African Tsapiky (Madagascar) Guitar Lesson & Downloadable TAB – 20

The video above is an African fingerstyle tsapiky piece. If you would like to study and play the tune the way I did, just download the tab at the bottom of this post! While I mentioned above that it’s an African guitar tune, actually tsapiky is a music genre from Madagascar. That puts the whole thing into a different perspective. It’s because just as the population of the island is an interesting blend of Austronesian and African Bantu peoples, the music seems to reflect this mixture as well. And by mixture, I pretty much mean a 50-50% ratio, at least in the case of most genres. Except tsapiky (aka tsapika). You may have noticed that the song above is quite similar to soukous. Okay, it’s very similar. While such close resemblance doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, our example just happens to be that way. Nonetheless, tsapiky always had a strong musical influence coming from the African continent, mainly from South Africa. The song is written and played in C major, with the chords I-V-IV-V repeating all the way through.

Syncopate Across The Bar Lines

Yup, our Malagasy tune is quite heavily syncopated. If you look at the tablature, the accents are happening above the bar lines, starting just before them. At the end of each phrase, there’s a double stop indicating the harmony. Make sure that you find a fingering that enables you to land on these dyad harmonies even if you choose not to use mine; especially the 1st such dyad is critical, because it requires a hand position change. Between and before these phrase endings, there are single melody lines. The difficulty in this part is that sliding note, first seen in measure 2. To get it right, you really have to execute the slide accurately and apply enough fretting force.

Double Stop Heaven & Picking Economy

guitar tab example

While we already had two double stops in the 1st section, the 2nd part is full of them. African (and Latin American) guitar music often uses this musical device to imply harmony, because it doesn’t take up much space frequency-wise, and it can be played at high speed relatively easier, compared to thicker chord voicings. The double stops in this section are close intervals. Even the first cluster of them is quite challenging, this phrase that appears in measure 9 first is quite tricky to get right in tempo. To be able to do so, and to play it with ease, you have to find a certain way of picking with as little effort as possible. This economy of picking – especially if you play fingerstyle with fingerpicks & a thumb pick – will come handy when you want to apply it to any other style. I tried to indicate it in the tab that sometimes you can even get away with only playing just the bottom note of the double stop, letting the top note(s) ring out from the previously played one. This technique still allows you to sound all of the necessary notes without getting bogged down in an uncomfortable picking pattern, and it also keeps the rhythmic pattern going. The song ends with partially arpeggiated major triads.

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