Looking at The Rose

Following the mention of this song on another thread, I thought I’d have a look at it. It’s a lovely song, and pretty straight forward, chird and melody -wise. How about we take a look together. Here’s a start … my guess at the melody of the first line

121 | 3 343 | 32 2 | 1 123 | 3

and chords , I think are

1 | 1 | 5D | 4 | 1

Does this look ok?

@mem Great analysis, Marie-Elaine! That’s certainly what I hear when I listen to the song. The only additional detail I hear in the recording is that the measure you’re calling the 4 chord is split between the 4 chord and the 5D chord. So it definitely enters on the 4 chord just as you’ve indicated, but then it moves up to the 5D chord just before resolving to the 1 chord. But you’ve got the entire song perfectly situated in the key of the music. Nicely done!

This could be a nice song to arrange for chord melody guitar, although I don’t know if I can demonstrate that in a YouTube video due to the copyright issue. For the chord melody demos I mentioned on another thread, I need to find some nice songs that are familiar to all of us but free of copyright restrictions. There are some published lists of public domain songs that I can use, so I’ll go through those and try to find some nice tunes that we could learn together. But certainly on your own, this could be a great song to arrange for chord melody.

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@ImproviseForReal Thanks David, and really looking forward to thoses videos you’re planning. I have a tendency to go and look for some sheet music for a song arrangement, and end up getting frustrated when I cannot play it well enough to keep up with the song played at tempo. So I’m determined to stop doing this, and try to come up with sn arrangement myself, which I can play, and modify as I like.

So, now we have the chords for the first line

1 | 1 | 5D | 4 5D | 1

I can play the melody notes with the chord bass notes like this

[1+] 121 | [1+]3 343 | [5+]32 2 | [4+]1 [5+]123 | [1+]3

Does that make sense, just bass notes in unison with melody notes.

Now, when I take this to my guitar (P4 tuning), for the bass notes I’ve chosen the 5th fret for note 1 on the 5th string, which makes note 5 nice and close on 5th fret of 6th string. I can play the melody notes on the 2nd and 3rd string.

This is ok until I get to the 4 chord to be played with note 1 in the melody, I vould play the bass note 4 on the 4th string, but I’d rather play the bass note on the 6th string at the 3rd fret, I slide and play that with the note 1 melody on the 2nd string. Then I can slide back and play bass note 5 plus melody note 2 in my original position.

That’s it so far. If anyone has different ideas or comments, feel free. Second line is the same as the first, so next I’ll take a look at the third line.

Here’s where I’m playing on the fretboard


Nice improvised tablature, @mem! I understand perfectly. That’s a great choice for arranging the song because it’s so nice to have the low note 5 in your bass on the low E string, just below your lowest note 1 on the A string. And I agree that putting your bass note 4 on the low E string will give you a much more satisfying sound than using the higher note 4 on the D string.

Picking up on a question you raised in another thread, here we have a nice example of a situation where you can make very sparse but effective use of an open string. Because you’ve chosen to arrange this song in the key of D, notice that you have two different open strings that give you very useful bass notes (the A string and the D string). The D string isn’t quite as attractive because it’s the fourth string of the guitar so it doesn’t leave you many higher strings for melody notes and chord notes. But that A string is going to come in very handy sometimes, if you don’t mind the additional mental complexity of using it.

Here’s how I would approach it. First learn to play the song and practice improvising over the form in chord melody style without using any open strings at all. This is the fastest way to gain a clear vision of the musical landscape. And it’s important to be able to fret all of the notes yourself without relying on open strings or any other hack that only works in one key, because remember that our long term goal isn’t just to play this particular arrangement, but to be continually growing in our understanding and mastery of the guitar.

But once you’ve become very comfortable playing the song in this way, then you could add just one tiny additional resource to your playing, which is the optional use of the open A string as the bass note of your 5D chord whenever that would be more comfortable than fretting the note yourself on the sixth string. Not only does this save you from having to fret the note, but it also allows the bass note to ring out beautifully while you move on to the next notes you want to play.

So this would be a really nice way to start using open strings. The important thing about using open strings is to not let it confuse your vision of the fretboard. Open strings are a wonderful additional resource, but they make it much harder to see the key of the music and understand the notes you’re playing. That’s why I would always suggest that you fret all the notes yourself in your first pass at studying a song. But once you’re clear about the musical landscape, then you can look for ways to substitute some of the notes for open strings when it’s more physically convenient.

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Great feedback @ImproviseForReal, thanks David. I’m aiming to get verse complete, then I can practise the whole song, just one line to go as the fourth line is I think the same as the first and second but just ending up on the 1 note.

So melody …

343 | 5 555 | 51 23 | 4 321 | 5

Chords are a bit tricky, having a bit of a problem …

1 | 3-?? | ?? | 4 | 5D

The 3- chord sounds ok, but can’t get the next one. I tried [461] of the 4 chord, which sounds ok, but I think the chord changes to the 4 chord in the next bar. Anyway, a work in progress …

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Hi @mem, it’s a little ambiguous in the recording I’m hearing, which I guess is the original. The piano is playing some of the chords as just two-note chords, and others as little clusters, so in this first presentation of that line in question, I can understand why you’re not entirely sure about the chords. There’s nothing wrong with your hearing or analysis. It’s that the piano notes themselves leave some room for interpretation. (Remember that chord symbols in general are only a metaphor. Nothing constrains musicians to playing just the three or four most basic notes of a chord. Composers are always free to move voices around creating ambiguous, intermediate steps between one moment of clarity and the next.)

The first time that line is played, what I hear is essentially what you wrote. I share your feeling that the first chord of the line is still the 1 chord, even though there is a very prominent note 7 being introduced as the lowest note in the piano chord. The reason I still feel this as the 1 chord is because note 1 is still present, and you can hear the dissonant clash between notes 7 and 1 at the bottom of that piano chord. (This is at 0:38 in the original recording.)

But then later in the song when there is a more full orchestration, my answer would change. If you listen to this same line when it’s presented at 1:44, now I’m no longer hearing any reference to the 1 chord. What I hear is what I would call 3-/7, meaning that it’s the 3- chord with note 7 in the bass. So the only change to your drawing is that the 3- chord appears right from the beginning of the line, and it occupies two of the measures as you’ve drawn them out.

In either case, the chord I hear next is the 6- chord. (Again, this is much clearer and easier to hear in the section at 1:44 than in the section at 0:38.)

This brings up a dilemma that we always have when we’re trying to create our own “lead sheet” or tonal sketch of a popular song. If the chords are played in different ways throughout the recording (or across multiple recordings from the same time period), then who gets to determine what the “real” chords are?

This is an example of the classic dilemma of the map vs. the territory. In order to be useful, a map by necessity must simplify and eliminate most of the details of the territory. If you wanted your map to include ALL of the details of the landscape, the map would have to be as large as the territory! So we know that in making a map, we are reducing and eliminating in order to obtain a particular point of view which is a useful summary.

This is what we do in music when we reduce the countless creative choices of the composer and each member of a band down to the greatly simplified notion of a “chord symbol”. Concepts like 3- and 6- are incredibly useful and empowering as a kind of general roadmap of the harmony. But they don’t even begin to address the creative choices made by whoever composed the piano part to this song. So as you create your own arrangement of this song, just keep that in mind. It’s not your obligation to capture every detail or repeat every creative choice made by the original composers, arrangers and musicians. This is why I’m always saying that all harmonic analysis is subjective. It’s really a part of your own creative process to decide which elements from the song to include in your analysis, and how you prefer to think about those elements.

What I would do is opt for a tonal sketch that is simple, solid and clear. I would never make a tonal sketch that requires me to write the chords differently from one verse to the other, or to include all of these annoying details about every little variation and chord cluster. If these adornments are so essential to the song then I would reject that song outright as a terrible vehicle for improvising. What I’m looking for are songs that have a strong melody and a great chord progression that can be expressed with simple and beautiful chord concepts like “6-”, with or without any additional ornamentation that I might choose to add.

With that simple and clear roadmap of the harmony, I can then go off in my own creative directions. That could mean adding ornamentation or it could mean stripping things away, resulting in the minimalist two-note chords like we hear at the beginning of this recording. It could also mean blending the chords and moving voices one at a time, creating the ambiguity that we talked about in the section around 0:38. But none of this is obligatory and none of it belongs in my harmonic analysis, because the goal of the analysis is to illuminate the framework of the song, not to capture every beautiful detail that the individual musicians chose to add.

That’s my own process but I would love to hear more about your experience as you get further with this song!

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Cool @ImproviseForReal, so much detailed info, thanks David.

I’m liking the sound of the 6- chord at the point in question. It’s a nice sounding movement from the 3- chord to the 6- and staying on the note 5 in the melody.

Here’s what I have for line 3

1 | 3- | 6- | 4 | 5D

The 1 chord at start I’m playing as a continuation/end of the last bar of the previous line which is the 1 chord, but you’re right something happens on the last beat to prepare for the shift. But I’m going to keep in simple for now.

With the melody

343 | [3-]5 555 | [6-]51 23 | [4]4 321 | [5D]5

And on the fretboard


There are a few tricky positions, so not quite decided how to best combine note 3 in the bass with melody note 5, followed by 6 in the bass. But I like the low 3 moving up to 6, so just need to try some positions.

Would others approach this in a similar fashion? Or do something completely different, I’d be interested to know.

I need to work on this for a while before I can start adding any other chord notes.

A bit stumbling, but here it is so far

@mem, Wow, this is beautiful Marie-Elaine!!! You’ve built the perfect shell of an arrangement. The melody is perfect, the chords are perfect, and you’ve got everything lined up rhythmically in exactly the right places. And if you can do this with “The Rose” then you can do it with any song in the world, so I’m very happy for you that you’ve really understood these basic principles and that you’re able to use them to create your own arrangements.

One really nice thing about the song you’ve chosen is that it has a strong melody that stays very constant, meaning that there aren’t any “melodic deserts” where the melody just kind of stops and a bunch of measures go by. This means that the song even works very well in “rubato” (meaning free time with no tempo) which is very helpful when you’re just learning to play your own arrangement.

Would you add some chord notes as a next step?

FWIW, here’s how I see the process and where you are currently. There is an initial period of just understanding the structure of a song and learning to recreate that structure on the guitar. During this period, it’s a mistake to worry too much about the final product. Don’t get drawn into the temptation of beautifying your arrangement, composing little phrases or accompaniments that are going to sound great. All of that comes later, but right now it can become a distraction from the work that we need to do first, which is simply to learn to see the lay of the land.

For this reason, in my opinion the next step of the process would be exactly what we do in Chord Melody Guitar 1, which is to fill in the choir and add chord notes to your arrangement. It doesn’t matter if you like all of these chord note choices because we’re going to throw all of this away when we move on to the next phase of our process. But just as it’s been helpful for you to see clearly the relationship between each melody note and the chord roots that you’re playing, it will be just as helpful to fill in the choir and appreciate how the melody note relates to all of the notes of each chord.

But remember that we haven’t even begun to sculpt our true creative output. We’re still just learning to visualize the structure of the song, both melodically and harmonically, on the fretboard of the guitar. So you don’t have to worry about learning to execute all of those chord voicings smoothly. Some of the chord changes won’t be smooth at all, because logistically there are only certain things that the left hand can do smoothly. This is why it’s nice to work with a song that has a strong melody like “The Rose”, so that you can do all of this exploration very slowly in rubato and you can still feel the beauty of the song.

Then as soon as you’re able to play the melody accompanied by fuller chords, that’s when you’ve really completed the learning phase and you’re ready to graduate to the performance phase. That’s the fun part, because that’s where you can now start taking things away, sculpting your arrangement so that it’s both more impactful musically and simultaneously much easier to play. That’s also when you can express your own creativity, adding new melodies and riffs in your accompaniment. And you can continue to enjoy embellishing your arrangement for the rest of your life, because your musical possibilities will grow as you grow.

But my advice would be to hold off on that creative exploration for just another couple weeks, and first give yourself time to simply add chord notes to the arrangement you’ve started, so that you have an even more solid grasp of the musical landscape before you start taking things away.

If you run into any technical challenges or questions in that process, please bring them to the forum so we can discuss! Thank you so much for sharing a recording of your work. For me, this is the most valuable content on the forum because it’s such a privilege to see how other musicians are using some of the same concepts that we’re all studying. So I really appreciate your generosity in revealing some of your process with us!


Thanks David @ImproviseForReal, yes I will start adding chord notes, but I hadn’t thought of the process as you describe it. I’ve been trying to make it sound quite nice (at least to me!) and not been thinking of a first exploration phase, which is discarded once we are comfortable with the structure.

On adding chord notes, I’ve started just figuring out where the 3rd and 5th are for each chord, if they are accessible with the melody notes being played. I’m finding its either one or the other, the 3rd on the major chords and the fifth on the minor ones tends to be the case, I guess that might just be how I’ve chosen to place the melody and root notes.

I’m getting a lot out of this process and particularly David’s input. But please, if anyone else would like to contribute, feel free. It would be great to know how others are doing this kind of thing.

Another stumbling version, but with added chord notes

And another with chord notes played in unison with melody

So, taking on board what David said about the first phase being about exploring the structure and layout of the piece, I’m trying not be concerned with how laboured it sounds, but concentrate on what is possible with my playing ability and what notes I can physically reach/play.

I feel I’m learning more this way than just picking up an arrangement already written and trying to play it. I feel that would be a purely physical endeavour, rather than this way which seems more experiential. I’ve just re-read the chapter in the IFR book about the value of first-hand experience, and it seems to make sense.

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Not sure where else to go with this, other than just to keep playing it this way, it’s quite a pretty melody, and enjoyable to play.

Should I try to move it around the fretboard to experiment with different shapes? Or stay in the same place and try to add more interest there?

How about some-one else post what they have done with it? Or ideas they have for it.

Sorry @mem, I’m just an ‘observer’ on this one. Too many projects & practice areas of my own on the go…

No problem @DavidW, maybe you could post something on what you’re working on …:slightly_smiling_face:

My main project at present is familiarisation & technique building with a new instrument, Chapman Stick, so there’s a lot of buzzing, hesitations & outright wrong notes at present. :). I am however making IFR materials a fundamental part of that exercise, e.g. I use the Sing the Numbers exercises as a form of semi-random fretboard familiarisation & fingering technique exercise.

On the ‘melody side’ which is tuned in familiar guitar like ascending 4ths I use StN tracks randomly. On the bass side I’m needing to progress more slowly keeping to simpler more limited note ranges while I get my head around the very different fingering needed for the descending 5th tuning.

The attached pdf, is a ‘peek sheet’ I created for the tuning I’m using. My current instrument is a 10 string Stick, so I’m just using the middle 10 ‘strings’ on that sheet.

Because ascending 4th & descending 5th are inversions the note patterns are in a sense exactly the same, however the intervals within those patterns are not. For example 2 string ‘East’ & 2 frets ‘South’ gives you the same scale degree on both sides, but while on the melody side that’s an octave up as on guitar, on the bass side it’s an octave down.

1 string ‘East’ & 5 frets ‘North’ is a guitar like unison on the melody side, but the same shape is an octave down on the bass side. Unison on the bass side is 1 string ‘East’ & 7 frets ‘South’, or 1 ‘West’ & 7 ‘North’.

And then comes the added fun of trying to use both at the same time. Lot’s of (enjoyable) work ahead. :smiley:

Edit to add: Also note that while the left (‘West’) side is known as the ‘bass’ side, the 5ths intervals mean that if you have a 12 string the highest note on the ‘melody’ side is only a semitone higher than the highest on the ‘bass’ side.

C12 _ BM10 Peek Sheet # & numbered C’s.pdf (23.2 KB)

Wow, that does sound like a “project” @DavidW !

I’d never heard of a Chapman Stick before, and when you mentioned it I did a quick YouT search, looks like quite a beast of an instrument :slightly_smiling_face: It’s good that you can use and apply the IFR materials to a new instrument, and that it’s helping you get oriented.

I’d love to hear a sound file to get an idea of what it’s like, but no pressure!

We are getting a bit off topic, but hey, it’s your topic. :wink:

Rather than offer my (so far) limited range of sounds here’s a copy & paste from something I wrote recently when trying to describe the Stick to a friend by email. This part of it mainly consists of a collection of youtube videos in attempt to give an idea of the wide range of ways people use it.

Many Stickists play solo. Many are improvisers. They (we?) are a very diverse bunch, as is the music played. The best known Stickist is probably Tony Levin, who has played bass & Stick with Peter Gabriel & with King Crimson since the mid 70’s.

Here are a few youtube examples, starting with Emmett Chapman (the inventor) himself.

Rodrigo Serrão (playing Bach) Rodrigo Serrão plays Bach Cello Suite No.1 in G (full) on the Chapman Stick | BWV 1007 - YouTube

Steve Adelson (original Jazz) Engaged - YouTube

Abby Clutario (Tears in Heaven cover) Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton (Abby Clutario Chapman Stick cover) - YouTube

Greg Howard (All Along the Watchtower cover) All Along the Watchtower - Greg Howard on the Chapman Stick - YouTube

Bob Culbertson (Dark Side of the Moon cover) Dark Side Of The Moon, Live Chapman Stick concert - YouTube

Greg Howard again (23 minute improv) "Quiet, Time" Chapman Stick improvisation by Greg Howard - YouTube

Tony Levin (as part of King Crimson) Elephant Talk: King Crimson on 'Fridays', ABC TV, USA - YouTube

@mem Wow, beautiful arrangements Marie-Elaine! Both of these concepts are fantastic. You could even combine them by playing the more straight version (what you’re calling “chord notes in unison with melody”) the first time through the song, and then adding your more sophisticated accompaniment for the second time through the song. That’s a natural way to highlight the drama of your more elaborate accompaniment. If we hear that part first, then it’s not as surprising. But if you can first get us to follow your story with a much simpler accompaniment, then your arpeggiated version will feel like a full orchestra suddenly coming in.

As for where to go from here, I encourage you to follow your own curiosity and passions. For some people, this is the ideal moment to simply move on to a new activity. This is especially helpful if you have a tendency to get bogged down with too many musical goals and projects on your “to do” list. It’s important to be able to put things down and not become a slave to them. So it’s perfectly fine at this point to just move on to something else if that’s what’s most appealing to you. Pretty much anything you do on the guitar is going to result in having more control over the sounds. So even if you go off and play other things for a year, when you come back to this arrangement you’ll find that you can play it much more easily and you can express yourself much more.

But if you are the kind of person who enjoys physical practice and making things beautiful, then your arrangement is a perfect place for you to learn and grow with your guitar. What you could do next is first pick just one of the two versions that you recorded. Let’s say that we’ll focus first on the simpler accompaniment of playing the chords in unison with the first melody note in each measure. Notice that once you’ve played the melody note accompanied by the chord on the downbeat of each measure, the melody naturally takes a breath in that moment. So as soon as you’ve played that chord beautifully, you can rest for a moment and just let it ring out.

This leads naturally to an obvious way to break the arrangement into pieces for practicing. The first piece is just the phrase with the lyrics, “Some say love”. Imagine that this is the entire exercise. All you have to do is play note 1 by itself, then play note 2 by itself, and then play note 3 accompanied by the 1 chord.

How beautifully can you do that? How slowly and gently do you need to play this phrase in order to make it beautiful? What can you learn about the physical movements and sensations from playing this phrase several times VERY slowly and carefully? The most effective practice doesn’t involve repeating this phrase 1,000 times hoping that it magically becomes smooth. The ideal practice is to play the phrase just one time, and to notice every little detail about that experience. Then play it again, more slowly and even more attentively this time. If you reduce your entire world to just this single 3-note phrase, very soon you’ll discover that you can play this phrase 10 times more beautifully, and it’s actually MORE relaxed and easy than what you’re doing now. It’s merely a question of raising our level of consciousness, noticing the entire choreography that’s involved in playing those first three notes with a chord on the last note.

Then once you’re feeling perfectly relaxed and at peace with that first phrase, you can begin to explore the second phrase with the same patient, loving attention. If this is your first chord melody arrangement, then you’ll probably need to go through every single phrase in your arrangement with this same methodical exploration. But as you gain experience playing more songs, the lessons will start to pay off because you’ll find yourself in many physical situations that are very similar to situations that you’ve already studied and mastered. So at that point the graceful choreography that I’m describing has just become a basic part of the way you play the guitar, and it’s not something that you need to figure out and discover for each new phrase.

My personal bias would be to take the arrangement in this direction because it’s so inspiring to hear our own arrangements come to life. But as I say, your music practice is entirely your own, and you have to respect your own needs and curiosity about what you would like to explore next. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing so much of your creative process with us! It’s really wonderful to hear you creating your own arrangements and to see them come together in real time!

Yes, I seem to have highjacked by own topic!

Thanks for this info @DavidW, I’ll take a look at those videos. From what I watched previously, it looked like you need an amp for this instrument, is that right, like an electric guitar? or can you hear it unamplified?