This West African tutorial will make you fingerstyle guitar purists satisfied. Make sure you click the button below to get the tab, so you can start learning the piece. Our current assouf song has a couple of interesting features. First of all, it’s a modal piece. The tab/sheet music is notated in C major, but its tonality is not really C major or other keys for that matter. It’s more like a melody line harmonized or accompanied by different parallel intervals. The intervals used in the tune are fifths, ninths (2nds up an octave) and twelfths (5ths an octave higher). Parallelism means that the moving melody lines keep the same intervallic distance all the way through. This parallel motion is a characteristic of all kinds of different African music genres, including our West African example. Another key element is the way these intervals are played separately in a successive manner, not at the same time. This way, one can define not only the melodic and harmonic movement, but also the rhythmic structure as well. You can hear similar things played by West African kora musicians. The parallel melodic & rhythmic movement of two separate voices also results in the piece being polyphonic.
Shuffle Time & Delayed Power Chords
The above title describes the first part of the song perfectly. Since you sort of arpeggiate the two notes of these 5ths, you aren’t really getting the kind of sound you would get in a rock guitar piece playing power chords. Delaying the pulse of the upper line by an 8th note gives a peculiar groove to this music. And if you check the tablature, these 8th notes have to be played with a triplet feel, sort of like a blues shuffle, a Celtic reel or even swing feel (they are all slightly different, but let’s not get too nitpicky). Ever wondered where swing came from? 😉
Steady Patterns – Let ‘Em Ring!
On paper, all you have to do is play simple intervals, but can you keep it going? Playing this style requires the persistence and endurance of a drummer or percussionist. Keeping these patterns going in a steady way means you are required to be in the roles of both a rhythm and a lead guitarist. If you choose to play with fingerpicks and a thumb pick, you get some help. These devices help you play more effortlessly and quicker. They of course have their dreaded learning curve, but you’re not the kind who gives up, right? Pay attention to letting the bottom notes ring while you play the top ones, in all three parts of the song. This way the dyads you play achieve their goal and imply the harmonies properly.