How to Arrange Fingerstyle Guitar – Two Excellent Tools to Add to Your Arranging Toolbox

Welcome to part 4 of my series on arranging for fingerstyle guitar. We are arranging “Hello” by Adele.

I forgot to mention in the previous videos a great resource for finding the chords and melody for the songs you are arranging. This great resource is the “Fake Books”, or “Real Books” that contain lead sheets for hundreds of songs. Here I show you my “Real Rock Book” published by Hal Leonard.

This is the book I used to help me make my arrangement of “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas. If you’d like to check my video of me playing this arrangement, here is the link:

California Dreamin’

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And also a tuturial series.

These type of “Fake” books contain the chords and melody notes but sometimes they contain errors and sometimes you may need to transpose to a different key for your arrangement. Also, they don’t typically include tablature, so it is worth your time to learn to read the notes on the music staff. It really only takes a short amount of time to learn to read the different notes and will help you out greatly in deciphering lead sheets.

Also, some portions of the song may not be included, for example, in “Californial Dreamin’,” for the flute solo portion of the song, the chords were shown, but there was no melody information given. In this instance I transcribed the flute solo by listening to the Youtube video.

This brings me to another great resource for transcribing music that is available right here on Youtube. This is the speed feature that is in the setting menu at the bottom of each Youtube video. You can slow the video down to 1/2 speed and this makes it much easier to find the notes on your guitar as you are listening to the music. I believe this feature used to be only available on Google Chrome browsers but I believe it is available on all browsers now. Check to see if you have this feature, it can come in very handy.

Now, getting to our arrangement of “Hello.” We already made a skeleton arrangement of the first 4 measures that contains the root of the chord as the bass note combined with the melody notes. Now we can fill this out a little bit by filling in the chords with more notes. We know that chords are made up of the root, third and fifth, so that is a starting place for us to decide what notes we want to add to start filling in the arrangement a bit.

What else can we do to spice up our arrangement? We can use slurs, also known as pull-offs or hammer-ons. We can use slides, natural harmonics and artificial harmonics. We play dynamically, that is playing louder or softer during different parts of the song. We can change the tonal color of the notes by playing with our right hand closer to the bridge for a more metallic sound, or closer to the soundhole for a softer sound. We can use vibrato.

We can also change up the timing by arpeggiating the notes instead of just strumming the chords all at once. We can play higher octave notes or lower octave notes. We can play chords and melody anywhere on the fingerboard we choose. We have to experiment and find what sounds good to us and feels natural to play on the guitar. So experiment and see what you can come up with and I’ll see you next time in part 5 of this series.

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