Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

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lagartija
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Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by lagartija » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:48 pm

BACKGROUND
A tune I am working on with my vocal teacher is the Ladino song Morena.
Youtube
It is in Dm. The melody sounds very Moorish. Knowing I play classical guitar, she said, "for next week, why don't you write an accompaniment for yourself?"
:shock: :shock: well...I've never done that before, nor do I know a lot of music theory. I have always played what is on the page and not necessarily known what is going on harmonically (I started to study music just nine years ago).
The next day, I met with my guitar teacher and told him about my assignment and that I had absolutely no idea where to start. He suggested a first step of printing out blank sheets of chord boxes and starting in the open position, work out the different voicings of each of the chords in the song as you go up the neck. He said this way, you will choose voicings that you can actually play on the guitar which might not be the case if you explored the voicings using staff paper. After choosing the chords you want, he said to just get comfortable with the progression, strumming or plucking bass/chord while singing before attempting to do anything fancy. Once the progression becomes comfortable, you can add ornaments, arpeggiation, etc.

Not knowing that many chords to start with and pretty much knowing only the usual ones in open position, the exercise of exploring and filling in the chord boxes with the different voicings was a revelation! :-D Who knew there were so many neat possibilities with such different sounds?!
I also filled in boxes with partial chords and open basses. I am sure I don't yet have all the possibilities, but a good start nonetheless.
I have a sheet with Dm, Gm, C. While I was noodling (exploring?) around trying out chords as I sang the tune, I added something at one point because it "sounded" like it needed something there before I went back to Dm...then I had to look at what chord it was that I had just fingered... it was A7. So I filled in a bunch of boxes with different voicings of A7.

I tried out the different voicings of the chords as I sang the tune until I came up with a progression that I liked and seemed to complement what I was singing. Sometimes the guitar was in a lower register than me and sometimes higher and very occasionally in the same range. This seemed to make it more interesting than playing it all in the same place.

NOW THE QUESTION(s)

I was curious about what the complete chord progression would be in Dm, so I looked it up online. I found out that there are (of course) three possible "minors", Natural, Harmonic, Melodic. Sooooo....which one should I use?
Right now I am just using different voicings of Dm, Gm, C and A7.
It appears that I am not strictly using the complete progressions of Melodic, Harmonic or Natural because the A7 happens to fall in a descending melodic line although it does have one note ascending before continuing down and that is where the A7 sounded appropriate, two notes before reaching the tonic. :-? Does this matter?

I have my chords in boxes on each individual sheet, but on my page with melody line and lyrics, I have written indications like Dm@V, Gm@X, A7@V/A (where /A means an open A string bass). All this reminds me which voicing I wanted to use. How would one indicate this on a lead sheet if someone else wanted to play this or I wanted someone to evaluate my choices? Would I just put the chord box on my sheet indicating the exact voicing of the chord? Or is there some sort of shorthand that is used?
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Cass Couvelas
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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by Cass Couvelas » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:28 pm

I'm not equipped to answer your questions. But I felt I had to respond that I find the style of music fascinating. By Ladino, I take it that it is relating to the Sephardic culture, rather than the Central American/Spanish use of the term, or indeed the dialect spoken in the Alta Badia region of Italy, around the Dolomites (which was the only use of the term Ladin of which I was aware)? The sound is full of Spanish/Turkish/middle eastern influences; I've not heard it before. Thanks for posting the video.

And good luck with your creation of the accompaniment!
Last edited by Cass Couvelas on Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by Guitar Slim Jr. » Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:52 pm

It sounds to me like maybe you're trying to do an instrumental "arrangement" of the tune? I may be wrong, but I suspect your teacher just wants you to come up with a groove or a rhythm-guitar part. She said "accompaniment" not "arrangement."

This should be fairly simple and not require a lot of theory or knowledge of modes etc.

Get a chart and learn the chords. It sounds like you're working on this. If possible, find a fakebook/Realbook quality chart -- with a time signature, neatly measured and with the form clearly indicated. It will really help you time the chord changes, especially in a funky tune like this one.

Next, find a groove, a fingerpicking pattern, or some combination of both.

Then just...play the chords. That's how non-classical guitarists would do it.

If you want to get fancy you could try to add a signature lick or quote the melody as intro, or as fills between vocal lines. But basic rhythm patterns will carry you through while you sing.

Your voicings will depend on the ensemble and where you want the guitar to "sit" in the mix. I'm thinking if you're just accompanying yourself on vocals that your basic 1st position "cowboy chords" will work just fine. I noticed on the video a guitar player strumming chords with a capo. He's playing what looks like a vihuela, and he's probably at capo I or II. You can get the same effect at capo V on guitar and transposing to Am. You can try this if you want the chords to sound a little higher.

Remember, it doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to work as accompaniment for the song.
Last edited by Guitar Slim Jr. on Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by Guitar Slim Jr. » Wed Jul 19, 2017 7:36 pm

Guitar Slim Jr. wrote:
Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:52 pm
I noticed on the video a guitar player strumming chords with a capo. He's playing what looks like a vihuela, and he's probably at capo I or II. You can get the same effect at capo V on guitar and transposing to Am. You can try this if you want the chords to sound a little higher.
BTW, if you play with capo V, your chords would be Am, Dm, G.

or

Dm = Am
Gm = Dm
C = G

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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by lagartija » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:04 pm

Thanks for the replies! I had my lesson on Tuesday and showed her what I did. For a first try, she said it was quite impressive...however, as someone who teaches and directs early music groups, she said that my arrangement, although interesting, did not exactly fit the musical mode of the piece. The song is indeed in the Sephardic tradition, the words in Ladino (a language based on Spanish at the time of their expulsion from Spain in the Middle Ages mixed with Hebrew and words from the country where they moved), and at that time, voice leading was not used. So my use of the A7 chord was not appropriate and if I wanted to be authentic, I should avoid voice leading. Also, she said that in much of early music, thirds were not used in the chords...and it would be quite shocking to hear the 7th in a chord. Root and 5th would be more likely.
She also said that the chord voicings I chose (changing register) certainly added a lot of interest...she was impressed that I found combinations that worked so well (she can strum guitar, but her instrument is voice- her knowledge of chords is piano based or for guitar, CAGED based) and said that with the right audience, my arrangement would certainly work. She encouraged me to continue my exploration and see if I could capture the mode of the piece. :-D that means not using standard chord progressions, since they are really based on voice leading, but to listen carefully to the song and use what cues I find there.
Then I could pick an appropriate arrangement depending on who the audience was.
I thought when I came up with my chord progression, that it would boring to just play four chords in first and second position. That is why I explored all the voicings.
As a result, I now know a whole bunch of new ways to to play the chords in the song! :mrgreen: Really, I will just be accompanying myself while singing, but it would be nice to create an intro and an interlude between verses or something. Since I could play something more complicated then, but keep it relatively simple while singing.
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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by Guitar Slim Jr. » Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:44 pm

I think the bass line in the video strongly implies triadic chord movement -- it clearly moves from the minor i to a major VII, a progression that strongly implies Spain. Traditionally, the melody probably wasn't set to a diatonic chord progression, but the version recorded above definitely is. And, if it's like a lot of traditional tunes, people have probably been setting it to chords for centuries. Heck, there's even a guy strumming guitar chords in this very video video.

Your vocal teacher's knowledge of traditional Sephardic music aside, if you're going to approach the modern version as a modern arranger, you'll have to think at least a little bit in terms of chord progressions and chord root movement.

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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by lagartija » Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:03 am

Yes, she mentioned that this video presentation is "modern", and she absolutely loved what they did with it. She said that she would drive to one of their concerts even if it was two states away! That being said, she wanted me to explore the true roots of the piece, so to speak. She showed me another piece which uses quarter tones, although that one would be beyond my present capabilities. The way it was notated was interesting. They showed an Eb with a line tilting upward to the right, just above the b symbol. That was to indicate that the note should be sung a quarter tone above Eb. :chaud:
Luckily Morena is an easier piece. I think she wants to get me intrigued with authentic early music performance so she can recruit me for a singing group she directs. ;-)
I'll spend a bit of time in the next week seeing what I can come up with.
BTW, would you be able to answer the question I had about how one would normally indicate a particular chord voicing on a lead sheet? Would I just put a chord box above the staff rather than just the chord ID?
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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by Guitar Slim Jr. » Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:55 am

lagartija wrote:
Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:03 am
BTW, would you be able to answer the question I had about how one would normally indicate a particular chord voicing on a lead sheet? Would I just put a chord box above the staff rather than just the chord ID?
Really good question. There is a shorthand they use at sessions, but it's not very common in my experience. You do it by showing the chord symbol over a diamond shaped note head. The diamond note indicates the highest note the arranger wants played in the voicing. A chart for a professional session will almost never include chord boxes, so it's up to the guitarist to voice the rest of the chord underneath the indicated highest note.

A professor showed me that trick. He claims it's common at LA recording sessions, but I've only ever seen it used on *his own charts* Still, brilliant idea. I'd use it more if it were more commonly understood as a scoring convention.

The other approach I've seen is to simply score out the whole chord. As a sight reader, these can give you ulcers. So the way I read them is to look at the chord symbol, look at the the highest note, and fill in the rest -- basically the same as if the arranger were using the shorthand method above.

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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by lagartija » Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:14 am

That shorthand way is pretty neat!
Scoring the entire chord would be useful, though because in a few cases I am just using a partial chord (for variety) and in one place, when I played a C chord in first position, I play only the four lowest notes, then on the next pluck, the four highest. (I'm plucking all notes at the same time at the moment, not separating bass out.)
If I used the chord box method, I suppose I could just mark the strings to be played.
At the moment the music is scored for the singer; just the melody line.
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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by Guitar Slim Jr. » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:14 am

As you are discovering, a complex rhythmic comp part is challenging to notate. I,ve certainly seen this kind of thing fully scored out in nice, neat notation -- and tab. There are books full of it. Problem is, it,s hard to read, and only readers can play it.

So I guess the question is, do you want or need to go into that level of detail? It would be fantastic practice for scoring -- never mind the pitches, notating rhythms properly will definitely stretch your brain.

But, if your goal is to create something another guitarist could sight read at a session, then more of a rhythm-section chord chart approach might be better. It,s up to you.

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Re: Arranging an accompaniment to Morena

Post by lagartija » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:01 pm

Yesterday, my guitar teacher showed me how my arrangement might be notated. (I did not intend that it be for someone to sight read in a session, just understand what I had in mind.) He said that the diamond notehead method you mentioned was a typical jazz session player's way to notate chord voicings since it is following the melody note and filling in the chord below it. For my purposes, he thought using the chord boxes was perfectly fine if that was easier for me to read, or I could use the notation he showed me as a shorthand if I wished. If I wanted to get so specific as to what part of the chord I wanted plucked, then typically one would score the arrangement. Since I would be singing and playing, better to stay with the lead sheet idea and stick in the chord notation above the singer's score. The method of notation he showed me was to indicate the chord symbol, and if you want it played in a particular place, indicate the position, and if a particular voicing, then indicate which note is the root (chord/root note). That tells the player, for example, that the chord is 1st inversion at the VII position. If it is a barre or half barre, indicate that CVII, and if not barred, then put (VII), the parentheses indicating the position but telling you the notes are individually fingered.
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