Moving Lines within Chords

May 18, 2005

Ex. 1 begins with a simple fingerpicked D chord. To establish the rhythm, repeatedly pluck beats one and two using your thumb, index, and middle fingers. (Try a thumb, index, thumb/middle, index pattern.) When you’re solid with D, move on to Dmaj7, D7, and D6. As you tackle each chord, notice the line that descends in half-steps on the second string. Though your fingers must dance to accommodate each grip, from a musical standpoint, only a single note changes from one chord to the next. As the melody (D, C#, Cn, B) drops one fret at a time, the notes on strings four, three, and one remain unchanged.

In bars 3 and 4, the descending chromatic action jumps to string three (B, Bb, A). The companion notes stay static in bar 3 (arpeggiated G and Gm chords); in bar 4, the phrase resolves to an ascending D arpeggio and concludes with a flourish on string one.

We revisit our “one line moves against static harmony” concept in Ex. 2’s first and second measures, but this time the starting chord is a fifth-position Dm triad, and the moving line is on the third string. Even when we change chords in bars 3 and 4, the line continues to snake downward on the same string. Taken as a whole, this four-bar arpeggiated figure offers melody and harmony in essentially equal proportion. Right on—a mini orchestra at your fingertips!

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