This set of lessons features solo arrangements of tunes that have some thread of their backgrounds in the British Isles. They range a bit in levels of difficulty with the shortest one, Poirot probably being the most challenging.
The Star Of The County Down includes instruction on harmonizing the melody yourself, meaning making decisions on the chord progression.
Lesson 1: Danny Boy - Londonderry Air - Solo Guitar Arrangement
Danny Boy has long been an iconic song we associate with Ireland, although the lyrics we know were written by English lawyer Frederic Weatherly in 1913. The melody goes much further back and was known as Londonderry Air in the mid-nineteenth century.
I tried to keep this arrangement somewhat simple, just adding harmony in thirds and sixths to to the melody, but it is challenging to get through it smoothly and lyrically.
Lesson 2: The Star Of The County Down – Solo Guitar Project
The Star Of The County Down is a traditional Irish tune that tells the story of the most beautiful girl in Ireland, Rosie McCann, with the ‘nut-brown hair.’ It has been recorded by countless artists, including The Chieftans (with Van Morrison), The Irish Rovers, The High Kings, and Loreena McKennitt. The melody can be played with some variation and embellishment, the progression can be done in many different patterns, and many different rhythms are possible as well.
This lesson is designed to have the student come up with the progression and rhythm and create their own arrangement. We start with a review of the chords in the key of E Minor, a look at which chords include each note of the scale, and different voicings of the chords. These segments are followed by a couple directions to choose. Later segments will look at some of the rhythmic possibilities.
The student is heavily encouraged to do as much of their own work as possible before looking at the attachments.
Lesson 3: Down By The Salley Gardens, Traditional Irish Song - Guitar Lesson
This Irish folk song goes by a few different names and is usually sung as Down By The Salley Gardens, which has lyrics by W. B. Yeats set to an older melody known as The Moorlough Shore. I first heard it when I was playing with my friend Martha Blackmen, who taught early music at Stanford University. It can be played with may different harmonic progressions and mine is derived from many different ones.
The lesson is a fairly basic arrangement combining the melody with an arpeggio accompaniment and goes over some fundamentals of arranging. There are some important right hand techniques as well, including slightly separating bass notes from melody notes and muting bass strings that shouldn’t keep ringing. There are also hints about making it your own.
Lesson 4: Outlander Theme – The Skye Boat Song Guitar Arrangement
The popular TV series Outlander features a haunting theme song, The Skye Boat Song, a very old Gaelic melody with a couple sets of lyrics written for it in the 19th century.
This lesson goes a bit into the history, talks about common chord inversions, fingerpicking in 3/4 time, how to get an old Celtic sound with hollow chords like the droning of bagpipes, then even a few ways of combining a simple melody with basic chords and shapes to create your own arrangement.
We really just work with a lead sheet, containing only the melody and the chords, rather than a complete tabbed out arrangement, at least for the time being depending on some reactions from folks who choose to tackle this cool piece.
Lesson 5: Agatha Christie’s Poirot Theme - Guitar Arrangement
Poirot was a British series starring David Suchet as the Belgian sleuth. It ran for about 25 years and included all Christie’s stories that featured Hercule Poirot. The early years started with this theme written by Christopher Dunning.
This arrangement tries to capture the charm and mystique of that on solo guitar. There are some difficult embellishments, more suited to the sax than the guitar but the lesson offers easier approaches to executing them.
This short piece will be challenging to most students but you will learn a few new tricks with it.
Lesson 6: The Water Is Wide - Solo Guitar Arrangement
The Water is Wide is a Scottish folk song, popularized in the US by Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, and recorded by many others from James Taylor to Mark Knofler. This arrangement is an instrumental in DADGAD tuning. The lesson breaks down the arrangement, and we’ll also discuss some of the ideas behind this particular arrangement, how you might personalize it, and perhaps use similar approaches in your own arrangements.