Solo Guitar Composition (3 parts)

Hola! This is an explanation of a simple method you can use to create your own three part solo guitar piece. I hope you enjoy!

 

 

Aims: To create a small two or three part solo guitar composition and then from that make a chord sequence to improvise on.

 

 

 

Week 1- 1 melody and bass line composition :

 

 

a)Write a 3 note figure and analyse it harmonically (Example 1)

 

 

 

b) Using the same intervals (1,2,b3) write another 3 phrases only using crotchets and minims for now (we can change the rhythm later)

 

 

 

c) Write as bass line that only ascends or descends (not both) using only minims. Use your ear or knowledge of harmony to try and find bass notes that you like.

 

 

 

d) Combine the parts and try to play them on the guitar, do you like how it sounds?! If you want to change anything that’s fine, just try to stick to the rules:bass line only up or down and the melody only using the interval 1,2,b3.

 

 

 

 

Week 2:

Harmonically analysing your composition

a)First bar: For this let’s look at each bar individually. The aim of this part is to have one or two chord symbols for each bar and then to try find a scale/ sound that fits each chord symbol so you know what to use for improvisation. So let’s look at the first bar.

The most obvious choice for this is C Minor, and with the second bass note being a Bb, we can add that in so it becomes Cminor 7 (C, Eb, G, Bb).

Try playing the two parts and then a Minor 7 chord shape, do they fit together?

 

 

 

Second bar: A minor is probably the most obvious choice for this, with the G in the bass line making it Aminor 7.

 

 

 

Third bar. This is slightly more interesting now as using the rule of only descending bass has forced us to find a new note that we might not originally have chosen (Maybe a B and an A would have been a more natural choice for this bar).

So now we could choose either B major or B minor with an F# in the bass…..try to play the bar before to see if you like B major or B minor better.

For the D melody note and F natural bass we could use D minor over F……try to play the bar before and this bar now and see if you prefer the B minor or B major with it.

 

 

 

Fourth bar: For the final bar try to figure out your own chord symbols. I chose C/E and B.

So now your chords are ready we can try to work out which scale to have ready for each. This, like before, can be done using both your ear and your harmonic knowledge.

 

Using your ear:

Play each chord and listen carefully, maybe sing the sound of some ascending notes that fit with the chord…..write these notes out, what scale does it make? ( It doesn’t necessarily need to be 7 notes but it can be.)

Using theory:

Cm7 scales options could be C Dorian/ C Aeolian Aeolian/ C minor pentatonic

Try for the remainder of the chords…do the chords before the chord you are analysing change the scale or sound you like?

E.g. The A minor pentatonic will work on the bar 2 but if you play Cm7 to Am7 then how does the A blues scale sound?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3 – Improvising over your composition

So hopefully now you will have a small composition and also a chord sequence like below but different.

Now we can practise improvising over the chord sequence. To start doing this let’s just use two chords at a time. So Cm7 and Am7 then Am7 to Bm, Bm to Dm/F etc.

a) First thing is to make sure you know the scale for each chord from week 2. So you can play them without thinking and in different positions.

b)Second, If you can record a vamp on two chords and loop it this would be great. Or write them into an App so you can loop on your phone (e.g.i-realbook) . So start with Cm7 to Am7 vamp and give a longer time on each chord to start, maybe 4 or 8 bars on each chord.

c) Try soloing only using the scales or note sounds you have chosen.

d) repeat for each group of two chords.

e) Now gradually start adding more chords into the loop still with at least 4 bars on each chord.

f) After you feel comfortable with those chords then you can reduce the bars to eventually one bar or half a bar on each chord.

 

 

 

 

Week 4

Adding a second melody line so it’s a three part solo guitar composition.

We are going to try and find a third melody to add into the solo guitar part. So now you have the notes below to choose from for each chord.

a)Write a new melody for each chord:

This new melody needs to try and sound good on it’s own, without the other parts. So you could try as one approach using a different motif and developing it through the chords like Ex.10. can you see how the notes for each melody only use the scale tones?

 

 

b) Combine your melody with the original melody and bass line.

 

 

c) Change the rhythms and 8ves if you feel it works.

Here I’ve changed the bass line a little, only the rhythms and not the harmony.

So now you have a small composition!!! Can you play it?!

This is just an idea/ set of rules to force you to find some new chords and melodies. Try to invent your own rules or limitations to compose your own piece.

 

Finally I just want to show you a solo piece I wrote using this method more or less. Here is the sheet music, the TAB and then an arrangement for band.

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Helpful to have*:

-understanding of triads and seventh chords (Major 7/ min7/ diminished 7 etc)

-understanding of Modes from the major scale

-Harmonic/ Melodic minor scales

-reading music helpful

*These things are not entirely necessary because the exercise is something that you can take time with so you can use your creativity and your ear to find new sounds that don’t necessarily come from theoretical harmony.

 

 

Homework:

Week 1:

i)Write four motivic and simple melodic lines based on the same intervals.

(ii) Write a bass line that only descends or ascends

Week 2: Harmonically analyse your composition

Week 3: Practice soloing on your composition, two chords at a time.

Week 4: Add a third part and edit the rhythms

 

 

Improvising over your composition

Now you have your small composition with a chord sequence it’s time to get improvising

This method will help you to focus and internalise the correct notes for each chord sound so that when you want to solo you are more free to express yourself and find clear melodies on each chord.