I wrote this song about my father as he was failing and it turned into an ode for my family. But when I played it, what I came out with was just a D major chord with a simple chromatic walkdown played over it. D C# B A G F# E A and I am back at the tonic D chord.
This was something that thrilled me when I was learning guitar, but fifty years later, it seems kind of uninspired and predictable. But the melody really reaches me. It’s a perfect marriage with the words. I knew I had to work this out so that I could include this song in the new CD.
So yesterday I sat down with it and then I thought about McCartney’s Blackbird. I once played that song in my sets and so I know the guitar part.
I thought that I would try using that as an inspiration and see what I could come up with for my song. You don’t have to re invent the wheel, not when you are standing on the shoulders of giants.
I found a descending line that was in fact the line I was playing over the D chord to begin with, but this time I was on the tenth fret.
Then I chose the second string and tried to find a line I liked there.
Then I decided to combine them ala Blackbird. It was nice but not quite enough, so I went to the third string and found a harmony there. I combined that with the original base line. Now I was getting somewhere.
I would play one verse with the sixth and second strings and the following verse with the sixth and third string.
It was nice and I liked it, but then I thought what if I can combine the three strings. It only took about an hour to combine all three parts, but now I have a guitar part that I cannot stop playing. It’s beautiful and though it sounds a little complicated to execute, it is actually quite simple.
So now I could start out with the sixth string second string two note chord thing for the first verse. Then change up for the second verse.
Go to the sixth and third strings for the second verse which would give me a deeper warmer sound and change the texture.
Then for the third verse combine the two parts for a fuller richer sound and a third texture to add to the mix.
Then do all three in the final verse. Sixth and Second strings for one line; sixth and third string for second line; all three strings for the third line and the finale.
In this way, I have a simple song and a simple arrangement that is never static, is always changing texture but also remaining familiar enough for a listener to not have to experience the “too much information” syndrome.
Try experimenting like this, with single note lines instead of chords. The idea being that the lines when played simultaneously will supply the chords.
I will make a little video of this this week and post it up here for you to see and hear what I’m talking about.