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I'd like to arrange a song that doesn't have or has little guitar onto fingerstyle guitar. Finding individual notes is tedious but simple, but how do you find chords, especially when it's not even the same instrument? I often see people, on YouTube for example, arrange something like this onto piano or guitar. I realize that arranging a song is a difficult process, but I find it hard to believe that it's simply a guessing game to find the chords, as trying to guess individual notes is already a long and tedious process.

One way I can think of to do this is to just guess what sounds right, and while there are some people who do actually do that, there are many that make pretty accurate versions of the song they're arranging.

My confusion comes with the part after you identify the first notes. Okay, I've got the first few notes. Now what? How do I put this into a form that's friendly to fingerstyle guitar? How do I even make a chord out of this? Do I just create chords from the root note until I find one that sounds good or right? If so, how do I determine how many notes should be in the chord? I feel like the difficultly is logarithmically increasing each time I ask a question!

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  • You practice, and you get better at it. There's no trick. Start practicing immediately. Put away the computer, smartphone, apps, youtube, all of that. They don't help. Take an instrument like a guitar or piano. Using the chords C major and G major, find out how to accompany "Mary had a little lamb". You are not allowed to look at any computer screen or smartphone before you've tried to do that for one hour. Put all electronics away from you. In a separate room. One hour. Sep 11 at 7:34
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica: I think that ear-training apps can help with this problem, so I wouldn't damn all apps right away. However I agree that guessing or looking up the solution is no good here.
    – Ramillies
    Sep 11 at 8:25
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    Does this answer your question? How can I transcribe music by ear?. There are numerous other questions on how to transcribe, e.g. music.stackexchange.com/questions/46/…
    – PiedPiper
    Sep 11 at 8:31
  • @Ramillies - Makes me wonder how we managed before apps came to our rescue. But manage we did ! And do apps actually teach us anything, or merely do it for us?
    – Tim
    Sep 11 at 11:26
  • @Tim — well, perhaps you had another person do the thing that the app does for you? Like, if you wanted to practice interval recognition, another person would sit at the piano and play random intervals which you had to name? The app does just the same thing, the only difference is that you don't need the other person.
    – Ramillies
    Sep 11 at 12:18
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Experience. And, there's only one way to gain that. Know which harmonies and chords are likely to be the ones used in any particular key, have a good ear to listen out for secondary dominants. By starting with simple three chord songs, Happy Birthday comes as one, you can gently work through to more complex songs. Use those with fewer instruments and vocalists, as this will keep the waters clearer.

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  • I updated my question
    – Shidouuu
    Sep 12 at 2:18

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