For this article, I’m looking at a catchy tune from Oceania, called Sila Hoa Bada – a traditional song from Papua New Guinea.  I’ll be looking at arranging it for fingerstyle solo guitar and explaining some of the thought process behind the arrangement.

Here’s the melody with chords shown:

When arranging tunes for solo guitar, it is common to play the melody on the treble strings and the accompanying notes on the bass strings.  For this tune, I’ve done the reverse – playing the tune on the bass notes (plucked with the right hand thumb), allowing for a light and rhythmic strumming pattern on the three treble strings, which fits in nicely over the longer melody notes.

There are only two chords used for this tune.

Looking at the arrangement below, you’ll see I’ve included a short introduction. 

The tune begins at 1

The first chord is D7 and comes in at 2.  The strumming pattern should be played lightly with the first finger of the left hand.  It starts on an up-strum – the first finger moving freely in a relaxed way, while the hand stays pretty still.  This is necessary when alternating between melodic playing and strumming.  The last chord of each strumming section finishes cleanly (as at 3).  It shouldn’t carry on ringing out over the next melodic section.

There’s an awkward chord at 4.  Holding down D7, the little finger of the left hand needs to reach over to the third fret on the 5th string.  This is shown in the standard notation with a small 4 next to the note in question.

The arrangement finishes off with a chord played with harmonics.

This is done by:

  • Placing the left-hand finger lightly across the 3 treble strings at the twelfth fret…
  • …not just behind the 12th fret, as you would normally do, but directly over the 12th fret…
  • …and, by lightly, I mean not pressing down at all, just resting on the strings.
  • Then you strum the three strings and take your left hand away, letting the harmonics ring out

Here's a recording of the arrangement

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