creating arrangements

Here are two more interesting emails I have got lately.

I hope you find the emails and my thoughts useful…

Today we are talking about my thoughts on getting a guitar and how to create your very own song arrangements.

Let’s go…


Email #1

“Hi Dan

I am ready…well almost as I still have to buy my first guitar! I am thinking basic nylon strings but good quality. We have an excellent guitar shop in our area so will be visiting them. Any other advice you can give me on that would be appreciated.    

I signed up to your course because I am an older person at 62 who has never played before, but it is something I have always wanted to do. When I read that you had also taught people with disabilities you definitely got my attention as I have multiple spinal issues plus essential tremors though only mild at this time.”




I’m glad Rob is here as everyone should focus on good technique and, of course…

If you have physical issues, this is even more important.

In terms of guitar buying, to start with, I would go to the shop, pick the brains of the shop assistant, and try out 10 different guitars.

Ideally, you’d have a guitar at home you could borrow or get your hands on for a few days.

That way you can learn one chord and one super simple riff or melody.

This will give you something to play to test the guitars out in the shop.


The thing is, all guitars are unique to each player.

Some guitars will feel more comfortable to you than they will for me.

A guitar I love may be one you hate or vice versa.

We all have different lengths and sizes of hands, fingers, and arms, of course.

Also, be aware, the first guitar you buy might not be the one that you fall in love with.

It may be that in 3-12 months you may want to go back and try out more guitars and possibly buy another or part exchange the first guitar.

It took me years of playing, buying, and testing out many guitars to find the ideal one for me.

Okay, next email…


Email #2

“Regarding my yearly plan:

Aside from learning 3 new songs and getting my song list to the point that I can play each one smoothly and musically (ha-ha – a bigger challenge than learning 3 new ones!), I would love to get to the point (eventually – not this year) where I could work out my own simple arrangements.

I haven’t got far yet with Kathy’s Song, which you gave me some pointers on last year, so I’ll look at that first as you’ve given me a head start.

But I’m wondering what skills It’d be best to focus on to work towards this goal of making arrangements – learning the fretboard, for example? Improving theory? I’m almost finished working through the Fingerstyle 101 fingerpicking patterns…

Any ideas welcome, thanks Dan.




People often overcomplicate this.

In terms of creating your own arrangements, it’s best to keep things simple.

If you have well-trained ears, decent knowledge of theory, and know where some of the notes are on the fretboard, that will help.

That’s just a bonus though.

The key thing is getting started.

I’ve created tonnes of arrangements over the years and I pretty much start each one by doing this:

Step 1 – Learn the melody.

Step 2 – Work out the chords.

Step 3 – Take a bass note from the chord and play it alongside the melody.


These steps will give you the melody, the correct harmony, and will make the piece sound rich and full.

I do this section by section for the song.

Later, I’ll fill in the gaps with some embellishments and riffs – and that’s where you can really go to town with this.

…But you can have a tonne of fun with only steps 1-3, as mentioned above.

Most of the time, you just need to get started and then fill in the blanks as you go.

That’s what I did with the Tom Dooley Travis Picking arrangement which is on sale this week.

It’s a really fun piece to play that highlights this process in action.

To hear the arrangement, you can do so on the link below:

Listen to and find out more about the Tom Dooley Mini Masterclass


Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination


P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

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