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Arranging Songs For Single Guitar

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(@rparker)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5480
Topic starter  

Hi All, I'm just trying to get a feel for what you do when you're the lone performer or alone in a room by yourself. Say that you want to play Pink Floyd's Mother or Cash's Folsom Prison Blues. It could be an number of hundreds of songs, but at some point you've done the intro and you're banging out some nice rhythm through a couple of verses and choruses and it hits. The Instrumental. The instrumental is normally a guitar solo played to the background rhythm of the verse. Can't play both of them at once.

So, assuming you know the "solo" piece, do you jump in and bash out a solo or do you play it safe and keep the groove going by continuing the rhythm. Maybe even a third option. Bypass the instrumental altogether?

I'm sure you answers will be song dependent, of course, so hearing what you do for a given song by way of example would be great.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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 lars
(@lars)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1120
 

It's tricky that's for sure
A number of options from me
- learn harmonica - it's not THAT difficult - San Diego Serenade, You've got to hide your love away, any Dylan song, any Blues tune...
- incorporate some of the melody on the treble strings with the chords going underneath - umh ... I'm working on that on the small solos in Starman at the moment, Tears in Heaven, I feel fine, Wonderful Tonight. Can't think of any other at the mo. I feel most comfortable with keeping the bass notes going and it limited what is possible for me to play on top of that then.
- I guess often it should be possible to just stop the grove and play the solo part but I often get the feeling that it will sound to tiny and fragile
- Skip - common option I'm afraid :-(

Any particular songs you have in mind?

lars

...only thing I know how to do is to keep on keepin' on...

LARS kolberg http://www.facebook.com/sangerersomfolk


   
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(@trguitar)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3709
 

I try to incorporate some lead fills in with the rhythm and use that as my lead. I saw this guy playing at a cafe in St. Augustine Florida and it was just him and his Gibson Hummingbird. He did a real fine job, but then again he is a real pro. Point being, I know you can do it, I just don't think its easy. This guy is a busy man. He plays with several groups as well and when you look at his schedule it is amazing how many gigs he does in a week. My wife and I just enjoyed having a couple of cold ones and listening to him and his guitar. I was thinking at the time, this guy is really doing a good job of making it sound full with just one guitar and a vocal and yes, instrumental breaks as well. I think we are going to that cafe this April when we are in Florida again. I will be there on a Sunday and he plays every Saturday and Sunday afternoon there. Maybe I'll mention Guitar Noise to him. He has a website he runs so he is online. You never know, he might stop by ....... if he's not already here. :lol: I'm going off on a tangent, but your post made me think of this guy right away because thats what he does so well.
http://www.jmwinters.com If you want to check the guy out. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in sunny Florida by the ocean and make your living just gigging?

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


   
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(@jersey-jack)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 189
 

Thanks, Roy, for posting this topic--I think about this a lot, and I would love some advice. I imagine that the problem is greater for flat-pickers (like me), as finger-pickers are more accustomed to playing different patterns simultaneously.

And to make things worse, I don't have a great vocal range, so I don't have a lot of flexibility in choosing keys. The more open string bass notes, the better, as they can ring out while I do a little fill. When the bass note is fretted, that's touch to do! :oops:

I hope others chime in here.

Best,
Jersey Jack


   
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(@jersey-jack)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 189
 

Sorry to double-post, but I also want to follow up on the loop station suggestion. As a sometime solo performer, I'm intrigued about these pedals: How do you use them? Are they easy to set up and use?

I'm not very tech-savvy, so I'd need something easy to use. I do mostly country, alt-country type stuff. Should I buy one?

Thanks,
Jersey Jack


   
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(@rahul)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 2736
 

You can keep strumming in the place where solo is. Or, you can hit the open chords and do a little chord melody. It is much easier to play some fills using the open chords and they do sound pretty nice. (eg. the Dmaj and its countless variations).

You may also change the whole style of the song. Eg. play a particular song in fingerstyle. This generally allows more colour in your song.

Arranging songs for single guitar is one of the most coveted arts to be learnt by a solo performer. This can only be achieved with practice and more experimenting. You can try some of the dhodge's lessons. Many of his song lessons are based for solo guitarist eg. Imagine, I Shot the Sheriff, Fields of Gold etc. And more often then not, he will provide insights as to how to make the song more interesting by adding little fills and riffs (instead of purely strumming all the way).

Good Luck.


   
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(@hyperborea)
Prominent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 827
 

Sorry to double-post, but I also want to follow up on the loop station suggestion. As a sometime solo performer, I'm intrigued about these pedals: How do you use them? Are they easy to set up and use?

I'm not very tech-savvy, so I'd need something easy to use. I do mostly country, alt-country type stuff. Should I buy one?

Let me qualify by saying that I'm not a performer, I'm still somewhat of a beginner (maybe a low-intermediate) player. I've got a looper pedal (DigiTech JamMan) and it's a great tool for practice. It's easy to use for home practice as is - built-in footswitches for controlling the recording. If you add the optional external footswitches you can switch tracks too without bending over and twiddling the knobs. It's pretty easy to put down something right away, say 4 bars of chords, and then play over top. I do that when practicing. It's not too much harder to build deeper loops with more to it (over dub) and then play over that. There's a simple built-in set of 8 rhythm sounds - not great but can work. You can also download tracks from your computer that you've built using software tools (e.g. Garageband).

I've seen live performers using them. Some in the one-man coffee shop type setting usually with pre-canned tracks or sometimes building simple loops live. I've seen one "avant-garde" style performer building up really complex spacey loops live and performing over them - it was incredible to watch.

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


   
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(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

Sorry to double-post, but I also want to follow up on the loop station suggestion. As a sometime solo performer, I'm intrigued about these pedals: How do you use them? Are they easy to set up and use?

I'm not very tech-savvy, so I'd need something easy to use. I do mostly country, alt-country type stuff. Should I buy one?

Thanks,
Jersey Jack

At the risk of feeding someone else's GAS:
Of course you should buy one :lol:

Here's one of the better examples of what you can do with one, provided by KT Tunstall
For the first 45 seconds or so, she sets up the loop, with 4 tracks (layers) and then takes off playing and singing to that background loop.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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(@jersey-jack)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 189
 

Thank you! I've been waiting for the green light! :D

Actually, I did just buy one--the Boss RC-2. I'll report back.

That K.T. Tunstall clip is amazing--she had to use multiple loop pedals to do that, no?

Best,
Jersey Jack


   
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(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

nope, some pedals can layer multiple samples.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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(@jersey-jack)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 189
 

Well, I tried out the Boss RC-2, and I'm both thrilled and concerned that the box may prove too complicated. I recorded a chord progression while I was singing the first verse of a song; then I hit the pedal to play back the progression so that I could do a solo--but suddenly DRUMS started playing along with the recorded progression! :evil: Now, I knew that the pedal has drums, but I didn't expect them to start playing automatically--I mean, I never picked a pattern, they just started playing! (And, needless to say, the rythmn was way off.)

I know I need to spend more quality time with the manual. I'm sure I'll clear up this problem and find the pedal great for solo gigging. My initial quick look through the manual didn't seem to address the problem I'm having, however, so I'll need to do a slow careful reading.

Life is too short for this stuff. Why can't tech devices ever be simple? :x

Best,
Jersey Jack


   
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(@number6)
Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 152
 

EDIT: I misread your post. Regardless, this is my current solution to this problem. I've been known to play just the rhythm guitar from a solo though. It helps if you like prog-rock, the chord progressions tend to be more interesting to play.

This is something that I've been thinking about a lot lately. I suggest you download something like PowerTab and start transcribing songs by ear. Listen to the rhythm, lead and bass parts (and if you're really ambitious, even the drums) and transcribe them all (or use tab from a book or magazine). Once you have your parts written down, figure out which notes are the same between all of the parts and which are different, then start writing a composite piece. If the lead guitar is too high, drop all of its notes by an octave. If the bass notes and the rhythm guitar differ, try to play only the highest notes of the chord while following the bass notes on your lowest strings. If some shapes keep showing up through this that you can't play, consider an alternate tuning. I'd really recommend you play fingerstyle as well, it'd help a lot for combining parts.

I'm working on an acoustic solo arrangement of Hendrix's cover of All Along the Watchtower. When I can play it at speed, it'll be pretty fricking awesome.

The hunger site. Click once a day to give free food.


   
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(@jwing)
Active Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 8
 

The instrumental is normally a guitar solo played to the background rhythm of the verse. Can't play both of them at once.

Yes, you can! Here's how:

First learn the scale of the key you are playing in. For example, the chords of a song are G, C, and D; that song is in the key of G. Learn all of the notes of the G scale on the first 4 frets. Now, finger a G-chord and notice which scale notes are available on open strings and which scale notes are available to your unused finger(s). These can be used as melody notes and you can strum the G-chord between the melody notes. Repeat for C and D chords.

When you are creating your instrumental break, you don't need to re-create the melody exactly, but it is important that you maintain the rhythm and the chord changes. Also, your strums do not need to be the entire chord, any pair of strings will do.

A great lesson source is "Basic Country Flatpicking Guitar," by Dix Bruce. He teaches how to play lead breaks while maintaining the backup rhythm part.


   
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(@twistedlefty)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4113
 

glad to see some interest and comments on looping here. (please forgive the short partial hijack)

i also purchased and started playing around with a Digitech JamMan some time ago.
i even started a thread on the topic of loopers, unfortunately life interfered and my intention to update the thread with my experiences was put on the back burner till now.
please feel free to join in on the disscussion. Boss units, Boomerangs, or any make of loopers are more than welcome as they all have something to offer the topic.
http://forums.guitarnoise.com/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=28028
hopefully we can resurrect the thread and start a GN loopers club or group of some sort.

i will be adding to it after i get my Echoplex set up and running. hopefully i will be able to figure out a way of syncing the JamMan with the Echoplex for some sort of stereo signal but this is just a theory at this point.

Musicians friend is now offering the Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro bundled with the foot pedal controller for an all time low price of $600. i know this is still a large sum of money for most people, but you will probably never have a chance to score one of these units at this price again once they run out.
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Gibson-TGE05-Echoplex-Digital-Pro-Plus-and-TGE04-Footswitch-?sku=150497

here is Arthur lee land on youtube demonstrating this incredible unit
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49hlkwWt0nI

this is his youtube page
http://www.youtube.com/user/hulooper

#4491....


   
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(@stringhawk)
Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 7
 

Awsome sounding pedal, but was a little to rich for the non pro just having fun. I went with the Boss RC-2. Just arrived and I hope to make time to play with it this weekend. Too many Dad comitments durring the week! Looks like a great deal for anyone giging for a living.


   
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