Melody Guitar


Although there are a great many popular styles of play on the guitar, none of them is exclusively melodic in nature. Rhythmic guitar music is based for the most part on picking and strumming chords, although in some styles of play considerable use is made of short melodic runs and passages. By comparison, melody is employed somewhat more extensively in classical and jazz guitar music, but these styles of play are also largely chord-based. Even lead guitarists, whose craft would seem to be purely melodic in nature, make frequent use of chord positions.

Given the overriding importance of chords in playing the guitar, learning to play melodies on the guitar might seem to have little purpose or value. For beginners on the instrument, however, learning to play simple familiar melodies on the guitar is very sensible. It allows for reliance on what is already known (the melodies themselves) as an aid in becoming more adept at playing the guitar. It takes into account the fact that learning to play chords correctly is a difficult and time-consuming task that can cause considerable discomfort until calluses are developed on the fingertips of the fretting fingers.

Learning to play melodies is far less challenging physically, and therefore likelier to produce immediate progress in making satisfying music on the guitar. The encouragement that this progress can provide is a significant benefit, since it can provide the impetus for continued development as a guitarist and as a musician. Visualinear tablature greatly simplifies the task of learning to play melodies on the guitar by indicating simply and clearly which notes are to be played and when.

Even experienced and accomplished rhythm guitarists frequently do not have very well-developed melodic playing skills. Sounding and shaping a melody in a musical fashion is an altogether different type of playing. Playing melodies effectively requires a far greater degree of control over the sound of individual notes than is normally required for rhythmic styles of play. Damping (silencing strings) must be performed with much greater frequency, and there is a greater dependence on musical instincts and on a general knowledge of music in the matter of knowing which notes should be emphasized more than others.

You cannot learn to play melodies on the guitar successfully unless you have first developed the ability to play music rather than just playing notes. Learning to understand and appreciate the subtle but important difference between the two is essential to developing skills as a musician. Learning to incorporate that understanding into your playing technique will allow you to make noticeable improvements in your rhythmic playing skills regardless of your preferred style of play.

There is another important advantage, for beginners and experienced guitarists alike, in learning to play melodic music on the guitar. Doing so allows for access, as a player of music, to an extensive catalog of guitar ensemble music. Guitar ensemble music is like music for an orchestra or a choir. Each player is assigned a monophonic part (monophonic means one note at a time). When the parts are sounded together, the resultant music can be quite intricate and quite beautiful, and is often much more than the sum of the individual parts.

The traditional approach to learning about music is based on listening to music and learning to recognize elements of its construction. But learning about various types of music by actually playing the music allows for a much greater degree of involvement and a much deeper understanding. And learning to play all the parts of a guitar ensemble arrangement allows for the development of an excellent understanding of how the music works and how it holds together. The educational benefit in this is as considerable as it is obvious.

About Melody Guitar

Melody Guitar is the manual for the guitar ensemble component of the visualinear tablature guitar series. The main purpose of Melody Guitar is to provide a carefully developed course of study for learning to play melodies on the guitar in a musically pleasing fashion. An important secondary purpose of this book is to allow for the development of familiarity with visualinear tablature and with the e-score format. This in turn allows for participation, as a player of music and not just as a listener, in the unique learning opportunities that are given by the many volumes of guitar ensemble music that follow. Another important purpose of this book is to serve as a comprehensive music primer that includes introductions to music theory, music history, music analysis, and musical practice and performance.

Since no prior musical knowledge or playing experience is assumed, Melody Guitar is suitable for complete beginners in the study of music and/or in the study of the guitar. The first three chapters contain background information that will prove to be of interest and of value to anyone who wants to learn how to play the guitar. In the fourth through seventh chapters, and in the beginning of the eighth chapter, basic principles of music theory and of visualinear tablature are explained, in great detail and in the simplest possible terms. These principles are then applied to the task of learning to play melodies on the guitar in a musically pleasing and rhythmically correct fashion.

The remainder of the eighth chapter, and the ninth and tenth chapters, are mainly devoted to a discussion of guitar ensemble music. The concept of playing the guitar monophonically (one note at a time) and in ensemble is introduced with the consideration of two simple rounds. A round is a melody that can be used to create a more interesting and complex musical texture by having players start playing the melody at different times. The guitar ensemble concept is then broadened with the consideration of four simple duets (two-part arrangements), a trio (three-part arrangement), and a four-part arrangement.

Melody Guitar concludes with a repertoire section consisting of 20 short pieces for guitar ensemble in a variety of musical styles. The first three pieces are duets, and the fourth through sixth are trios. Of the remaining 14 pieces, two are rounds, one is a double round, and 11 are four-part arrangements. Each piece is accompanied by a score analysis containing useful observations about the main features of the music and about how to play the music most effectively. These score analyses also contain much of the music theory content and most of the music history and music analysis content included in Melody Guitar.

Above all, Melody Guitar is a practical guide to learning to play melodic and monophonic ensemble music on the guitar. It has been assumed that musicianship and the ability to play music effectively are not innate talents that are possessed by a relatively few people, but rather can be learned by anyone. Most people have a much better developed sense for music than they believe themselves to have. A number of techniques for developing musical skills are discussed at some length in Melody Guitar, and readers are encouraged to rely on their own resources as much as possible. The path to the goal of becoming a competent melodic and ensemble guitarist is clearly laid out, thus making this study well-suited for self-instruction. The attainment of this goal is within reach of anyone who is serious about learning, and it is made easier, faster, and more enjoyable by the use of visualinear tablature and e-scores.

The two following headings on this page (Table of Contents and Exercises) include more than enough detail and free content to allow for an informed choice regarding the Ordering Options with which this page concludes. Be sure to take note of the fact that the three links at the top of the Table of Contents will allow you to read the Foreword, the Introduction, and the Index. The Index in particular should prove useful to those who are interested in the general and formal study of music, since it lists in condensed fashion the broad range of topics that are defined and explained in Melody Guitar. Also be sure to take note of the fact that the Exercises can be freely downloaded from this website in their entirety and in the e-score format.

Melody Guitar : Table of Contents

View Foreword
View Introduction
View Index

Foreword i

Introduction iii


a brief history of the guitar 1 types of guitars 3 selecting a guitar 5 caring for the guitar 7 parts of the guitar 9


how an acoustic guitar makes music 13 the pitch of a vibrating string 13 fretted notes 14 forming fretted notes 14 staff notation 15 guitar TAB notation 16 string and fret notation 16 the fretboard diagram 17 chord diagrams 18 Exercise 1 20


tuning the guitar 22 holding the guitar 24 the left hand position 25 the fingernails of the left hand 27 the right hand position 28 sounding notes in fingerstyle 29 the fingernails of the right hand 30 sounding notes with a flatpick 31 hybrid picking 32


meter 34 foot-tapping 34 the use of the metronome as a practice tool 35 three simple meters 36 the notation of meter in visualinear tablature 37 rhythm 38 the notation of rhythm in visualinear tablature 38 metric rhythm 39 Exercise 2 39 Exercise 3 (Row, Row, Row Your Boat) 41 fingerings for fretted notes 42 choosing the style of play 43 the pick-up 43 Exercise 4 (Bingo) 44


the metric beat and the flow of rhythm 45 accents 46 halving the beat 46 practicing rhythmic patterns 47 Exercise 5 (America) 48 recognizing rhythmic patterns 49 creating rhythmic patterns 50 analyzing melodic scores 50 slowing the tempo 51 syncopation 51 Exercise 6 (Ode To Joy) 53


playing melodic lines musically 54 touch 55 vibrato 56 the duration of notes in melodic playing 57 damping 57 staccato 58 legato and portato 58 Exercise 7 (Old MacDonald) 59 sustain lines 60 rubato 61 Exercise 8 (America, the Beautiful) 62


developing good practice habits 63 quartering the beat 64 adapting the tablature to the rhythmic complexity of the music 65 ternary division of the beat 66 rhythmic flow in compound meter 67 Exercise 9 (The Eensy Weensy Spider) 68 6/8 time 68 Exercise 10 (Take Me Out To The Ballgame) 69


reading music 70 Gregorian chant 72 Exercise 11 (8 simple melodies) 73 counterpoint and polyphony 77 melody and harmony 77 the round 78 Exercise 12 (Row, Row, Row Your Boat) round 79 repeat signs 80 Exercise 13 (Three Blind Mice) round 81 Exercise 11b (Hey-Ho) round 82


parts music 83 Exercise 14 (Four Duets) 84 making sense of guitar ensemble scores 88 naming the parts 89 playing parts musically 89 analyzing guitar ensemble music 90 Exercise 15 (Bingo) 91 analysis of Exercise 15 93 Exercise 16 (Take Me Out To The Ballgame) 95 analysis of Exercise 16 98


why melody guitar? 101 ordering formats for guitar ensemble music 102 making the most of ensemble scores 103 part scores 103 score directions 104 dynamics 105 tempo 106 the fermata 107 the director’s role in ensemble performance 108 playing in an ensemble with a director 109 playing in an ensemble without a director 110 afterword 111


Introduction to the Repertoire 112 Duet from Opus #11 in E (D. L. Stieg) 114 Minuet in a minor (J. S. Bach) 118 Duet from Opus #35 in a minor (D. L. Stieg) 121 Humming Song (Schumann) 124 Opus #33 in d minor (D. L. Stieg) 130 Opus #13 in D Major (D. L. Stieg) 134 Minuet in D (Beethoven) 138 The House Of The Rising Sun (Round by D. L. Stieg) 144 Are You Sleeping? (Double Round by D. L. Stieg) 149 Opus #25 in e minor (D. L. Stieg) 154 The Hokey Pokey 160 Chorale #208 in e minor (J. S. Bach) 166 Old MacDonald 172 Round in d minor (D. L. Stieg) 178 Shenandoah 182 Cindy 190

Appendix 195

Index and Pronunciation Guide 211

Melody Guitar Exercises

All but the first two of the Exercises contained in Melody Guitar are playing exercises. The last five Exercises are the previously discussed introductory ensemble pieces (rounds, duets, a trio, and a four part arrangement), and the remainder are familiar melodies. These familiar melodies were included by design, since it is easier to develop melodic playing skills by learning to play tunes with which you are already familiar. The visualinear tablature scores for these Exercises are included in the text of Melody Guitar, and allow for the gradual development of familiarity with this innovative notational system.

An even greater benefit can be obtained from learning to play these pieces by viewing and hearing them in the e-score (.tef) format. It is a greater benefit because the e-scores for the many volumes of guitar ensemble music that follow are a fascinating, useful, and very enjoyable learning resource. Learning to play the Melody Guitar Exercises by working with the e-scores for these Exercises affords access to this resource by providing an excellent introduction to the e-score format. The e-scores (.tef files) for the Melody Guitar Exercises can be downloaded free of charge by using the link provided below.

Click here  to download the Melody Guitar Exercises

Since these .tef files are zipped into a single file for convenience, an archive utility such as WinZip is required to open them. An evaluation version of WinZip can be freely downloaded from the WinZip website by using the link provided below.

Click here  to download WinZip

The .tef files and print scores for all of the guitar ensemble music contained in the visualinear tablature guitar series were created with music notational software called the TablEdit Tablature Editor. The .tef files can only be viewed and played with either the TablEdit program or with the TefView Score Reader. TefView is a freeware program that can be downloaded directly from the TablEdit website by using the link provided below.

Click here  to download the TefView Score Reader  

The e-score format is highly interactive and allows for various user-made adjustments that can serve a variety of purposes and that make e-scores a more valuable and more enjoyable learning resource. The TefView features that enable these adjustments are detailed in the TefView Primer, a guide to working with visualinear tablature e-scores of melodic music and guitar ensemble music. The TefView Primer can be freely downloaded by using the link provided below.

Click here  to download the TefView Primer  

Since the file for the TefView Primer is in Adobe (PDF) format, the Adobe Reader program is required to open it. The Adobe Reader can be freely downloaded from the Adobe website by using the link provided below.

Click here  to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader  


You can order Melody Guitar in PDF format (230 pages) for $7.50 on the 3 music manuals page of the website.