Watch the Arranging Melodies online guitar lesson by Tony McManus from The Celtic Journeyman

I want to illustrate some of these ideas in context. I want to arrange a melody that’s so familiar and so mundane that you’re not going to think about the melody but about the ideas the chords and the concepts the go into it. So......we’re going to arrange “happy birthday” in the key of D.

So, there’s the first line....a couple of ways of doing it- and again, we are arpeggiating the chords. There’s a little progression direct from the scale we talked about. Note- the melody has to be front and centre, as trivial as that melody is. The melody is what we are arranging- we’re not playing chords, we are using chords to accompany a melody.

Very often in this tuning I’ll use the open second string which is a B so you have an Asus chord. In first position it has no third. Here it does- there’s the C#. It’s a very attractive voicing I use a lot in arranging the type of ballads we’re going to look at.

We are going to look at melodies a bit more interesting than “Happy Birthday” but try to pick something very familiar and arrange it in this way- arpeggiating chords underneath, having a walking bass line- and, again, you can use hammer on/ pull off, little grace notes etc. to get from one chord to the next to make the arrangements more interesting.