In this video, Matt walks you through his chord-melody arrangement of “Singin’ In The Rain,” with some cool variations.
In this six-lesson course, Matt explores some of his favorite songs from a variety of sources: jazz, folk, country, and 1960s pop music. He shows you how focusing on these great songs can help you learn to improvise through chord changes, master the fingerboard, expand your knowledge of music theory, and more. This workshop series is designed for intermediate-to-advanced guitarists.
Matt has this to say about his workshop:
While I’ve gotten to play alongside many virtuosos that I admire, the repertoire and path of the virtuoso was never what I was focussed on—it’s not what spurred my development as a guitarist. The one thing that’s kept me coming back, kept me curious, motivated, and moving forward in my guitar playing is the song: the melodies, harmonies, and yes, even lyrics, to the countless songs that have taken possession of me since childhood. A song might do this only utilizing the mountain-stream melody of a nursery rhyme, or it might employ the rigorous architecture of a Harold Arlen blues opus. It doesn’t matter; once I’m inside a song (or vice versa?) the musical, lyrical, and emotional center of the song is where I turn to find meaning, and its shape is where I hang my improvisations. The mystery of a song’s special magic provokes my tinkering, and this impacts my guitar playing, prompting discoveries that help my soloing and my accompaniment. This is true whether I’m playing jazz, folk, rock or country, whether I’m using a pick or playing fingerstyle. There are many things my relationship with the song—as opposed to ”the lick” or “the scale” or “the chord”—helped me with.
Have you been hoping to find the secrets to “improvising through chord changes”? Many of the answers are right there in the melodies of hundreds of songs you can probably already sing. Do you want to understand “theory” so that it's more than theoretical? Theory becomes settled truth when you delve into the popular songs of the first half of the 20th century, so learning more and of these songs can be a productive way to internalize theory’s teachings. Do you want to better understand (“unlock”) the fretboard? Learning how to accompany a sung folk song is a well-trod gateway for the beginner guitarist, but guitarists of every level will quickly find themselves in fretboard territory they’d never thought to visit once they push themselves to become more accomplished accompanists of popular melodies. Do you find yourself stuck, lost, or searching for ideas when taking a solo? Reaching back to the conversational lyricism found in plain-spoken blues and folk songs can help keep you anchored to the shore. Ultimately there is such a wide range of instrumental technique, and so much musical understanding—not to mention cultural and creative perspective—that my musical voice wouldn’t benefit from, if not for my loving and constant chasing down of songs!
Fortunately, my working life, both as a side person and a bandleader, lets me engage with a rangy songbook that blithely crisscrosses the North American continent with no regard for borders, geographical terrain, or era. So we’re gonna grow our guitar playing by looking at all kinds of songs, as we learn my own arrangements of both the very famous and very not-famous songs. We’ll be getting inside a personally curated set of compositions, as we learn what makes them tick and what lessons we can take away to improve our chordal playing, our soloing, and perhaps even our own songwriting.
I hope this unique course will excite you as much as it does me!
Matt talks about his course "The Song According to Matt Munisteri"
In the first session of The Song According to Matt Munisteri, Matt starts with one of the most indelibly ingrained and iconic melodies we all share: “You Are My Sunshine.”
In the second session of The Song According to Matt Munisteri, Matt once again looks at a very familiar song: the iconic “Singin’ In The Rain” with an emphasis on learning how to learn a song.
For the third class, Matt looks at the classic Carter Family song “Wildwood Flower,” a composition that he says, “could easily stand as ‘the ur-American folksong!” He uses its melody to talk about the relationships between thirds, sixths, tenths, and thirteenths as he applies them to a straightforward harmonization. Then he looks at ways of harmonizing the melody so that each phrase points clearly to its resolution. This is not only a useful exercise in harmony; understanding the “forward motion” of a song is essential to improvising. Finally he shows you a “whimsical fantasia” that “swaddles this folk melody in a veritable spa treatment of rhapsodic harmonies.”
For the fourth episode of “The Song, According to Matt Munisteri,” Matt works with the immensely popular song “Tennessee Waltz”, a song that has had its form shaped by countless artists. Matt says, “After we learn a universal template of the tune, we’ll work on ways of phrasing the melody, so that your instrument can become the singer. In the process we’ll identify and learn to exploit all those elastic ‘in between notes’ and then harmonize our variations appropriately.
For the fifth session of The Song, According to Matt Munisteri, Matt fast-forwards to the 1960s to look at the Brian Wilson song “In My Room.” He says, “This song was never a big hit like many other Beach Boys tunes, but it’s still a winner, and has a lot to teach us about basic inversions and diatonic harmony. Plus it’s got one beautiful example of an inner-voiced harmony that really makes the tune. We’re going to learn an arrangement in the key of A that attempts to bring some of the Beach Boys’s lush-and-layered harmonies to the guitar!” He also revisits the verse to ‘Singing in the Rain,’ this time showing you a chord melody version, and does some more work on triad inversions and fingerings that allow for smooth transitions.
For the final session of The Song According to Matt Munisteri, you’ll learn a song by the iconic singer and songwriter Hank Williams. Matt says “Hank really walked the line between folk and pop music; his songs are often full of melodies that, to my ears, are just begging for some intriguing harmonies to flesh out the musical movement.”