Are all simple melodies boring? There are many well-known melodies so unbelievably simple that you can't help but wonder how the composer or artist made them sound so interesting! The most simple of these (though not boring) are one-note melodies, where the same note is simply repeated in rhythm. Well in today's 'Fingerstyle For The World' lesson I'll be looking into tips and tricks we can use to make boring melodies incredibly interesting and beautiful.
To make any melody interesting, we have to know how to go beyond simply producing the pitches. We need to add in articulation to those pitches which will elevate its expressiveness to the next level. With articulation, you'd be amazed at how many ways you can approach playing just one note!
Before You Begin:
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Musical Concept: What is Articulation?
Articulation refers to how you play a note. There are many common articulation techniques for us guitarists, including vibrato, slides, pitch bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Before you get carried away sliding and bending every single note, remember that you want to be a MUSICIAN and not just a GUITARIST. What does that mean?
It means that you need to use your sensitivity and creative decision making to know how to use these articulations in a meaningful and artistic way, one that will enable your music to communicate and express emotions.
Musical Example: 'Your Name'
Today's musical example is my fingerstyle arrangement of Paul Baloche's 'Your Name'. The piece starts off on a simple chord progression, and as the chord progression continues the melody begins. But what's interesting (or boring) is that this melody is mainly comprised of just one note, repeated at a very steady and predictable rhythm.
Now what do we do when faced with a melody so repetitive and boring? We need to make it interesting. This is especially so in a solo fingerstyle arrangement, where the melody and accompaniment are both played on the same instrument as opposed to the melody being sung. If we don't do anything to the melody and simply play it plainly, it's just going to be buried under the rest of the guitar strings and notes.
In this arrangement, I treat the plain melody with subtle vibrato and pitch bends, as well as intentionally playing the melody note louder and more crisp than the accompanying harmony notes. This makes the melody have character and stand out, as it's the only note vibrating in the texture!
Musical Exercise: Articulation
Now we're going to try this out on the same song in the example, Paul Baloche's 'Your Name'. Looking at the score, you'll immediately see that the melody line is just a bunch of F notes repeated over and over again.
Try playing the melody with the accompanying bass note plainly first, without any articulation. You'll find that it's rather stale and boring, but it's important to be able to play it plainly first.
Once you've got the hang of it, start adding it vibratos and pitch bends to the melody. At the two parts of the melody where there are pitch changes, make full use of them to add interest by using hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Just some simple techniques can elevate a boring melody to something beautiful. In fact, the fact that it's 'boring' made interesting is in itself very interesting! As always, remember that musicianship is key to creating good music. Learn the technique, but more importantly develop the sensitivity to know how to apply them meaningfully.
Do leave a comment with any questions you might have and I'll do my best to answer them. Follow along my musical journey on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and website neilchanmusic.com as I share new music videos and lessons on those very music videos, each and every week, to help you along your own musical journey.
Until next time, I'll see you again!
By Neil Chan