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|Question about the process of arranging guitar music|
I've finally gotten around to learning a good portion of "Slow But Sure" that you published in the Gospel Cookin' book. It is so fun to play! Thank you for writing this beautiful music for us all to enjoy. I want to learn more stuff like this. I am picky about the tunes I learn and thus have trouble finding stuff I like because not all fingerstyle songs have the same level or spirit of creativity behind them.
Maybe I'll take a lesson from you online sometime and you can clue me into some more great songs. I do like some other songs on 'Gospel Cookin' and may work on some of the other songs as well. I'm hopeful that some day I'll start expressing myself in this sort of way naturally if I learn enough of this material and internalize it into my DNA. Is that the way it happens for you when you write a song like "Slow, But Sure"?
Dear Jay -
I'm picky about guitar arrangements too. Having good taste is a sign of maturity in any realm. The difficult thing is to live up to what your good taste dictates! Here is my process, in a nutshell:
I think that developing as a player, then an arranger, then a writer, then a teacher, and maybe even a producer - this is pretty much the natural way things develop. When I worked out Chet Atkins tunes by ear in the '60s I gave no thought as to what I was doing, I was just happy to be able to do it! As I listened more to others, bits and pieces of everyone else's ideas began to surface in my playing. I also began to actually understand what I was doing on a deeper level. All the while, I found myself experimenting and coloring outside the lines on my own and gradually finding that inner voice of who I am as a guitarist. By the late '70s I began having to compose pieces myself in order to satisfy my what I wanted hear. You can clearly see all this development as the natural order when you look back at it (player, arranger, composer, teacher).
Now I've been at it for about 52 years and every day I still uncover some little secret I didn't know before. I don't know that it's possible to rush this process at all, but, I'm actually glad it takes a lifetime to get anywhere with it because it has been a wonderful life unlocking these little musical mysteries and surprises all along the way. In the past couple of decades I've Tabbed out around 600 arrangements for solo guitar covering a lot of styles and genres. I usually come up with one or two good ones per week still. And, to tell the truth, I owe a lot of it to my Skype students who are so excited themselves that they won't let me lie around idle. There are always requests for new tunes and arrangements that force me to keep trodding on. It truly keeps me engaged - and I'm glad for it. Someone once said "Happy is the man who has found his place in life and knows it"...
Give me a yell sometime if you'd like to take a few Skype lessons. Meanwhile, keep pickin' that thing!