I recently had the pleasure of talking to guitarist and arranger Pete Huttlinger about his use of Sibelius. Pete is a storied instrumentalist who has played and toured with many of the greats, including John Denver. In addition to being an instrumentalist in high demand, Pete is also a prolific author of songbooks for which he writes his own arrangements. With his new book, Mandolin for Guitar Players, about to be released, and engraved completely in Sibelius, I caught up with Pete to ask him about his current projects, and how Sibelius helped him with the book.
DS: First of all, tell me about your new book, Mandolin for Guitar Players. How different is learning the mandolin if you’re already a guitarist?
PH: I’m primarily a guitar player but like most players here in Nashville, I double on a few instruments. Mandolin is something I’ve been into for several years and for the last two years, I’ve really been getting into it. I also like teaching so a book/CD set seemed a natural thing to do. I wanted to show lots of things that guitar players need to get into mandolin playing. Scales, chord shapes, and fingerings were the main things, and this is where Sibelius was really great.
If you’re already a guitarist some things transfer rather easily to mandolin. It’s a plectrum instrument so that part is already covered. Where it really gets tricky is learning the fingerings because the mandolin fretboard is so small. Guitar players are used to the “one finger per fret” rule. But on mandolin, one finger will cover two, and sometimes three, frets. Five-fret spreads for chords is natural and easy – but not so on guitar. So I put lots of scales and chords to show the logical fingerings used to cover them. And then there are 25 tunes in the book and on the CD covering bluegrass, old-time, and Celtic music – all great mandolin resources.
DS: How did you choose the tunes to arrange for your new book?
PH: I love fiddle tunes, so I chose tunes that are common fiddles tunes but also ones that are played a lot on mandolin. I wanted a nice variety so there are jigs, reels, bluegrass and a couple of jazz standards. A couple of them have a harmony part as well or what they call in the bluegrass world a “twin” part. They are all in friendly keys: G, D, A and their relative minors. They range from fairly simple to upper intermediate level.
DS: How did you find Sibelius helpful in the creation of your new book?
PH: Sibelius was extremely helpful in that I was able to create fingerboard diagrams for the scales and chord diagrams – lots of them – for the exercises. And with the help of John Hinchey I learned how to organize the pages so I could have just the diagrams or fingerboards showing and no staff lines, clefs or anything else on the page. It was very easy to do and once I learned it, it gave the book a look that took it to whole new level; not to mention, it’s much easier for the student to see what it is I want them to learn. I also like the fact that I can scroll quickly through the chord diagrams to find the fingering or shape that I want. That’s a serious time saver.
Creating the tablature from the music is something that I utilize often. It is so fast and easy to do that after about a week of using Sibelius, I never looked back at the program that I used to use. Also, being able to write my own keyboard shortcuts for functions that I use often was a big help. I don’t like having to go to a drop-down menu all the time, so I would set a shortcut for something like Create > Barline > Start Repeat and End Repeat and it really helped to streamline my time.
DS: Now that your book is finished, what’s your next project going to be?
PH: The big project in my future is one called McGuire’s Landing. It’s a story and CD of tunes based around one piece that I composed called McGuire’s Landing. Back when I played guitar for John Denver he hear the piece and said he wanted to write the lyrics so I told him what the music meant to me or rather, what pictures I had in my mind when I wrote it and he loved it. I’m finally getting around to finishing it. We’re doing a grass-roots fundraising campaign in order to fund this project. We’ve been getting great support so far. Anyone who is interested can learn more about it here or on Facebook. Art is expensive… but that’s because it’s worth it.
Thanks to Pete for taking the time to talk to me about his projects! If you’d like to buy Mandolin for Guitar Players, or any of Pete’s other books or CDs, you can do so from his online store.