Art Edelstein is a guitarist,
writer, and the author of the
Celtic Fngerstyle Guitar website.
He interviewed me briefly in 2000. - G.W.
An Interview with Celtic Fingerstyle Arranger Glenn Weiser
Glenn Weiser has arranged hundreds of Celtic
melodies for fingerstyle guitar. (See my other reviews of his books in
the Celtic book section following this interview.) Recently, two of his
books of arrangements were published. They are: Celtic Encyclopedia
Fingerstyle Guitar Edition (Mel Bay96985) and Celtic Guitar By Glenn
Weiser (Warner Bros. 0439b) which comes with a CD of the arrangements.
Both books are worth having in your music library. Glenn arranges for
standard tuning and dropped D tuning although Celtic Guitar has some
pieces in DADGAD. I conducted an interview with Glenn recently.
What is your musical background?
I studied classical guitar all through high
school, and took music theory there also. Later, I continued to study
harmony and counterpoint independently by buying textbooks on those
subjects in used bookstores, and cross-referencing them when I wrote my
What interested you in doing arrangements?
I started arranging for guitar when I studied
ragtime with fingerstyle virtuoso Eric Schoenberg in New Jersey in
1971-2. After that, I arranged anything I thought would make for a good
guitar piece-I have a book a of Christmas carols out as well as
unpublished Joplin rags, Tin Pan Alley tunes, Sousa marches, and all
kinds of oddball stuff. As for Celtic guitar, I looked at what was in
print in the 1970’s and decided to try something different, which was
writing arrangements with bass lines and inner voices that adhered to
the rules of harmony yet still had a folk flavor. All the published
Celtic arrangements before mine were done by unschooled players with
folk music backgrounds. While the arrangers themselves were great
guitarists, I felt that better music could be had by using harmony in my
arrangements. Why have you stayed with standard tuning instead of
altered tunings other than the Dropped D you use? Why switch? Standard
tuning was developed over centuries for a reason, and it and dropped D
are still the best in my mind for arranging for the guitar. The strings
are at full tension (with the exception of the sixth in dropped D, of
course) and have the most brilliance. I also must admit that my
familiarity with standard tunings made arranging easier because I know
where all the harmonies are. Also, in dropped D you can have a G chord
with the root in the bass on the fifth fret, sixth string, and the high
third (B) on the seventh fret of the first string. In DADGAD the high
third is moved up to the ninth fret, which requires a greater stretch.
For “Celtic Guitar,” though, Warner Brothers wanted some DADGAD
arrangements to enhance the appeal of the book, given that tuning’s
preeminence in Celtic music. I agreed with their viewpoint and was happy
to arrange some pieces this way. I found there are some sonorities that
you can get with DADGAD that are unavailable in standard, so I may well
explore it further.
do you have for others who want to arrange melodies they find?
Study harmony, and learn to write simple diatonic
bass lines. Use inner voices in the airs and marches. Avoid the rough
sound of parallel fifths and octaves on one hand, and the excesses of
heavily chromatic bass lines on the other-that’s where Haydn and
Beethoven got into trouble with their Celtic arrangements.
Do you perform your arrangements? Any CDs
other than in the book? Further projects?
I play in a traditional Celtic duo called Byrne
and Barrett with Greg Schaaf, an immensely talented singer, piper, and
whistle player. Those are our Irish clan names, by the way. I’m also
working on a debut guitar CD which will feature arrangements from my
books as well as material Greg and I perform.
- Art Edelstein