How to play “Hiroshima child” on guitar

"Hiroshima child"
music (c) 2016 Farmboy (Antonio Bonifati)
lyrics (c) Nazim Hikmet (1901-1963)
distributed under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license


"I want every child in the world to sing and play this song, with any
 instrument he or she has, for this story to never repeat again."
    -Farmboy


GUITAR (more difficult version)

For the note list and lyrics please refer to the piano score. What
follows is actually a guitar playing lesson, the only one you will
need!

WARNING: this is for absolute beginners. This is for children, of
every physical and mental age. People who have never played a guitar
will feel at home here. Already accomplished musicians will probably
laugh if not get bored at these explanations, but they will surely
like the result.

This can be your first song on the guitar. You need only two strings
and two fingers! I want everybody, I repeat EVERYBODY to be able to
play this song on any guitar, be it classic (probably the easiest one
since it has a wider neck), folk, blues, electric, etc. You only need
to use the bottom 2 strings (the two highest in pitch), plus your
index and pinkie fingers.  Since this is a slow tune, a pick can be
used. Unless you have long nails, a pick will probably sound better
than your fingers. Use alternate picking when appropriate (e.g.
between fast notes when you reach a note from below use an up pick; if
you reach it from above, use a down pick and alternate picking between
fast notes played on the same string) . Strum down the diads gently.
Long single Re's at the end of a verse can be embellished with
vibrato: keeping the string pressed, quickly vibrate your whole hand
horizontally nearby the fretted point, but always rest behind the
fret. If you release pressure on the string or go beyond the fret, a
buzz sound will result.

In standard tuning here is how to finger all 5 notes used:

   1       3 or 4
Mi|Fa-|---|Sol|---| r
  |Do-|---|Re-|---| m
   1       3 or 4

You only need to use two fingers of the left hand: your index finger
(finger no. 1) for Do and Fa and your ring finger (finger no. 3) or
pinkie (finger no. 4) for Re and Sol. I prefer to use my pinkie
because when my hand is curled, I find it difficult to space up index
and ring finger a lot without moving the hand horizontally or rotating
it. My pinkie instead falls directly on the third fret without needing
any horizontal hand moviment. When fingering Re and Sol following a
Do, you may want to keep Do always pressed, so that you have a fixed
reference point, but also to spare movements if you next need to
finger Do again.  It would be easy to move your index finger down to
finger Fa and up to finger Do again, but it is easier and more precise
just to keep Do pressed and rotate down your index finger making it
flat to finger Fa. This also allows you to finger both Do and Fa (a
bichord or 2-note chord). No horizontal hand movement should be made.
I always do the latter and do not move my index finger at all. I only
lift it when I have to vibrate Re. Same if you have to switch from Fa
to Sol: you keep Fa pressed as a pivot point and to spare movements in
case you have to finger Fa again next.
 
While playing you can glance at the fretboard from above and at the
score every now and then, until you feel confident and won't need it
anymore. As a matter of fact, after a while everything will go into
your muscle memory and you should be able to play the song without
thinking of it, even if it is pitch dark. You may want to try that! At
this point you have learned the "movements" and note names are not
useful anymore. One child can teach the movements needed to play the
song to another directly on the guitar without any need for a score.

PS: If you play and sing in front of a room corner, you will also get
a nice echo effect.

Here is how I play this song in details. Beware this is the way I
play, it may not suit everybody, it may be theoretically wrong, but it
does the job well and easily for me, at least in this song. If you
know a simpler and better way, let me know. I am always open to
change if for the better.

I start with three notes fretted: with my index finger I bar Do and
the Fa below it at the first fret and also fret Sol at the third fret
with my pinkie.

  |Fa-1|----|Sol4|---|
  |Do-1|----|----|---|

Without moving the left hand or any of its fingers, this initial
position allows me do play the first note (a single Do), the following
bichord (Do,Sol) (simply by strumming down) and the next note (a
single Sol). Use a down or up pick, following by a down strum and an
up pick.  For chords played on the bottom strings, I find easier to
use downward strumming, because you can stop further away without the
risk of hitting unwanted strings above. Moreover I think downward
strum sound better, because highest notes come a little later in time,
so the chord sound builds up in a beautiful way.

I prefer to use a thin pick (.60 mm). I hold the pick with my pointer
and middle finger and my thumb. The conventional way is between index
finger and thumb, but it is not comfortable for me. You better try
different methods to hold the pick and use what it is more comfortable
for you, although I didn't. I just found natural and stable to hold
the pick with my first three fingers quite elongated, with the thumb
straight and the other two fingers joined below and only a bit bended,
so that they form a long narrow and long empty empty. My right elbow
rests on top of the guitar, my picking hand falls naturally bended and
I rotate it to achieve up and down picks. I keep the pick at an angle,
not straight, as most people told me to do. For a down pick or strum I
tilt so the tip hitting the strings is higher then the wide end where
you grip it, for an up pick o strum, I tilt it in the opposite way. I
can only strum gently this way.

Then I lift my pinkie, keeping my index barred and strum down the
Do,Fa diad, followed by a single up-picked Fa. Then I rotate my index
finger up, so to unfret Fa but keeping Do pressed and strum down the
Do,Mi bichord.

Mi|----|----|----|---|
  |Do-1|----|----|---|

Now a Re follows, which is on the same string of Do. I pick it upwards.

Both right and left movements should be minimized when playing the
guitar. This is the key to play guitar well and it makes playing much
easier as well! Another trick is to never lift your hand from the
guitar, so you loose any reference point on it and you may not fret
right the note that comes next.

For instance now you may release Do, but I prefer to keep it pressed
as a pivot point and play the Re with my pinkie hammered onto the
third fret:

  |----|----|----|---|
  |Do-1|----|Re-4|---|

Then I really have to lift my index from Do, because I have to play Re
again (down picked, so to altenate picking on the same string), but
this time vibrated. I have to lift my index finger since I quickly
wobble horizontally my whole hand leaving only the pinkie well pressed
against the fretboard (so the thumb at the back is not on the neck).
Since this is a long note, you can begin to vibrate it just after
having picked it.  That is my vibrato. It feels like being a blues boy
(B.B.), much like B.B. King was! BTW, to me, he is the greatest guitar
player of all times.

That's the end of the first verse. Then I down-pick Do again with my
index and keep it fretted for the next notes Re (up-pick) and Mi
(down-pick), because it then follows Do,Fa (down-strum), which requires
me only to make my index finger flatter and push it downwards. I keep
this bichord pressed and fret Sol with my pinkie (up-pick), because
the next one is again a Do,Fa, so I just have to release the pinkie
and strum down.
Keeping Do pressed, I release Fa in order to up-pick a Mi (first
string open), then I release Do and use my pinkie for another
down-picked long vibrato Re.

Unless you are doing hand-vibrato (see below) be sure to keep your
thumb pressed at the back of the neck, at about the center. E.g. when
your index has to press Do only, it has to fall about perpendicularly,
or it will mute the lower Mi (E) string. When switching from a flat
(barred) to a curled pointed index, you need to rotate enough, let's
say almost 90°, so that the lower Mi (E) string is freed and your
index finger is not touching it anymore.

Whenever you don't get a good sound, freeze your hand and look at it:
look at your fingers positions, try to play each string and if it
buzzes it may be because either you are not fretting hard enough, you
are fretting on the metal frets and not just before them or there
is another finger touching it or your fingers fall at a too slanted
angle or even a combination of some of these problems. Correct the
problem(s) on the fly and try again. I know it may be difficult, it
takes practice, but it is not impossible. If other people can play the
guitar, you can do it too. Nobody is special, we are all the same.
Just approach it as game, with the ingenuity of children (in both
senses). It doesn't have to be a sacrifice, a painfully hard work. No,
you won't become good with pain. You have to make music for pleasure,
not pain. Do not worry of mistakes, but also do not ignore them
without doing anything to fix them. As long as you understand what it
is wrong, you will be able to make it right, so try hard to understand
your error and the problems of today will go away tomorrow. Remember
the most important thing of all: we learn by mistakes. Without
mistakes there would be no learning and no great discoveries as well.

Third verse is the same as the first, so again you begin by barring
your index and position your pinkie in preparation for 3 notes as
before.  Fourth verse is the same as the second, so nothing new. You
have learned half of the song so far. Practice it many times and it
will become automatic. Practise today until you have enough of it. I
bet if you try it out again tomorrow, you will be much better at it.
Muscle memory won't develop until you play it again the next day and
the next again. Once you can play a song in the dark or blindfolded,
you can also play it on stage with million of people watching you and
for how shiny and trembling you may be because of that, you won't play
a single note wrong. Do not think about your audience. They do not
exist. Get in the song mood and play and sing expressively. There are
no fixed note lenghts. The only thing you have to coordinate with is
your voice. This song is one note per syllable and that makes very
easy to play and sing at the same time. It just comes natural, once
you can play fast enough, you do not need any special training for
that. Take advantage of rests to breathe well, filling up the bottom
of your lungs. And exhale air by tightening the muscles of your belly.

Now to the second stanza: first verse is the same as the second verse
of the first stanza. On the second verse there is a variation. After
Do, Re Mi, (Do,Fa) which you already now how to play, you have to play
Sol two times instead of one. Easy enough, but to save energy be sure
to use alternate picking: first Sol up, second Sol down. And keep
Do,Fa pressed with your index while you fret Sol with your pinkie,
because after that you need to up-pick a single Fa and then, by rotating
your hand and unfretting Fa with this rotation, without lifting Do,
you will down-strum a Do,Mi bichord. Third verse is the usual finger
ballet, same as the first. Last verse of second stanza changes, but
nothing you can't handle: after Do, Re, Mi, (Do,Fa), there is Sol as
in the second verse, but last three notes are different: you do not
duplicate Sol but down-pick a single Fa. then you rotate your hand and
play not a (Do,Mi), but a single Mi (up-pick), then you rotate your
hand again in the opposite direction so that your index is now flat on
both Do and Fa again and you can down-strum the (Do,Fa) bichord.

As you can see, once you have learned the first stanza, the second one
should be easy. Just a few variations! It will probably take you only
one day. The music of the first two stanzas just repeats for the other
two ones.

You can also make an intro to the song, just played, not sung. Here is
mine. I have just alternated variations of the second verse, nothing
new, bar a couple of new licks which are not in the song itself (I
have just inverted the last two notes). A tilde (~) notates vibrato.
Note you can't vibrate an open string, because you can't fret past the
guitar nut.

   Do      Do    Do
Do Sol Sol Fa Fa Mi Re Re~

         Do     Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi Re~ (2 times)

         Do            Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Sol Fa Mi

         Do     Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi Re~

         Do     Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Re Mi (new lick)

         Do     Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi Re~

         Do        Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Fa Mi (new lick)

         Do     Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi Re~

         Do    (Do)   Do
Do Re Mi Fa Sol Fa Mi Fa

The song can be also made by always strumming down the bottom 2 (or
even the bottom 3) strings. You can use the same left hand fingering
for this more strummed down version. It is a good idea to alternate
two 2-string version stanzas with two 3-string version stanzas, so to
build and release tension. For a song like this you should not overdo
with chords and use a few strummings only, anyway any version you make
is welcomed and I would be glad to hear it. Remember, my music is
licensed under Creative Commons, it is fully open-score and thus it is
not only mine, but yours too.
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