In today’s tutorial we will be covering how to play ‘Message In A Bottle’ by Sting/The Police on guitar. This version though is an alternate take and comprised of a number of covers and Sting solo performances, rather than the original played by Andy Summers. Essentially, I took elements I saw Sting using on his classical guitar as well as John Mayer doing a cover and I just merged them all together. Which means, while I am using an electro-acoustic guitar in the video tutorial below, you can really use any type of guitar you like, acoustic or electric, with or without amplification.
The goal for this particular ‘Message In A Bottle’ guitar lesson was to keep things as simple as possible, without ‘butchering’ the song. The foundation of this piece is rhythmic patter and the bassline. In order to make things work, it is important for you to not only focus on the technical aspects, but also the more subtle dynamics (which are essentially technical aspects, too – but I think you know what I mean). The changes in volume, chord swelling and the way you pluck and strum the strings are very important factors to guide the listener to this song.
Now, I on purpose refrained from singing, because I sound like an asthmatic crow. In other words, I can’t sing. But that shouldn’t prevent you from doing it. The vocal delivery in this solo guitar version of ‘Message In A Bottle’ is even more important when compare to the album version – but you also have much more freedom in your approach. Just listen to when Sting sings this tune when it’s just him and his guitar. Much more room for improvisation.
By the way, you may also want to look at this video here, which is me doing a full play-through
During the first part, I use a combination of picking and plucking the strings and chords. Every now and then I add a note to mix things up a little bit. The most challenging sequence is probably the stretch from the C# on the A-String to the C# on D-String to the C# on G-String, eventually moving the pinky up one more fret to the D. This requires some practice and it’s important that you start out at a slow tempo.
The second part is much easier, just a sequence of three power chords. However, it gets more challenging as we move to the third section, as you have to move quickly from the twelve fret to the second and third to play the D-Major chord.
The last part is easy from a chord perspective. Here you will have to focus on the rhythm and use your right hand in order to accentuate certain notes as well as to regulate the volume.
I hope you liked my ‘Message In A Bottle’ Guitar lesson. Feel free to leave comments and questions below.