Basic Guitar Questions

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 -


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  • Hi Gav, well we guitarists like our open strings for most styles, they're easier to play and you get more sound from E, A, G and D just because of the way the instrument is tuned so any of those keys (go easy on the chromatics) for general usage works well for most players.

    But you mention jazz so now we're in the deep end of the pool and jazz as you know likes lots of different keys. Anyone who plays jazz will have to deal with the horn keys, Bb, Eb and Ab for sure and any other key is fair game but really it depends on the ability of the player.

    Guitarists tend to get familiar with chord charts but single line readers are more rare, something to think about.

    You might ask what tunes your friend knows, likes and is familiar with and then analyze those for guidance.

    Sounds like fun, please post if you get a chance!

  • Hi Ingo,

    Excellent tips, very helpful, thanks so much! It's really just an informal house party, so I don't know if it will produce anything that fits in with posting here, but if it does, I will certainly do so!


  • Most accessible keys are C, G, D, E, A, Em, Am, Dm, but she can always use a capo, which allows you to play in the more usual piano keys of Eb, Ab, Bb, etc.


  • Hi John,

    Thanks, that's useful information! I've seen capos before but never knew what to call them, now I do -


  • Hey Gav, forgot to mention, for scoring, guitar sounds one octave lower than written.

  • Thanks again Ingo! Great to tap into knowledgeable brains!

  • Capos are a neat tool. They have different ones now, partial capos, adjustable capos (they clamp different strings depending on how they are set), even digital capos (a floor pedal) that can change keys or tunings on the fly. No AI yet though, sorry.

    I used to play with a guy who would slide his capo in the middle of a song and stay in tune, he was pretty good at it.

    But like anything else capo use takes practice and you don't try one at the last minute unless you're really talented :)

  • Thanks Bob and Ingo, I have heard only a little of her music, but I think she has a good, simple style (she performs in a band). I'm going to probably write a spare chord progression with a little bit of melody here and there, but basically a jam in 3/4 or 4/4. Appreciate your suggestions!


  • Better have some Xmas tunes ready if this is a holiday party, you know you'll have requests!

  • Getting together a small concert of Jazz versions of X-mas tunes!

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