Books On Arranging For Guitar

Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.
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Composers' Workshop
Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.

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fatwarry
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Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby fatwarry » Sun Apr 19, 2015 3:55 pm

I've been trying to do some simple arrangements of a couple of "folk" harp tunes but I'm finding they come out sounding a bit sparse or they're too predictable or too "clever" or are too "busy" sounding. So, I'm looking for some basic books on arranging for guitar. I'm fine with the theory side of things. I'm looking for something more practical or "hands on".

I initially thought it might be best to analyse what other arrangers have done and try to understand why they've made certain choices. Or maybe just keep trying and hope that I'll get better at it. But that would take some time and might be difficult to do on my own. That's why I'm hoping someone can point me at some books that will help my understanding of the art
"I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours" - Bob Dylan (1963)

Max Karios

Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby Max Karios » Thu Apr 30, 2015 7:04 pm

Arrangment or adaption requires the same skills as composition. You just use a given melody. This can be easier than writing a piece from scratch, but it doesn't have to be. Maybe the theme imposes some restrictions on the harmonic progression that you would avoid when writing it all yourself. I am not aware of any books on the subject, and I cannot really imagine how the process of adaption could be formalised in order to give a roadmap.

The first step should always be to find out what harmonic progressions work. If some motive is repeated in the melody, the piece gets more interesting when you use different harmonisations for such sections. The second thing to think about is how you create an interesting bass line. A good bass line is a reliable indicator of whether someone really understands harmony.

If the tune does not change its key (and folk tunes usually don't), your bass line could pretend a modulation but then not execute it. This can create an amazing effect. The bass line doesn't have to sound "busy" to do that. Some things work only on stressed beats, some only on unstressed beats. A jump of an octave in the bass at an unexpected point can make a big difference as well. The options are endless, and the only thing that really helps is to experiment.

The last step is to add something in between the melody and the bass line if these two alone sound too thin. The bass line fixes the harmonic progression for the most part, so you don't have too many choices at this point. A rhythmic accent in a middle voice that is repeated throughout a few bars can be enough.

Knowing how it works in general and pulling it off in reality are two different things. You should not expect that you can write something just because you understand the theory. It is a learning process that takes time and a big garbage bin.

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sxedio
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby sxedio » Thu Apr 30, 2015 8:28 pm

fatwarry wrote:I've been trying to do some simple arrangements of a couple of "folk" harp tunes but I'm finding they come out sounding a bit sparse or they're too predictable or too "clever" or are too "busy" sounding. So, I'm looking for some basic books on arranging for guitar.

That could be interesting if you get something playable but not typically guitaristic. I went through a phase as an arranger trying to mimic a piano, or a particular instrument combination. It is worth avoiding the cliches rather than adapting your pieces to them.
(Gr) (En) (very little Fr)

fatwarry
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby fatwarry » Fri May 01, 2015 11:35 am

Max (and Sxedio),
Thanks very much. That's exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for. Basically, I've been playing a long time I'm very inexperienced at arranging (and composing). And although I have enough theory to be able to produce arrangements that are "correct" technically it's things like your mentioning - the sort of things that work and the sort of things that don't - that I'm interested in. I know that just keeping working at it will only lead to improvement but I'm hoping to "short circuit" the process as I'm in my 60's now and don't want to be spending years honing my craft if I can get there quicker with a bit of help.

Again, many thanks for your thoughts. They're very helpful
"I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours" - Bob Dylan (1963)

Max Karios

Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby Max Karios » Fri May 01, 2015 12:59 pm

The fact that there are no shortcuts is the reason why we consider something precious. If there was an easy way to turn coal into diamonds, their price would plummet with no end.

You need no shortcut, but a way to make something achievable that seems to be a huge task. The solution is the Pareto principle: you get 80% of the results in 20% of the time. Applied twice means 64% in 4% of the time. If we assume that the path to mastery would take you 10 years, then you can go two thirds of the way in only half a year. I think this is quite realistic for someone who already knows harmony.

fatwarry
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby fatwarry » Sat May 02, 2015 1:52 pm

Great! I'll still have time to learn to play the piano before the end of the year! :wink:
"I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours" - Bob Dylan (1963)

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sxedio
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby sxedio » Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:25 pm

I have attempted one harp piece arrangement on guitar viewtopic.php?f=122&t=96332#p1024306 . I know is not the most challenging of harp pieces but it works on guitar, let me know what you think.
(Gr) (En) (very little Fr)

Max Karios

Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby Max Karios » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:12 am

Is it possible to add mp3 and pdf files here in the composers' section? This would be a better solution to keep a discussion going instead of scattering everything across the forum.

I like the texture of your arrangement. The chord progression can be improved, though. You go from the Am to the G chord with the roots in the bass when the melody goes from the note A to the note G. This results in a parallel octave, which is not good. You could go to the G chord in its first inversion, i.e. the bass would go up to B. This would solve two problems: the parallel octave is gone and you get a nice contrary motion. But there is no easy way to get from there to the following Em chord. Non of the possible bass notes (root E, third G, or fifth B) make the progression sound convincing, mostly because the bass line lacks a logical development.

I've played around with the melody, and there are a few alternatives for the chord progression. If I find some time over the next days I'll post a recording.

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sxedio
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby sxedio » Tue Jun 09, 2015 8:38 pm

Yes apparently it is possible but I don't know whether I'd be allowed an arrangement of a copyrighted work, whereas in the other forum I am allowed as long as it's under 30s.

I copied Loreena McKennit's bass/chords, who am I to correct the composer? After all we are talking about folk harp music here, applying the rules of classical counterpoint is a bit of an anachronism.
(Gr) (En) (very little Fr)

delayedMusician

Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby delayedMusician » Tue Jun 09, 2015 8:53 pm

A lot of people think that 'arranging' is just something that anybody can learn from a book. The only people who can learn it in that way are the ones who studied harmony and know how to harmonize a melody effectively. That's not a little theory.

Composition and arranging are the two areas about music where every musical skill needs to really well developed , even at a 'basic' but successful level. They require complete, and deep, musicianship. You can't just learn a little theory here and there and hope you are an arranger or a composer. And you can't learn it in a forum post. Sorry, but it's the truth. I hear a lot of 'arrangements' around and I can immediately tell when the 'arranger' is not ready to be an arranger, simply because 1) his knowledge of harmony is weak, and 2) he doesn't understand how to harmonize a melody well. If you aren't able to do these 2 things really well first, it's like going from moped to F1 all of a sudden.

I am not saying stop trying. I am just saying, you need to have done some really solid preliminary work first.

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Dave
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby Dave » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:20 pm

You might like Howard Morgen's book "Concepts: Arranging for Fingerstyle Guitar".
Dave

Sandaun
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby Sandaun » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:26 am

One gotcha I found only when attempting to fool around on the harp myself - the thumb of the right hand (left if you're left-handed) on the guitar is always used to playing the bass line. On the harp, the thumbs of both hands play notes that are higher than the rest of the fingers. And on the piano and other keyboard instruments, the thumb of the left hand plays higher than the fingers of the same hand, while the thumb of the right hand plays lower than the fingers of the same hand.

So you have to reconsider the use of the thumbs and way you accent the bass line/s.
"I have supposed that he who buys a Method means to learn it." - Ferdinand Sor, Method for Guitar

Anastas
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Re: Books On Arranging For Guitar

Postby Anastas » Tue Dec 20, 2016 6:34 pm

I am agree with Max Karios that arranging has a lot of common things with composition. That is why I would recommend Arnold Schoenberg's book Fundamentals of Music Composition. It is very well structured and it gives the main concepts of music structure, relation between melody and harmony etc. I find it really useful to anybody interested in composing and arranging music.

I think the book is not copyright protected anymore and it can be found for free, but I am not sure about that.


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