4 Tips for Solo Guitar Arrangements

One of the projects I'm currently working on is an album of hymns arranged for solo guitar.

I haven't spent much time playing pieces arranged for solo guitar since college, and it's been fun getting back into that world.

I thought I'd share a few tips should you ever want to arrange for solo guitar.

1. Transpose the melody to different octaves. By default, you'll want to put the melody on top as the highest voice in the arrangement. But it doesn't have to stay there. Much like any good choral piece, an interesting solo guitar arrangement will pass the melody from voice to voice.

2. Use guitar-specific techniques. Take advantage of techniques unique to the guitar...harmonics, hammer-ons and pull-offs, open strings, bending, etc.

3. Think in terms of multiple voices. This is a huge shift in thinking that will completely alter your approach to the arrangement. Imagine each string (or register) as a voice in a choir. Keep the voice leading smooth and practical. Make it a goal to give each "voice" an interesting part in the arrangement.

4. Use suspensions and anticipations. It's not necessary for every voice to always move to the next chord at the same time. Experiment with suspensions (holding on to the previous harmony in one or more voices) and anticipations (arriving to the new harmony a bit early in one or more voices).

BONUS TIP: Listen to solo guitar arrangements. There's no shortage of great solo guitar music out there to be learned from. The more you listen, the more arranging techniques you'll be aware of.

Of course, this short list is just the tip of the iceberg. Solo guitar arranging is an art unto itself that requires years of study to master. However, don't let that hold you back from experimenting with it! Regardless of whether you want to become a master of solo guitar arranging or not, it will make you a better guitarist and musician.


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