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How to Use Texture in Fingerstyle Guitar


Texture in solo fingerstyle guitar is a crucial and often overlooked element in creating meaningful and musical fingerstyle arrangements. Texture can be described as the overall sound quality of a piece determined by the interplay of various musical factors such as density, melody, harmony, tempo, pitch, the list goes on... It's an interesting and broad topic that we'll be narrowing down into this lesson!

Welcome to 'Fingerstyle For The World', my online lesson series where I strive to help guitarists around the world become better musicians. Let's delve right into our musical concept for today: Texture (on guitar).


Before You Begin:

Download my free resources to guide you along!


Musical Concept: Texture (on guitar)

A helpful first step to understanding texture in music is to visualise rather than listen to it. Imagine an artwork, a carpet, a bedsheet or a piece of clothing. The patterns on these items can be very minimal or dense. You could have a bedsheet of just one solid colour, or it could be filled with ornamental flowers and designs all over, or somewhere in-between. In music, this could be seen as the density of notes - how many notes are heard at any one time.

Next the colour palette of your bedsheet makes a big difference on the impression it makes visually. It could be filled with bold and dark colours, or perhaps something more pastel and light. Musically, you could translate this as pitch registers - either emphasis on lower bass registers or the higher trebles.

In our guitar playing, the key is to understand how we can create these musical textures using techniques available to us on our instrument, which is what we'll be analysing in our musical example today.

Musical Example: 'Come People of the Risen King'

In my fingerstyle arrangement of 'Come People of the Risen King' by Keith and Kristyn Getty, I make very intentional use of contrasting textures between the verse and chorus sections.

Listen out for how I use bass-heavy and fuller chord voicings in the verse by employing open chord shapes in the lower frets of the guitar.

At the chorus, observe how I quickly transition to both melody and chord positions way up high in the neck, and the corresponding change in texture as this happens.

In the verse sections, I'd describe the texture as relatively denser and thicker, through the use of resonating open strings, lower pitches and more notes sounded at any one time.

In the chorus, I'd describe the texture as relatively sparser, thinner, and more clear and pristine. This is achieved through avoiding open strings (which are harder to control), playing higher pitches and fewer notes at any one time.

I hope you had fun noticing these textural contrasts. Now let's try it out ourselves with a musical exercise!

Musical Exercise: Chords in Low/High Registers

In today's exercise, we'll be looking at how to play the exact same chords in two different positions - one in the lower bass register (open chords) and one in the higher treble register (movable chords). Remember to check out my chord position guide for lots more chord shapes!

Take your time to get these chord shapes ringing out clearly, without buzzing. There's no need to play these in rhythm initially, and instead focus on allowing each chord to ring and decay naturally.

Listen for the differences in texture of each chord - is it fuller or thinner? Is it clearer or more blurred? Is it more mellow or stark? Think of new ways to describe the texture of each chord!

Tips & Conclusion

Remember that it's not just about knowing how to play these chords mechanically, but rather how you as a MUSICIAN can meaningfully apply these contrasting textures into your own playing and fingerstyle arrangements.

I have lots more videos on arrangement approaches that I invite you to explore, and remember to have lots of fun in the process of developing both your technique and musicianship.

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 as I share new music videos and lessons each and every week to help you along your own musical journey.

Until next time, I'll see you again!

By Neil Chan


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