As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.
This is the arrangement I have done for our holiday production 'A Life Of Christmas'. The show was inspired by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I composed it as a three part guitar piece. Guitar one plays the riff I wrote, plus the main melody. Guitar two plays the harmony guitar line to the main melody line in thirds, the same way a harmony vocal would follow the lead vocalist. Guitar three plays the rhythm part in power chords. The composed riff is in six four time (six beats to a measure and the quarter note gets one beat). During the melody for the song, the time signature moves into four four time (four beats to a measure and the quarter note gets one beat). There is a modulation at measure twenty five. The song changes keys, moving from G Major to A Major. Also, please note, this version is copyrighted.
As stated above, this is the main guitar part and contains the song's melody, weaving in and out of a riff that I have composed. The riff is in six four time, and is based on a G Major chord at the twelfth fret. It is the second inversion of the G triad. Chord spelling: D G B. The D has been added an octave higher on the second string at the fifteenth fret. Also, the A on the third string, fourteenth fret, adds interest to the overall sound. This is the way I heard it in my head.
I originally wrote this riff with all natural harmonics, but it was just not powerful enough, so I changed it to normal fretting. It can be challenging at the tempo notated, and if you are like most players, a riff (a repeating motif), can be hard to execute cleanly over and over again. You pretty much have to put your fretting and picking hand on auto pilot.
Whatever fingering you use, try not to change it. As with anything you play, it is best to use the same fingering every time. I suggest a first finger barre across the twelfth fret on the D, G and B strings, and use the fourth finger for the fifteenth fret (D) and the third finger for the fourteenth fret (A). Your fret hand fingers should fall naturally into place for the melody. Remember the guide: four fingers, four frets! This is crucial to this type of position playing.
This the harmony to the main melody, voiced in thirds. This was very easy to do, as all the notes in the melody are diatonic (see: Modes Of The Major Scale). The interval of a third is the strongest and most common harmony. Simply add the interval above the notes in the melody. For example: a third above G is B, a third above D would be F♯. It is three scale steps up from the root note.
Professional transcription programs (like the one I use, Finale), will add this harmony automatically, if you copy and paste the melody to another staff, then transpose up a major third. You may have to tweak a couple of notes depending on the complexity of the melody line and the desired sound. Usually when you hear three part harmony, it is based on the root, third and fifth.
This is the foundation rhythm guitar part. For the most part, these are three note power chords. Power chords do not contain a third interval, just the root and fifth. In this respect, power chords can be either major or minor chords, as the third is the interval that governs this. To find out what chord you are playing, simply look at the root. For example, a G5 would have the G as the root, usually the bottom note of the chord (unless inverted, in which case the lowest note of the chord is the fifth).
In measure nineteen, the power chords are two note inversions, the root is the top note. There is five power chords in this measure: D5, E5, D5, C5 and B5. Playing power chords this way (with a one finger barre) is an easier way to play fast passages.
© 2014 Lorne Hemmerling