An Interview with Glenn Weiser
By Art Edelstein

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 arrangements.

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I arranged anything I thought would make for a good guitar piece-I have a book a of Christmas carols out as well as unpublished Joplin rags, Tin Pan Alley tunes, Sousa marches, and all kinds of oddball stuff.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.

What suggestions 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


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