When I was asked to interview Peppino for Guitar Interactive I have been listening again his beautiful music, so I decided to write a short solo guitar piece dedicated to him. It is essentially a 12 bar blues with a slow Ragtime feel to it, so it features most of the idiomatic ingredients one can expect to find in this style.
The harmonic content includes a frequent use of dominant 7th chords, following a typically Blues sequence as depicted below:
ii iii IV #IVo7
Another idiomatic harmonic ingredient is the #IVo7 (diminished 7th) chord which create tension and release between chord IV and I, as a result of the ascending chromatic movement from the root of IV (A), of #IV (A#) and the 5th of I (B). This sequence was introduced in gospel music as the #IVo7 chord can be seen as the perfect harmonization of the so-called ‘Blue-note’, namely the b5 (or #4).
The rhythmic content features a variety of 8th note triplets as evident from bar 3 to bar10. Syncopations and pushed chords are also recurrent and the piece is characterised by a swung 8ths feel.
The melodic content has strong blues connotations, featuring a combination of major and minor pentatonic scales as well as arpeggios and chromatic passages (as evident between bar 9 and 10). Another recurrent melodic devise is creating melodic tension and release shifting from the minor to the 3rd of a Dominant 7th chord. This is evident in bar 1 as well as between bar 10 and 11 and 11 and 12.
The melodic content is to be found both in the upper part or the harmony as well as in the lower part, particularly in the bass line, like for example in bar 1. The bass line in Ragtime often consists of alternating root and 5th of each chord, however, it is effective to add more melodic or singing-like qualities to it for a more contrapuntal effect.
The choice or articulations is very important in the construction of any composition, as these can be seen as the ‘how we say our story’ or to continue using the metaphor of ingredients, we could see articulations as the way we mix and cook the aforementioned ingredients. A few articulations and punctuations including glissando also known as slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs as well as punctuations such as staccato, marcato have been used, as notated in the embedded PDF.
As always, I would like to recommend exploring the above-mentioned techniques in order to compose your own pieces. We have to allow ourselves to make mistakes and reflect on the reasons why we like or not a particular sound, a chord progression or modulation. Eventually, these sounds will become part of your musical lexicon and you’ll be able to use these with fluidity and effectiveness.
The picking-hand pattern is predominantly as follows:
(Please note E=low E string, e= high E string)
‘p’ focuses predominantly on the bass lines, while ‘i, m, a’ play the melody and countermelody or harmony part.
Play this part in a relaxed and clear manner, making sure your thumb is a little forward compared to the ‘i, m, a’ fingers, in order to prevent it from colliding with the ‘i’ finger. As always, focus on attack and tonal consistency. The melody and the supporting harmonies will be played with the ‘a’ finger, so more attack is needed to outline the melody.