Playing Two Songs at Once

Warning: This post started out as a bit of fun and ended up breaking my brain.

Playing a Round Alone

I while back Guido Heistek posted a challenge to play a song in the round by yourself. A round is where the same melody is performed over itself with a different starting point. For example, in this three part round the first part starts then, two bars later, the second and, two bars later still, the third part.

It crops up in The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows. And almost in The Beatles’ Paperback Writer. The melody is slightly different the second time around. It goes like this:

For my shot at it, I went with the very simple London’s Burning. Here’s the melody by itself:

And here’s how it goes twice with an offset of two bars.

London’s Burning Round (Tab)

Playing Two Songs at Once

After doing a round, I thought I’d take things one step further and have a go at playing two different melodies at once (a “simultaneous quodlibet” if you want to use the technical term). You quite often get different melodies played over each other in modern music (such as Tori Amos’s Father Lucifer). Sometimes it forms the entire basis of the song like The Beta Band’s The House Song.

I went two songs with very simple melodies: When the Saints Go Marching In and She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain. With them both in the key of C, I’d play them individually like this:

Separate Melodies Tab

They actually fall quite nicely together on ukulele. Particularly if you take advantage of the re-entrant string and move some of the E-string, third frets in When the Saints to the open g-string.

Next job is to adjust parts where the same string is played at different frets and where there are impossible stretches. For example, at the end of bar 2 Saints has the E-string played at the first fret while Mountain has it played at the tenth fret. Moving the Saints note to the C-string, fifth fret and the Mountain note to the A-string, fifth fret makes it playable.

Just doing those things makes for a playable arrangement. Except for one note. At the end of bar 4 Saints has a note on the C-string, second fret while Saints has a note on the A-string, 8th fret. Too big a stretch for me to switch to that quickly. So I examined the lives of the rich and successful to see what they do when faced with a challenge. And I cheated. I switched the C-string, second fret to an open E-string. No-one on Instagram noticed so I think I got away with it.

The two parts separately look like this:

Adapted Melodies Tab

And here they are together. With the Saints notes being plucked with the thumb and the index and middle finger handling Mountain.

She’ll Be Marching ‘Round the Saints (Tab)

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