I AM BACK WITH ANOTHER variation of a traditional holiday song: “Joy to the World.” This time, I am using the conventional “Drop D” tuning: i.e., lowering the sixth string one full step from E to D. The key for the song is also in D.
As you’ll note, I’m using a type of jazz-chord voicing technique as opposed to picking out the individual notes for the melody. In this way, I’m harmonizing to the melody as I play it.
This is a relatively short piece on its own, so I have improvised a bit of an intro, including some fret tapping and a little descending major-seventh motif, which I used between the verses as well.
I’ve always loved the laid back groove in The Rascals hit song “Groovin'” and decided to have some fun fooling around with some harmonics and fret tapping.
It’s a very basic song in structure and chords. But it’s a great melody. I’ve come up with a pretty simple set of changes that allows you to play the melody with chords and bass backing up.
Here’s the set up for the song:
If you watch closely for the introduction, I’m doing a very simple bit of harmonics/fret tapping. For the open G chord, I’m using my thumb on the sixth string, third fret, and then tapping at the 12th fret over the top four strings (essentially a G6 chord). For the Am chord, I’m barring at the fifth fret and then tapping all six strings at the 17th fret to achieve the harmonics there.
For the actual song structure, I’m included a second video with chord charts. I do not repeat any chords I’ve already played, so once I’ve shown a chord, you’ll just have to remember where it is in the sequence. For this version of the tutorial, I strongly suggest putting the video on half speed.
A while back, a reader requested a guitar cover of this old soft-rock tune. I always like the melody and harmonies in this song, as schmaltzy and sentimental as the tune is.
I have been fooling around with a drop C tuning. And by that, I mean the entire guitar is tuned down to standard tuning. So this would be C-F-Bb-Eb-G-C.
I am playing a 1976 Guild D35NT. In fact, according to my research, it was exactly the second guitar off the factory line for Guild that year. I bought the guitar second-hand in 1978 and it has followed me around the country ever since.
We’ve made multiple cross-country treks, and even a few flights.
I had a bit of work done to it when I bought it. A luthier in Chico, CA, who had done work for David Crosby, re-fretted it and did a bit of scalloping to warm up the tone.
I only just recently began experimenting with the “tenor” tuning, and I am really enjoying it.
Anyway, here is my rendition of “Dance With Me.” And in this case, I am using the equivalent of “Drop D” tuning. The low E string in this case is tuned all the way down to Bb.
CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEVE, this classic folk song has been around a lot longer than the version credited to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. But the duo certainly created a legendary rendition.
What I am going to show you is how to play this song as an instrumental on guitar. The voicings lend themselves well to an acoustic or even a nylon string. I just happened to have done a version on my archtop jazz guitar, so bear with me.
As always, I play the parts through at regular speed and then reduce to half speed so you are able to review the changes.
I hope you find this useful.
This particular song is in the key of E minor, which is one of the easier keys to play on the guitar, since it allows for open strings most of the time. I have noted where to leave the strings open with a O in the charts, and an X for where to mute the strings.
In this particular program I am using, I am not able to highlight the exact string that is playing the melody, but if you have a reasonably good ear, you will pick it out quite easily.
And here is my full version of the song:
Thanks for watching. And if you decide to learn how to play this song based on my lesson, please send me a video and perhaps I’ll feature one or two on my Facebook page.
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A WHILE BACK, I posted this video of a simple way to perform the Beatles classic on guitar. It involves using a capo, but only on the top 5 strings across the second fret. This provides a kind of “Drop E” or “Open E” tuning that I really like to use.
The advantage of this technique is that you don’t have to learn any new bar chords as you might have to do with most open tunings, and yet you get the benefit of allowing open strings to resonate with the chords and notes you play in this particular key. Here’s the original performance:
Well, today, I’m going to show step by step how to play this song, with a chord chart that you can use to follow along.
To receive a PDF of the chords and to get more of these instructions, you can sign up for my mailing list. I’d also love your feedback on whether you find these lessons useful.
And here is there full performance that I previously posted for reference.
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It took me awhile as a guitarist to figure this out: If you want to play a melody look inside the chords.
I know, this sounds like a Yoda riddle, but here’s the thing: There are thousands of chords. There are only 12 notes to the scale. Every one of those notes belongs to a chord. This means that as you are playing the chords to a song, you more than likely are playing the notes contained in the melody. It is, of course, possible, that a note here and there is not part of that chord. That’s what makes it interesting.
But it means that you’re likely not more than a note or two away from a root, third, fifth, sixth, ninth, etc. of the chords that you’re playing. So as you play the chords, listen for the notes in the melody, and then work from there.
What’s more, if you learn and know your inversions for all those chords, it’s even more likely you will have the note for the melody you’re looking for as you progress through the song.
This is how you get to play the chords AND the melody simultaneously.
Here’s an example with the classic song from Burt Bacharach and Hal David: “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.”
If you’ve been following my blog to date, you no doubt have noticed I love using harmonics and fret tapping as part of my style. Here’s an example where I combine the two techniques to produce some interesting percussive tones.
Don’t forget, if you would like to slow the video down to study the technique more, you can click on the little gear on the lower right side of the YouTube window and pick your speed.
As always, if you’re interested in learning more and staying up to date on my posts, click the FOLLOW over to the right of this blog.
I’m a finger picker. Sure, I can use a plectrum or guitar pick and do so from time to time, but I prefer strumming and picking with my fingers. I find I have more control and in many instances can play faster.
Most people would assume finger picking is relegated to either classical music, blue grass, Americana or folk. But I’m going to demonstrate how it can be effectively used for blues with a little riff in A minor.
Essentially, what I am doing is using all five fingers on the right hand to voice the chords, and then arpeggiate (that is, play the chord by picking out each individual note in succession), providing what I think is a nice effect because it straddles between strumming a chord and sounding like a guitar riff.
Check out the video here on Youtube. Remember, you can slow the video down by going to settings to watch the finger style playing more closely.
Let me know what you think about this approach.
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One of the techniques in jazz that I think is underutilized in acoustic guitar playing is the use of octaves. Listen to any of the jazz greats — Joe Pass for instance — and you’ll discover how often they use octaves.
It’s a great method for emphasizing the melody and is sometimes even easier than trying to pick out the individual notes.
In this lesson, I’m going to continue with “Norwegian Wood” by John Lennon (The Beatles) and illustrate octaves as a way to play the melody. It helps that I am playing in a quasi-open tuning of “Drop D” (D-A-D-G-B-E) which is great for the key of D.
I’ve charted out the melody here. The arrows indicate to follow along from left to right, top to bottom.
And you can follow along to the actual progression in a slow-motion video here:
One thing to note is that I am not playing with a pick. I am picking the individual strings with my fingers. Now, it is possible to do this with a pick but you need to be careful to mute the middle string between the two strings that are forming the octave.
This can be done by just resting your index finger of the fretting hand slightly on that middle string.
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I’m using Elixir 12-53 Nanowebs on my guitar. I find these strings last a lot longer than most and have a clear and bright sound. The link here is an affiliate link to Amazon, if you’re interested in trying them out.
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