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Hi all,

I have a friend who's coming to visit and is bringing her guitar. I want to write some tunes for us to play together (I am a pianist). She has indicated that C, A-, and G are good keys for her to work with. She plays light salsa/latin, and jazz. Looking for any tips about composing for guitar. Any other good keys? Any bad ones? Also, I tend to stray from the tonal center, should I stick more to key to keep it easier for her. Any tips appreciated -

Gav

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Thanks H. S.!

It's going to be mostly strumming and perhaps some light singing over a latin beat. I may write some simple melodies. I feel like my knowledge of guitar has increased encyclopediodically! I appreciate your and everyone else's comments!

Gav

If it's mainly going to be strumming, I'd say stick to the basic chords (the "easy" list: C, G, D, A, E, Em, Am, Dm, etc..), modulo whatever capo setting you wish to have. So basically transpose the easy list up by n semitones, for some choice of n.  Throwing in a few harder chords once in a while should be no problem for a good guitarist; just don't write a long unbroken stretch of bar chords and you should be fine.  Some of the simpler bar chords like F#m, Gm, Bm, should also be pretty easy to manage for a good guitarist, so I'd exclude those from the "hard" list.

Or consult a chord chart (preferably a jazz chord chart if that's the style you're going to be using) and go from there. There are probably many modified jazz chords that would actually be easily fingered on guitar, even if the chord might normally seem complex or obscure at first glance.

@Bob: that's a good trick.

Here's another trick you can do in a C major cadence: G (2,3,4) - G7 (1,2,3) - [shift 1 to C on B string] C/G - [release 1, hold D on B string with 4].  Gives you a nice G-F-E-D descending scale before the resolution to C.

A long time ago I did a couple of gigs with an arranger who had a small rubber ink stamp that would print a blank fret board pattern on to an existing score wherever he wanted to put it. Then he'd use a highlighter to mark chords or even single notes. It was easy to read and we could follow the rest of the score too, worked pretty well for quick arrangements.

Surely modern notation software should be able to print fret board diagrams in the score?

My notation program can; I'd expect Finale / Sibelius ought to have this feature too.

You are absolutely correct H.S. but as my post said this was done before we had such conveniences. 

The modern equivalent of course would be to give a guitarist a computer generated score with easy to read fret diagrams designed by the arranger to provide specific chord voicings rather than have the guitarist strum whatever they wanted to. With piano and possibly more than one guitar playing the arrangement, carefully voiced easy two-string chords are often more effective than full six string chords.

I should have explained that.
 
H. S. Teoh said:

Surely modern notation software should be able to print fret board diagrams in the score?

My notation program can; I'd expect Finale / Sibelius ought to have this feature too.

That's a great idea Bob, Gav should get one for his friend as a Christmas present!
 
Bob Porter said:

Or the guitarist reads the score from his tablet, which he controls with a foot switch. No music stand lite. How many times have we had to fumble to find the switch to turn off the lite for some special effect during the show in which we are playing in the pit band. 

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