How do i start making my own arrangements for basically any song i hear in finger style? I know people do this by ear, but does knowing music theory help or is it just by ear? Been playing guitar for about a year and I have mostly been using tabs which has been boring these last few days. I want to start arranging my own songs and have been thinking about learning theory. I have done some searching but no where does it tell me how theory is used to arrange a song so please help. Any advice is appreciated.

I'm thinking about getting: Building Guitar Arrangements from the Ground Up by Muriel Anderson. Anyone know if ill be able to understand it or will i need some background in music theory?
Last edited by Darkn3ss99 at Mar 2, 2014,
Very simply put (as I'm by no means an expert) I just find the basic chords which are going on in the background. You then need to be able to move those chords up and down the neck to different positions depending on the melody. Music theory isn't really necessary, you just need to understand how to build chords in different positions, or at least be very familiar with chords shapes all up and down the neck.

i.e. If you want to play a note from the melody line up on the 7th fret, there's no point using an open chord shape.

A song which I learned very early on which helped me understand the logistics moving the fingers around to produce an independent melody line is Tommy Emmanuel's 'Blue Moon'. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0IY3Ax2PkY

I learned a very basic version of that, just the basic chords with the melody line. I'm not saying you have to learn that song- any simple fingerpicking song with an independent melody would work fine.

This will help you get started and once you have the basics down you'll find it much easier to progress. Once you understand how you move through chords while continuing a melody, it will become a lot more natural to you.
Read these.
That will get you started on music theory. It's a lot easier to know music theory than struggle along trying to understand why certain things occur (IMO).
Just to add to the section about knowing chords up and down the neck- ideally you need to know the notes up and down the neck (or at least be able to work it out). You need to keep the melody notes as close to the chord you're playing as you can, so sometimes that's going to involve moving the chord and other times it's going to involve moving the note.
That leads me to another question. How do i figure out the chords to a song? and say what if i want to arrange someones else finger-style arrangement?How do i figure out the chords then?
Last edited by Darkn3ss99 at Mar 3, 2014,
Quote by Darkn3ss99
That leads me to another question. How do i figure out the chords to a song? and say what if i want to arrange someones else finger-style arrangement?How do i figure out the chords then?

You need the skill sets. What do you honestly expect that right now, given the time you've played, your level of understanding on the guitar, and your understanding of the basics, do you have the skills to start figuring out chords? Do you have a trained, practiced ear? Have you been exposed to and played lots of compositions in lots of styles? How many fingerstyle pieces have you learned, played, and executed well, and understand their compositional aspects?

You need skills to perform things that use those skills.

For me, I look at the melody, analyze the key, understand the attending chords of the key, listen to the musical direction and feel, for example, "does the melody feel like the chord at a certain place is major or minor"? Then I decide upon any similar styles or variations of other pieces I know, as to form the music backdrop, or template or vibe I want to go for. Am I going strictly alternating bass, for example? Am I using any particular rhythmic elements? All of these are based upon my skill sets.

In the end I decide if these choices, support the melody, extend it, or obscure it. Then I make choices on how the pieces fit as a whole.

For me, figuring chords, or even adapting a chord where the extensions fit the melody note at that point, is not a problem, because of my knowledge and skill sets and experience.

That's me. I can reasonably expect to be able to arrange. What about you? I cannot say. What have you invested yourself into, as far as being able to do this? Do you know diatonic harmony? Do you know and understand scales and their intervallic functions over a chord?


So should i learn music theory? I have been trying to memorize the notes on my guitar. I can almost recognize all the notes, just need a few more weeks of practice. Should i learn my scales?Will that help with what im trying to do?
^^^ Read the answers above mate, it's all there.

Basically music theory takes the guesswork out of the equation. If you are happy with a trial and error approach, music theory may not be for you.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.