For this article, I’m going to describe the process of taking a tune and arranging it for solo guitar.  I’ve taken the very pretty traditional waltz from Wales – Farewell to Marian as an example.

Here’s the tune, along with chords.

And here’s the solo guitar arrangement, with explanatory notes below:

Arrangement copyright Phil Berthoud 2023

As is usual in the standard notation, you’ll see the melody written using notes with the stems pointing up.  The notes with the stems pointing down are the accompaniment notes.

The accompaniment notes are usually the root notes of the corresponding chords – E is the root note of the chord Em; B is the root note of the chord B; A is the root note of the chord Am etc…

Accompaniment notes generally occur on the first beat of the bar, as in the first 6 bars for example.

In bar 7 there are two chords – C and D, the root notes of which are played in the arrangement.

At the start of the second part, I’ve added some non-root-note accompaniment notes for a bit of variety and extra movement.  The low notes at the start of this part are G – F sharp – E.  The F sharp is added as a “stepping stone” between G and E.  The C in the next bar leads nicely into the B, even though there isn’t a C chord in the original version.

When playing arrangements like this, using the right fingers of the left hand becomes much more important.  In the music, potentially confusing sections have the left hand fingers shown next to the notes.

1 – index finger

2 – middle finger

3 – ring finger

4 – little finger or pinkie

For the run at bar 7 into 8, the third finger is used for all accompaniment notes: C – D – E.  These three notes are all played on the 5th (A) string and the lines between the notes in the standard notation show how the finger will slide along the string in between each note.

Here’s a recording of the arrangement:

Also, see my arrangement of the traditional Papua New Guinean song, Sila Hoa Bada


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