This week’s lesson features my arrangement of the traditional australian folk tune waltzing Matilda. This simple but effective arrangement sounds like theres more going on than there actually is, but it’s pleasing for acoustic guitarists at any level.
My arrangement is based on three simple chords and a clear melody line. The more adventurous of you will find that adding more notes from the chords can turn this simple tune into something very special. It would be boring if you all played it the same way as me and I vary the tune when playing it live, to keep it interesting. If your new to finger style tunes, you need to know the melody really well.
Start out by playing just the melody using the fingers you will use in the final piece. Once you can play this smoothly in time, we can start adding in bass notes. The great thing about this tune is it doesn’t matter how slowly you play, it still sounds great.
I’m using my third finger, or the G root on sixth string, to make the transition to the C chord easier and to let my first finger rest on the C note. If your playing this correctly, there should be very little movement in the fretting hand. It’s all about economy of motion. The first notes are pinched with thumb and first finger of my picking hand.
As a general rule, I try and use your first finger for the B string and second finger for the 1st or high E string. For now, just focus on the bass notes and melody. Don’t build in those extra harmony notes, until you can move through the bass and melody comfortably. Let those melody notes on the B and E strings ring out clearly. I’m actually using the side of my thumb for the bass notes and my nails for the melody.
When you come to it, that hammer-on, on the D string, is such a simple way of adding something extra to the piece. Just make sure its smooth and in time, dont grab at it! Notice in the video, the fingers and hand position of the G chord is very similar to the C chord, which is a little different to how you would normally finger a G major chord to strum it. I don’t hold all of the notes of a D chord when i get to it, simply because i dont need to.
I always keep the chord shapes in my head whilst focusing on where my fingers are going next for the melody. Finally those chord tones! To create that relaxed rolling arpeggio type sound, my thumb is rolling down the E, D and G strings evenly before my finger picks the second G note of the melody. This pattern stays steady throughout, to give the piece depth.
When it comes to the C chord harmony, remember we are moving to a F# note as we are in the key of G major and the entire piece is harmonic to the key of G. More pinches define the start of a new bar or movement to a new chord and this will help you keep good even time, which is a difficult thing to do when playing solo pieces.
There is something to learn here for almost all acoustic guitar players and there will be more arrangements coming soon, in a similar traditional style, to help you build and expand a repertoire.
Teaching by Harrison Marsh