This fascinating Prelude by Bach has captivated me since I was playing some of his music on the baroque lute, back in the 1970s. My lute playing days are probably over, having pretty much settled into playing the acoustic guitar with nails, but every once-in-awhile I like to revisit this piece.
The arrangements I found always left something to be desired as far as I was concerned, with a few measures seeming inconsistent with some of the rest. Many used hammer-ons in a few measures near the end that particularly seemed out of place. Most of those concessions made the piece a little easier to play but didn’t get the sound I remember from my old Walter Gerwig recording. I reworked those, along with a few earlier ones that had many possibly ways of fingering, and finally came up with an arrangement I am happy with.
I would guess that most of these have been found by other guitarists in the past but I usually like to take it upon my self to arrange, or rearrange things in the interest of being as true to the original as possible. This frequently makes the piece very difficult to play, but in this case I think I found a solution to the hammer-on problem that is easier, as well as musically more consistent.
It was a very cold night on December 30, 2014, well cold for Northern California, and I sat down with my guitar and a starting visualizing warmth and family, maybe sitting around the fire enjoying each other’s company. The guitar started playing this soft, gentle melody and wouldn’t stop. In less than an hour I had outlines for two sections. Very early the next morning I revisited and refined them a little, and it was done. I polished it up a bit over the next few days, mostly working on transitions between the sections, and this is what it sounds like now. One of my students suggested I should even call it Norman Rockwell but the title pretty much came along with the song as well.
I also thought it might be nice to experiment with multiple cameras as that is something I generally don’t take the time to do in most video lessons. In any case, I hope you like it.
My recent obsession with revisiting the world of Ragtime Guitar has had me playing almost nothing else for the past three or four weeks, much to the chagrin of my family. One of the pieces in heavy rotation is Heliotrope Bouquet, a hauntingly beautiful collaboration between Louis Chauvin and Scott Joplin.
There are many arrangements of this out there and most of them heavily modify the original as many passages do not translate easily to the guitar. I have tried to stick as faithfully as possible to the picture painted by the original, creating some very difficult sections.
I thought I would fire up the camera this morning as I was practicing and do a little Work In Progress video with some thoughts and comments on practicing challenging pieces. Much of this should be applicable to improving anything at any level and I hope to check back in in a few weeks with a more polished version. In the interest of full disclosure, most members of the household have been caught humming parts of this memorable melody.
Angi (Anji, Angie) by Davy (Davey) Graham has been one of the most requested songs for me to do a lesson on at Totally Guitars almost since day (over 5 years ago now!). Some obstacles with creating a lesson have been that there are so many different versions, Bert Jansch, Paul Simon, et al., most of which included a lot of improvising. I think I have a plan now that will be multi-faceted, and eventually will cover as many bases as possible. The starting point will be Davy’s original recording, as released on his 1961 EP 3/4 A.D., which also featured a blues improvisation with Alexis Korner.
In this video I tried to recreate a version as close to Davy’s original as possible, although it included a bit of my own improvising as well. There are at least recreations of the way Davy played each of the 3 sections, along with most of the licks and fills.
A lesson along this line is under construction and will be available at Totally Guitars soon.
One of my great loves as a guitar player is playing classic ragtime arrangements. I recently revived some Scott Joplin pieces I first started playing in the 1970’s. That got me interested in composing them again. I had written a few many years ago, a couple of which appeared on some of my solo guitar albums. This time I started with the goal being to write something playable by intermediate students.
The Good Life materialized over a couple sessions on October 25, 2014. Section A met my original plan of being somewhat easy to play, used some standard ragtime techniques, and included even cliché licks and progressions. Section B pretty much stayed the course until the last line, which introduced a moving bass line, consequently raising the difficulty level a bit. Section C followed the traditional “trio” model, with a little lighter texture in the sub-dominant key. By the time I got to Section D, the plan of keeping it easy was completely abandoned and it started with a cascade of descending chords, closing with a flurry of arpeggios.
In any case, I hope you like it and tablature will be available at Totally Guitars soon.
As we were talking about songs we might be able to do with minimal research or rehearsal, Corina mentioned she could probably do Yesterday. This is about what it sounded like the first time we tried it, just the day before.
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers was really the song that got Corina into singing, at the suggestion of her father. It was a song they played together for a few years before he passed away.
We played this a few times at our 2014 International Guitar Camp and I never felt like I quite had it the way she wanted to hear it. This was probably our 5th time through the song over the last week and I think we were finally on the same page.
Masquerade is another Leon Russell song made more famous by The Carpenters and later, George Benson.
This tune includes sections that can be improvised instrumentally so you never quite know what you will get. Luckily (or maybe skillfully) Corina figured out when these were over and came right in on cue.
Our impromptu run through of songs we had tried once or twice over the last week continues with Leon Russell’s song Superstar. Corina was familiar with this more because of The Carpenters version so we based our rendition rather on that than Leon’s recording with Rita Coolidge singing. Hopefully the shaky cam elements of these videos is not too distracting and the feeling of the song comes through.