I recently had an opportunity to work with a colleague on a piece of music relating to the environment. I was sent a file with a fingerstyle guitar piece following a chord pattern of I-IV-V-vi with some variations here and there. I was really taken with their playing and use of fingerstyle technique, slapping the guitar in rhythm, long slides and picking technique were exemplary. I created two accompanying parts also only using guitar. On the first track, I simply played first position chords with a basic finger picking pattern then highlighting the Bm-A chords which appear at bars 4 and 5 of each repeat of the chord pattern with a slide and strum. Over this I also played a more solo sounding guitar which involved sliding 1st and 3rd notes followed by a descending scale over the first chords D-G-A. Taking advice directly from the music ‘Engineer’s Handbook,’ I took note that multiple layered guitars can cause quite a mess, I tried to keep my parts as simple as possible to get a real ‘Alchemic Sound.’
Speaking of ‘Alchemy’…. I was given creative freedom to come up with my part for this piece of music and suddenly came in mind of a piece of music I hadn’t heard since I was a child. Living in rural south west Scotland for most of my childhood, my parents were avid gardeners and stalwart viewers of Gardener’s World, not least because former presenter ‘Geoffrey Smith’ was a family friend. An unbelievably tedious piece of television to a young child, one thing always stuck in my mind, the theme tune! During the late 80’s and 90’s, this was provided by the fingerstyle guitar group ‘Acoustic Alchemy’ with the instrumental piece ‘Natural Elements.’
There was always something perfect in the positioning of this song as the theme for a show such as this. It sounds as the name implies, ‘natural’ and the techniques used in composing and layering multiple guitars works incredibly well. Steel string and Classical guitar play the main melody while accompanied by percussion. The guitar parts are simple yet layered in such a way as to portray a complex combination of phases.