Not long ago, Mary Flower sat down in her home, in Portland, Oregon, with her Fraulini Angelina and tuned the old-school-inspired guitar to dropped D. Though she wasn’t intending to compose something new, she soon found herself following a melodic thread that took unexpected twists and turns. “I wasn’t quite sure where it was all headed, but I kept after it until it made sense and I had two parts,” Flower says. “It wasn’t until months later when it was time to record it that I realized a third part was needed to complete the song.”
The completed piece for solo guitar—“Waltz”—is heard on Flower’s most recent album, Livin’ With the Blues Again. To play the composition, begin by getting into dropped D. If you’re unfamiliar with this tuning, it’s easy: from standard, just lower your sixth string down a whole step, to D, such that it sounds an octave below the fourth string.
Dropped D is most commonly used for pieces in the key of D major, where the tuning allows for a big-sounding open-D chord with a low D, but “Waltz” is in G major. As is evident in the notation, the composition requires quite a bit of the fretting hand. But the good news is that a bunch of the shapes are moveable, and so things should fall into place once they’re in your muscle memory. For instance, a diminished-seventh shape (fingers 1, 3, 2, and 4 on strings 4, 3, 2, and 1, respectively) is shifted to various locations, like first position in bar 2 and fourth position in bar 6, to form D7b sounds. And only one grip—an A minor shape (fingers 2, 3, and 1 on strings 4, 3, and 2)—is required for the D6–Db6–C6/D move in bar 12 and higher up the neck in measures 23 and 24.
Harmonic moves like these lend jazzy effects to this rootsy piece, and if you compare the album version of “Waltz” (the basis for this transcription) to the video Flower prepared for AG’s website, you’ll notice a bit of improvisation in the details. But Flower admits any connection to jazz here is purely coincidental. “I really have very little jazz vocabulary,” she says. “Most of the time I have no idea how the music comes from my fingertips while writing. It’s not like I’m going for some genre or sound. It just happens!”
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.