Get Down With Swing Low

Welcome to this edition of Fingerstyle Monthly. In this issue we’ll begin arranging Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

Over the next few issue’s we will be looking at different approaches and arranging ideas. We’ll start with the most basic approach and go from there.

Last month we took a look at the melody. This month we’ll focus on another important element of music- the bass line.

You can have a very complete sounding piece of music using just the bass and melody of a song. A very popular classical piece for guitarists is Bach’s Bourree. This song is completely made up of a melody and a bass line.

The first arrangement that we’ll do is to simply put a bass line to the melody.

You can listen to the melody again to refresh your memory

Here’s the bass line that I’ve added

Now, here’s the two of them together

Why did I choose these particular bass notes? The short answer is because they sounded the best. They should. The bass notes used are all found in the root inversion triad of the chord used as the accompanying chord.

Take a look at measure 1. The chord used to accompany the melody in this measure is a G. The notes in a G major triad are G, B, and D. The bass notes used are a G (3rd fret, 6th string) and a D (4th string open).

Those two notes are right out of the G major triad. They’re probably the two strongest notes in the triad (root and 5th) for this purpose.

Think of a classic tear-in-your-beer country song. The strong bass lines found in songs of that type are frequently the root and the 5th.

Where you put the bass notes is also important. I approach it with the idea that the bass should support the melody.

In measure 2 I haven’t put a bass note with the pull off at the end of the measure. There are three reasons for that. The first is that I think that the rhythm wouldn’t flow as well.

The second reason is that playing the bass note there might make it harder to smoothly play the pull off.

The final reason is about the density of the song. If you’re always cramming as many notes as you can possibly play into each song, the listener feels overwhelmed and begins to tune out the music.

That was a long sentence, wasn’t it? In fact, you may have skipped over it. Too long. It all ran together.

How about this? Allow space in the song. It creates suspense and release. The listener doesn’t feel like they’re being attacked by the song.

Most people will find the paragraph above a little more “user friendly”. Approach arranging a song with the idea of space. Leave some breathing room for the listener.

So that’s the lowdown on adding a bass line to fill out a melody. Play around with it and see if the way I’ve approached the song makes sense to you.

In the next issue, we’ll move the melody up an octave and look at a chord melody approach to the song.

Guitar Chord Book

I’m putting together an e-book about chord theory. It looks like it’s going to wind up being in two parts. Part 1 is about ready to go.

Part 1 will be a great introduction to chord theory. It covers chromatic and major scales and triad and seventh chord construction. There will also be ten harmonized scales using seventh chords. Chord transference will also be covered. I’ve put a ton of diagrams in it, so I think it’ll be easy to use.

It should be available in the next couple of weeks.

Streaming Video Lessons

I’ve had some requests for one-to-one lessons. Figuring out the best way to do that is on my short to-do list. If you’re interested or have suggestions on that subject or on this lesson, please let me know.

I hope that you find this information helpful. If you have friends that would be interested in it, feel free to share this newsletter with them.

See you next Month!

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