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from Muriel Anderson’s Innovations for Acoustic Guitar
A great way to get inspired when writing a new tune is to find a song or instrumental piece that really grabs you and then try to determine what it is about that tune that makes it so appealing. Is it the rhythm, the accents, the chord progression, the melodies, or the way phrases build and fade? It can be any or all of these things – the trick is to borrow the compositional ideas that you find appealing rather than the actual notes and phrases.
I was listening to a Bach piece where the melody stood out as especially gorgeous, and I thought, why is it so gorgeous? I listened to it critically and realized that it started on one note, went above the note, then dropped down below the note before coming back to it. No matter where the melody went, it always remained close to this one note. I thought, I can take a note and go above it, below it, and then come back to it, too. And that idea eventually formed the basis for this month’s piece, “Arioso.” Building upon that basic “skeleton” helped to suggest the direction for the rest of the tune, with ideas like descending bass lines becoming apparent in relation to the basic melody.
As you work through this piece, it’s very important to keep in mind the concepts of phrasing and connecting the notes. These are ideas you can apply to add emotion and develop your own personality in the way you bring out the melody. Sometimes it helps to finger the notes in a different way with the left hand to allow one note to ring out over the next, to slur into the next or to allow a finger to slide. Listen to which notes want to connect and which ones want to be detached and then find a way to make it so.
The other thing that is equally as important as connecting all those notes is how they’re phrased, with both volume and tempo. Try to keep the volume changing all the time. I never keep the volume the same in anything – I’m always going softer or louder. You can also vary the tempo in addition to the volume – sometimes I’ll stretch out one note longer than another. This tune can be played in a very rubato style, which allows for great variation in tempo.
But how do I know which notes to hold longer? The easiest way is to just hold your favorite notes. It sounds simple, but it’s completely true – stretch out whichever notes strike you most. The best part is that your favorite notes will change with every repetition of the song, keeping this tune fresh and interesting.
While working through “Arioso,” be mindful of the parts that speak to you, and recall them later for inspiration in your own compositions.
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