Rick Foster Articles

Rick Foster began writing articles for Fingerstyle Guitar magazine from the first issue. Each issue included both printed arrangements and a CD of the music from each column as performed by the arranger. Since many of Rick's thoughts about playing and arranging for the guitar contain helpful tips and information for guitar players, we will include some of these articles on this page.

Breathing New Life into Traditional Hymns

by Rick Foster
This article first appeared in Vol. 1, No. 1 of Fingerstyle Guitar magazine, 1993.
Featured arrangement: "He Is Born the Divine Christ Child" from the Season of Joy album

Even though I canít explain where God came from, I canít buy the theory that my ancestors were some sort of amoeba that resulted from a freak flash of lightning and then crawled out of the slime and evolved into me. I find it hard to believe that the planets orbit in such precision, that birds migrate with perfect timing and accuracy, or that our brains function more efficiently than any computer, all by accident. Therefore, I believe in the existence of God and also believe that music should bring glory to God and joy to others. As J. S. Bach said, "The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit." This belief, plus a love for sacred music, eventually led me into a career of performing, transcribing, and arranging sacred music for solo guitar. The amount of interest shown for these arrangements has been very encouraging. This column will feature fingerstyle arrangements of both classical and gospel styles of sacred music.

Iíve always wondered why more has not been done in the field of arranging hymns, spirituals, and other sacred music for the guitar. My only conclusion is that most guitarists are not religious, which is probably true, but beside the point. Even though there are now several of us around who play hymns, this is a fairly recent development. The arrangements now available were not available 15 years ago. When I recorded my first collection of hymns, entitled Hymns for Classic Guitar, Christopher Parkening listened to it, and commented that if he hadnít heard the album, he wouldnít have dreamed that hymns could be made to sound interesting on the guitar. He has subsequently recorded several of my arrangements and released an album of sacred music, the first ever by a major concert guitarist. The great wealth of sacred music is finally being tapped by fingerstyle guitarists and could very well yield some of the best music ever played on the guitar.

Since Christmas is just around the bend, and since it usually takes me several months to get a solo firmly enough embedded into my reflexes to feel semi-confident with the thought of having to perform it, I thought it might be wise to feature a carol in this monthís issue so youíll have plenty of time to get it ready for the holidays.

"He Is Born, the Divine Christ Child" is one of the most popular French carols and worked out quite well on the guitar. I decided to begin with a light, delicate feel and gradually build to a more powerful ending. This was accomplished by starting with single-note harmonics and gradually adding bass notes, harmony in thirds, lower bass notes, harmony in sixths, and finally, full harmony with broad strums. In measure 17, the upper notes of the last beat are played using a pull-off from the B to the A while simultaneously doing a slide with the 3rd finger from G to F# on the lower notes.

If you have trouble with a certain passage, ask your guitar teacher. If that fails, e-mail your question to music@rickfosterguitar.com.