Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.
This is a beautiful traditional melody from the Celtic region of Brittany in the west of France. I've made this intermediate level solo fingerstyle guitar arrangement of the song, which you can learn by following the guitar tablature or standard notation score that you can see in (and below) the video.
The video was recorded at 1080HD quality, so use that video playback setting if possible to ensure the score shows up clearly. You can change the playback quality by clicking the 'cog' icon at the bottom right of the video player. The audio level is a bit lower than I intended so use headphones if possible.
Marv Pontkalleg PDF
Click to download Marv Pontkalleg as a PDF file for offline viewing and printing.
This standard-tuning fingerstyle guitar arrangement of Marv Pontkalleg is around intermediate level of difficulty. It contains a few barre chords and reaches as high as the 12th fret. The main aim is to bring out the melody (shown in the notation with upward pointing stems) and have the accompaniment providing a flowing harmony of arpeggiated chords underneath. The staffs in the video change as the audio track of the song progresses if you want to play along with the song in real time. Alternatively, if you want to study the piece at your leisure, you can see the same score in its entirety below the video capsule.
I have rolled (spread) quite a few of the chords, but this is optional and you can choose to do the same with those or other chords or leave it out completely and just play the chords straight. Only the last chords show the sign (the wavy line) for spreading the chords from the lowest note to the highest, but again this is optional.
Standard Notation & Guitar Tablature
Standard notation readers can check the tab for the string and fret choices used in the recording. Fretting-hand fingering isn't shown in the notation staff as it can be easily worked out from the guitar tab.
If necessary, tab readers can check the standard notation staff to see the duration and timing of any note. If you don't know how to read duration and timing signs in standard notation, see the link at the bottom about learning to read them - it's easy enough when you get into it, and there are no difficult-to-read duration symbols used in this piece. In any case, the audio track should keep you right as far as timing is concerned.
The song is in the Aeolian mode, and I've chosen E Aeolian as it enables a good pitch range covering the whole fretboard up to the 12th fret. The Aeolian mode is a forerunner of the minor key. That means this arrangement in E Aeolian sounds very much like it's in the key of E minor, except that there is no D sharp leading note (7th scale note), which music in the key of E minor usually has as a way of leading strongly to the home (tonic) note and chord. A D sharp leading note in this song would ruin it.
With this type of fingerstyle guitar arrangement, improvisation is not only acceptable, it's encouraged. Feel free to put your own interpretation onto it by, for example, adding hammer ons, pull offs, slides and other ornaments or grace notes that are in keeping with the style and period. You can even modify the chords, the tempo and the arpeggio style. If your changes make the arrangement significantly different from mine, you can even claim copyright on it. You can't claim copyright on the song itself as it's in the public domain, but you can claim copyright on the arrangement of the song if you made it yourself - as I've done..
To improvise effectively, you need to be aware of the chord tones that make up each chord as it plays. The chord tones are safe notes that won't sound out of place, and you should think of them as your principal 'target' notes. Knowing the chord tones means that you also automatically know the non-chord tones, which can be used to provide passing notes between chord tones.
As this arrangement is in 'E Aeolian', (as explained above) all chord tones and non-chord tones are natural notes apart from F sharp, so if you use any other sharps or flats, they will probably sound very much out of place unless you can find a way to use such chromatic notes in a natural (for want of a better word) way. Chromatic notes will change the modal character of the song, which I wouldn't recommend, but that's a personal preference on my part. See the table for a list of chords used in the song and their chord tones.
Chords and Chord Tones
E G B
G B D
A C E
B D F#
C E G
D F# A
About Marv Pontkalleg
This song, which is a lament, comes from a collection of traditional pieces of the same name. The lyrics to the song are in the Breton language. It's about the death (marv) of the Marquis of Pontcallec, who was executed in 1720 for conspiring against France to secure the independence of Brittany.
Here are some more of my articles that may help you with reading tab or notation for guitar more fluently.
Learn how to read timing and durations in guitar tab. The lack of timing and duration information in basic tab sheets is tab's biggest weakness, but modern tab borrows signs from standard notation so that durations and timings can be known without actually hearing a song first.
Learn how to read standard music notation. Standard, or staff, notation conveys more information than tab and is worth learning.
© 2014 chasmac