solo arrangement

Armed with a strong melody and an understanding of simple harmony, you can effortlessly move from ethereal to swinging arrangements.


Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Break down a song to its bare elements—and build it back up.
• Learn how to transpose simple melodies into other keys.
• Understand how to imply harmony with single-note lines.


Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

These days, more guitarists are relying on loop pedals to play “solo.” They record a chord progression and then play a melody on top of it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, as I count myself amongst the “loopers.” But if you really want to demonstrate your prowess as a stand-alone, one-man band I suggest you unplug the loop pedal and try some new methods of simultaneously performing the harmony and melody. In this lesson, I’ll provide you with three very different ways to approach solo guitar arrangements that fit a variety of tastes and skill levels.

At first glance the song I’ve picked to arrange, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” might seem like a corny choice, but this time-honored standard has much to offer in the way of a long-form melody with a basic I–IV–V harmony. These features allow for both simple and complex arrangements. And if this tune is good enough for Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, and Bruce Springsteen, it’s good enough for us.

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