Tips on Arranging Celtic Harp Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar

From the March/April 2022 field of Acoustic Guitar | By Steve Baughman

It’s now no longer day by day that a gradual harp instrumental carries a biting political message. Turlough O’Carolan, the blind Irish harper who lived from 1670 to 1738, pulled it off with “Squire Wood’s Lament on the Refusal of His Halfpence.” Squire William Wood represents the English overlords who in 1722 attempted to impose a declare halfpence coin upon the Irish. The scheme became broadly unpopular in Ireland and the coin became ultimately recalled. O’Carolan performed his segment in the resistance by composing this graceful tune—and it’s far a in fact handsome melody for the guitar. Allow me about a general arranging feedback sooner than we bag to my interpretation of this basic Celtic harp fragment.

“Squire Woods Lament” on Harp

Most Drift

In arranging Celtic harp tunes for guitar, I in general search a tuning that does now no longer place apart the melody too low in the bass strings, and which enables for a bunch of melody notes to be performed on the originate strings, to facilitate harp-like effects. So I play “Squire Wood’s Lament” in originate G, with a low C (from well-liked tuning, strings 1 and 5 are reduced a total step, to D and G, respectively, whereas string 6 is reduced two steps). Moreover, I spend a capo on the third be troubled, for a extra dulcet sound; this transposes the tune from the main of G predominant to Bb. 

Internal this or any varied originate tuning, I in general prefer most waft. Welsh guitarist Luke Edwards had an handsome Woodshed lesson in the January/February 2022 field of AG, the place apart he discussed a waft-enhancing plot known as campanella. I spend the plot broadly in my harp-tune arrangements and am elated to learn that it has a esteem foreign title. 

Campanella comes into play when we prefer the hypnotic cease of feeling notes mixing into each and each varied. By deciding on a bizarre string for our next melody imprint, we allow the prior imprint to dwell on even after it has left center stage. Here is ubiquitous in harping. Delight in the significant three notes of the melody to “Squire Wood’s Lament”—assemble, re, and mi. Obvious, I may salvage performed these all on the same string, the originate G, adopted by the 2d and fourth frets. The notes would had been simply, however the assemble would die sooner than the re regarded, and the re would had been snuffed out upon entry of the mi. There is, for optimistic, a place apart for such violence in guitar tune. Nevertheless now no longer here. So my resolution is to play these three melody notes on adjoining strings, as shown in Example 1

Mind you,campanella is now no longer regularly the easiest methodology to bring the melody. In learning “Squire Wood’s Lament”it’s likely you’ll discover that your fretting fingers most incessantly defective over the double yellow line and collide with what’s going to need to had been a ringing string. Sooner than recording the map for my most neatly-liked album, Once Upon a Harp, I had to assemble hundreds left-hand note sooner than I may well preserve far from such collisions. 

One other ingredient I assemble to relieve the waft in Celtic harp arrangements is now no longer salvage my bass strings regularly tumble squarely on the beat. Let’s allege, in the 2d bar of Example 2, a bass imprint is learned now no longer on beat 1 but its “and.” If the thumb is constantly playing notes on the beat, you lunge the danger of sounding like you’re playing a march, which wouldn’t be appropriate for this vogue. You furthermore may don’t prefer to overdo playing on the offbeats, as that would even be disorienting—and, in the worst cases nausea-inducing—for the listener. 

Streak News Barres

In C G D G B D, you may be tempted to play the C chord as a elephantine fifth-be troubled barre. And that optimistic may be the easiest resolution, reasonably than to scrunch up your first, 2d, third, and fourth fingers on the fifth be troubled, as I assemble here. This brings me to a general pet peeve of mine—the usage of barre chords in arranging harp tune for guitar. If you happen to don’t factor in me, give it a strive. In Example 3, ignore the fingerings and bar the C chord at be troubled 5. A barre here now no longer easiest sounds unfriendly but prevents you from executing these mild embellishes that I screen in the video. 

Subtle Woven Textures

My harp-vogue arrangements have a tendency to characteristic an proper quantity of what I name the Scottish snap—a extremely speedily but gentle pull-off from a fretted imprint to the significant melody imprint on an originate string. Effect that methodology, shown in Example 4, regularly unless you bag the hang of it. 

Those of you who know my work may be conscious of the resolution-and-response texture I on the total spend in Celtic arrangements. Example 5 shows a rapid instance. Leer that I maximize the ringing of the originate treble strings whereas I add runs on the decrease strings. Here is now no longer a plucky interruption, but one thing that is subtly woven into the texture of the fragment.  

One other textural intention I spend in arranging this tune is fretting-hand tapping, in which I sound optimistic notes by hammering them on, whereas doing nothing with my appropriate hand. As shown in Example 6, I first bag the originate third and fourth strings, then hammer on to the 2d be troubled with my 2d and third fingers, sliding these notes up to the fourth be troubled after which pulling off to the originate strings. I also hammer on about a bass notes without deciding on them, as indicated by the twisted lines in the notation. The lend a hand of this methodology is that it offers an extraordinarily good, mild sound for harp-vogue arrangements. 

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If you’ve got all the above systems and tips under your fingers, strive my map of “Squire Wood’s Lament,” an abridged version of which is notated in Example 7 and demonstrated in the video. Withhold in thoughts, this being a gradual tune does now no longer map it a in point of fact easy one, now no longer decrease than now no longer the methodology it’s far presented here. Additionally, the fragment needs to breathe, so be free with rhythmic deceleration when the temper suggests it. And do no longer put out of your mind that this a lament, now no longer a march; accordingly, preserve far from the leisure conclude to a robotic in fact feel. 

Delight in your time in learning “Squire Wood’s Lament,” because the interplay between melody, counter-melody, and bass map this a tough map. Nevertheless the payoff—a extremely special 18th-century harp tune that can soothe you and your listeners for future years—may be colossal when you place apart in the hours to map it in fact waft from your fingers.  

Steve Baughman, the creator of Celtic Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar and Gospel Songs for Fingerstyle Guitar, is a San Francisco Bay House–basically based fingerstyle guitarist and banjoist. His unique album, Once Upon a Harp, is on hand at celticguitar.com and Bandcamp. 

Celtic Harp on Fingerstyle Guitar lesson music notation
Celtic Harp on Fingerstyle Guitar lesson music notation sheet 2
Celtic Harp on Fingerstyle Guitar lesson music notation sheet 3

This article at the delivery regarded in the March/April 2022 field of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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