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Guitar Ensemble Construction - An Easy Approach

Overdubbing... Make Your Own Orchestrations

Some of my students are in the local high school guitar class. So, I decided to help out the teacher a bit. The ensemble songs were a bit limited by the generic book that she was using.

Therefore, I set out to write a few songs that were different from the typical made easy classical songs the book had to offer. In the process I found out that I was having a lot of fun writing these little pieces.

This is a bare bones, easy to read, written for the "just getting into recording" guitarist. I found it fun, and am not presenting an instructional approach to harmony and orchestration here.

Instead, I'm just sharing an easy to read approach to the "starting player" who is checking into recording multiple guitar parts without stressing too much about anything. If this sparks an interest and yeilds some results, I'm hoping that it will inspire some of you to study music theory and the art of orchestration.

But, not today... let's play!

I approached "Bananamon" from a point of a three piece band.
1- Rhythm Player, 2- Harmony (chords) Player, and 3 - the Melody (lead) Player.

I decided to go with a reggae groove. Not having a melody yet, I started a groove with 3 chords (typical). After finding something that I could work with, I recorded a track on my Mac. I used the music program Garageband as my multitrack recording system for this project. You can use any multitrack recording system. There are software programs, and multitrack cassette recorders that are quite affordable. For those of you with the bigger rigs.. I needn't write anymore on this subject. You can find a lot of material on recording units. That is not what this article is about, so check it out and if you get stuck.... email me and I will point you in a direction.

After I listened to my rhythm track, I was able to come with a few ideas and eventually recorded a melody with the rhythm track (I basically just noodled with the "A major scale" - the key of the chord progression [A-D-E]).

The tough part was trying to find something to do with the harmony player, because the rhythm player "was" playing the harmony (chords). Therefore, I thought that I would outline the chords with some arpeggios (playing the chord rhythmically one note at a time) and add a couple of extra notes around the arpeggios.

After experimenting with this for a while, I was able to come up with some complimentary harmonic and rhythmic patterns that worked. I also added a little section where Guitar 1 and 2 share the melody. Guitar 1 plays something, and Guitar 2 answers it (musically).

After listening to the song with all the parts, it sounded a bit redundant - and the poor Rhythm player was stuck doing the same thing through the complete piece! So, hey... I made up a little melody for the Rhythm player to play as a bridge to the song, I gave the other two players a simple musical line to play in harmony in order to allow the focus to be on the Rhythm player for the moment.

Once I had my song organized, I wrote out my song and re-recorded my parts one at a time (overdubbing). I first recorded the rhythm track, then the harmony track, and last the melody. It was an easy way to assemble a song in one morning! The project took me about 4 hours total of straight work.

I find that the biggest problem my students have is completing a project. Therefore, when you give this a try... Don't try to write the best song you have ever written. Just make it easy and focus on completing it. Good or Bad.. at least it will be finished. You gotta like that!

Well... there it is: "Write A 3 Chord Guitar Ensemble in 1 Morning" approach.... just kidding. I hope this put some ideas into to some of you and kick started the guitar song writing machine. Have Fun!

The complete arrangement is a few pages. Below are pages 1 and 2. For a complete free arrangement on a pdf file: Bananamon

Here is a Free mp3 of Bananamon

This article can be read online at http://www.iBreatheMusic.com/article/188
Peter has been a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey Bay Area for the last 20 years. He played for Recording Studios, Big Bands, Top Forty Bands, Blues Bands, R&B Bands, Jazz Bands, Rock Bands, and Solo Guitar Instrumental Jazz. Now that he lives in Florida, he has concentrated on Solo Instrumental Guitar, and Guitar Education. For more about Peter check out his website at www.petersimms.com

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