing day,

Lukas

Limits are selfmade. Break beyond them!

www.meridirhproductions.com | Too old to learn multiple instruments? Let's put it to a test...

Guitar: Started January 2016

Styles/Genres I am currently studying:

- Classical Guitar

- Spanish / Flamenco Guitar

- (Fingerstyle) Blues Guitar

- (Fingerstyle) Jazz Guitar

- Folk/Pop Fingerstyle

- Irish/Celtic Fingerstyle

#1

(TOPIC CONCERNING FINGERSTYLE)

Hey everyone,

Today, I would like to start a discussion that has been a major concern for me for quite a while now. I'm happy with the way my guitar playing evolves. I feel as if I still make progress and that I learn and discover something new almost every day which is great.

However, as my level progresses I am wondering what it takes to push yourself further. Ever since I started to arrange fingerstyle songs, I was wondering what it takes to label a particular song or arrangement as "difficult" or in the terms that I chose for myself to categorize the various arrangement levels:

Early Beginner

Beginner

Late Beginner

Early Intermediate

Intermediate

Late Intermediate

Early Advanced

Advanced

Late Advanced

What does it take an arrangement to be suitable for intermediate players and beyond?

This is a topic I would really love to discuss with you all. There are certainly many factors that play a part here such as technique, rhythm, chords, key changes etc. from a very simple point of view... what is it that classfies an arrangement as easy, medium or difficult or even virtuosic.

Broken down to a very very simple perspective, so far, I have classified my arrangement as follows:

Early Beginner: (Monophony)

Melody Only

No Chords,

No Bass Notes

All Rhythms (maybe without 16th notes and faster)

-> What I consider a goal at the "early beginner level": Learning rhythm, playing in time (thus focusing only on melody), learning the musical alphabet as well as the song's particlar language (i.e. key signature)

Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Chord Bass Notes only (plyed on beat 1 only to keep things simple)

- 1st Position (ideally)

- No Arpeggios

- No Picking Pattern

-> The goal is to add another layer to the playing by introducing chords in their simple form with a bass note accompaniment. This is the base to further build upon other chord tones such as full triads etc

Late Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (beat 1 only however)

Early Intermediate (Homophony + Basic Polyphony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords

- Counterpoint (Basic)

- Techniques (Slides, Pull-Off, Hammer-On, Vibrato, Bend, Thrill (?))

- Picking Pattern

Intermediate

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions (Slash Chords)

- Counter Point (more complex phrases/runs)

- Rhythms (16th notes and beyond)

- Techniques (all before)

Late Intermediate

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions

- Counter Point (complex)

- Rhythms (16th + beyond)

- Techniques (all before + Harmonics, Basic Thumb Slaps, Easy Body Percussion)

Early Advanced : n/A

Advanced n/A

Late Advanced n/A

What do you think? This is a particular question for fingerstyle arrangements but we can also open this up for other genres as well. My main concern however is arranging and labelling arrangements according to their difficulty particularly for fingerstyle players.

I wish you all an amazing day,

Lukas

Limits are selfmade. Break beyond them!

www.meridirhproductions.com | Too old to learn multiple instruments? Let's put it to a test...

Guitar: Started January 2016

Styles/Genres I am currently studying:

- Classical Guitar

- Spanish / Flamenco Guitar

- (Fingerstyle) Blues Guitar

- (Fingerstyle) Jazz Guitar

- Folk/Pop Fingerstyle

- Irish/Celtic Fingerstyle

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 4861

That's an excellent break down of skill levels! It looks like a solid, stereotypical classical guitar curriculum.

It might be important to point out that this doesn't necessarily work for acoustic pop or folk type styles. Those styles use the guitar more for accompaniment. So there is a stronger emphasis on chord shapes & strumming patterns. Even the fingerpicking patterns emphasize chord shapes over polyphony or even homophony.

Here are a few things I think should be added or amended.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Early Beginner: (Monophony)

Melody Only

No Chords,

No Bass Notes

All Rhythms (maybe without 16th notes and faster)

Looks good but I would not have beginners reading 1/16th notes. It's possible, of course, but only a good idea if the tempo is very slow & the piece of music really requires it.

For almost all beginner level material it's best to stick with quarter notes (& longer) mixed with the occasional 1/8th note pattern. And the phrasing should be fairly simple (not too much syncopation).

Most nursery rhythmes & well known classical melodies fit these criteria.


Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Chord Bass Notes only (plyed on beat 1 only to keep things simple)

- 1st Position (ideally)

- No Arpeggios

- No Picking Pattern

[/quote]

This looks good, but I would specify that the melodies can & should include all six strings. This is implied by the use of bass notes or chord tones. It's also a good time to start working on getting your thumb into the picking act by designating low register to thumb & higher register to index or middle fingers.


Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Late Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (beat 1 only however)

Looks good. I'd add learning chord shapes as a spcific goal & using simple songs, classical arrangements or study etudes as a means to doing that.

I've seen polyphony added at both advanced beginner & early intermediate level. So, either fine. But it's a great to get 2 voice motion in play as early as realistically possible if youare serious about classical style.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Early Intermediate (Homophony + Basic Polyphony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords

- Counterpoint (Basic)

- Techniques (Slides, Pull-Off, Hammer-On, Vibrato, Bend, Thrill (?))

- Picking Pattern

Looks good. I think picking patterns take care of themselves being part of playing chords, homophony & basic polyphony. I'm not sure you need to worry much about specialized techniques like slides, pull offs, etc. Those will develop naturally as a result of necessity in the music you learn to play.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Intermediate

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions (Slash Chords)

- Counter Point (more complex phrases/runs)

- Rhythms (16th notes and beyond)

- Techniques (all before)

This is fine but really starts to get into advanced territory. It will vary by individual student, of course. But it's more important to mention & focus on a repertoire of complete pieces of music (in the form of etudes, arrangements, songs, etc.) than to worry about constantly building technique.

Also, overall tempo & difficulty of rhythmic phrasing is more of a graduation of skill than just subdivisions of the beat. For example a slow tempo, simply phrased piece like a Bach prelude can be loaded with 1/16th notes & relatively easy to play for an intermediate player. While a fast tempo piece with tricky phrased 1/8th notes can be much harder!

Also, consider a piece like this Tarrega.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=337

The tempo is very slow, the phrasing fairly evenly spaced notes, but if you're not used to moving all over the neck it can be a bear!

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Late Intermediate


- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions

- Counter Point (complex)

- Rhythms (16th + beyond)

- Techniques (all before + Harmonics, Basic Thumb Slaps, Easy Body Percussion)

Thumb slapping & other percussive devices are almost a different discipline! That starts to get into more modern classical or modern music, some flamenco & other world musics.

I know you are very interested in those & they are fun techniques that players are incorporating, but I'm not sure how big a part (if any) they would play of a standard curriculum.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Early Advanced : n/A


Advanced n/A


Late Advanced n/A

At this stage you are getting into a serious, music university or conservatory level situation.

I learned classical guitar fairly late in life so I'll probably never develop as extensive a repertoire & advanced skill level as most serious classical guitarists. That takes years of dedicated work. & I have other game to stalk. :) But I did study it enough to see & know what's involved & required to get through beginner & achieve intermediate level.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

What do you think? This is a particular question for fingerstyle arrangements but we can also open this up for other genres as well. My main concern however is arranging and labelling arrangements according to their difficulty particularly for fingerstyle players.

I think that there's a lot of technqiue carry over from classical to jazz chord melody. And some that can be used for fingerstyle blues or pop; and vice versa! But strict classical style also requires a lot of discipline, time & focus on areas that don't necessarily transfer to other styles at all.

Most of this has to do with the fact that classical typically requires a complete arrangement in terms of homophony or polyphony. Whereas other styles allow for guitar to be an ensemble player.

For example, some blues, pop or jazz single note soloing might be as difficult, in it's own way, to learning all the technique required to play a solo classical piece. But they are wildly different approaches technique wise as well as in their musical result.

Great topic, Lukas! :)

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#2

That's an excellent break down of skill levels! It looks like a solid, stereotypical classical guitar curriculum.

It might be important to point out that this doesn't necessarily work for acoustic pop or folk type styles. Those styles use the guitar more for accompaniment. So there is a stronger emphasis on chord shapes & strumming patterns. Even the fingerpicking patterns emphasize chord shapes over polyphony or even homophony.

Here are a few things I think should be added or amended.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Early Beginner: (Monophony)

Melody Only

No Chords,

No Bass Notes

All Rhythms (maybe without 16th notes and faster)

Looks good but I would not have beginners reading 1/16th notes. It's possible, of course, but only a good idea if the tempo is very slow & the piece of music really requires it.

For almost all beginner level material it's best to stick with quarter notes (& longer) mixed with the occasional 1/8th note pattern. And the phrasing should be fairly simple (not too much syncopation).

Most nursery rhythmes & well known classical melodies fit these criteria.


Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Chord Bass Notes only (plyed on beat 1 only to keep things simple)

- 1st Position (ideally)

- No Arpeggios

- No Picking Pattern

[/quote]

This looks good, but I would specify that the melodies can & should include all six strings. This is implied by the use of bass notes or chord tones. It's also a good time to start working on getting your thumb into the picking act by designating low register to thumb & higher register to index or middle fingers.


Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Late Beginner (Homophony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (beat 1 only however)

Looks good. I'd add learning chord shapes as a spcific goal & using simple songs, classical arrangements or study etudes as a means to doing that.

I've seen polyphony added at both advanced beginner & early intermediate level. So, either fine. But it's a great to get 2 voice motion in play as early as realistically possible if youare serious about classical style.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Early Intermediate (Homophony + Basic Polyphony)

- Full Melody

- Full Chords

- Counterpoint (Basic)

- Techniques (Slides, Pull-Off, Hammer-On, Vibrato, Bend, Thrill (?))

- Picking Pattern

Looks good. I think picking patterns take care of themselves being part of playing chords, homophony & basic polyphony. I'm not sure you need to worry much about specialized techniques like slides, pull offs, etc. Those will develop naturally as a result of necessity in the music you learn to play.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Intermediate

- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions (Slash Chords)

- Counter Point (more complex phrases/runs)

- Rhythms (16th notes and beyond)

- Techniques (all before)

This is fine but really starts to get into advanced territory. It will vary by individual student, of course. But it's more important to mention & focus on a repertoire of complete pieces of music (in the form of etudes, arrangements, songs, etc.) than to worry about constantly building technique.

Also, overall tempo & difficulty of rhythmic phrasing is more of a graduation of skill than just subdivisions of the beat. For example a slow tempo, simply phrased piece like a Bach prelude can be loaded with 1/16th notes & relatively easy to play for an intermediate player. While a fast tempo piece with tricky phrased 1/8th notes can be much harder!

Also, consider a piece like this Tarrega.

https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial.php?input=337

The tempo is very slow, the phrasing fairly evenly spaced notes, but if you're not used to moving all over the neck it can be a bear!

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Late Intermediate


- Full Melody

- Full Chords (Triads)

- Arpeggios and Broken Chords

- Chord Inversions

- Counter Point (complex)

- Rhythms (16th + beyond)

- Techniques (all before + Harmonics, Basic Thumb Slaps, Easy Body Percussion)

Thumb slapping & other percussive devices are almost a different discipline! That starts to get into more modern classical or modern music, some flamenco & other world musics.

I know you are very interested in those & they are fun techniques that players are incorporating, but I'm not sure how big a part (if any) they would play of a standard curriculum.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

Early Advanced : n/A


Advanced n/A


Late Advanced n/A

At this stage you are getting into a serious, music university or conservatory level situation.

I learned classical guitar fairly late in life so I'll probably never develop as extensive a repertoire & advanced skill level as most serious classical guitarists. That takes years of dedicated work. & I have other game to stalk. :) But I did study it enough to see & know what's involved & required to get through beginner & achieve intermediate level.

Originally Posted by: Meridirh

What do you think? This is a particular question for fingerstyle arrangements but we can also open this up for other genres as well. My main concern however is arranging and labelling arrangements according to their difficulty particularly for fingerstyle players.

I think that there's a lot of technqiue carry over from classical to jazz chord melody. And some that can be used for fingerstyle blues or pop; and vice versa! But strict classical style also requires a lot of discipline, time & focus on areas that don't necessarily transfer to other styles at all.

Most of this has to do with the fact that classical typically requires a complete arrangement in terms of homophony or polyphony. Whereas other styles allow for guitar to be an ensemble player.

For example, some blues, pop or jazz single note soloing might be as difficult, in it's own way, to learning all the technique required to play a solo classical piece. But they are wildly different approaches technique wise as well as in their musical result.

Great topic, Lukas! :)

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory