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Acoustic Mastery – John McLaughlin 'Guardian Angels'

John McLaughlin – ‘Guardian Angels’

john mclaughlinThe composition ‘Guardian Angels’ first appears on John McLaughlin’s 1979 solo album ‘Electric Dreams’. This recording was his sixth solo album and ‘Guardian Angels’ is the track that opens the recording. Despite it’s rather short length (the track is only 51 seconds long) it displays a perfect blend of McLaughlin’s harmonic background in jazz and also his intense interest in Indian and World music.

Here’s the original track:

John McLaughlin – ‘Guardian Angels’

The composition features McLaughlin playing double tracked acoustic 6 & 12 string guitars and his fast-moving arpeggiated chords, with multiple meter changes offer a rich harmonic and rhythmic background for the melody played by both McLaughlin and violinist L.Shankar.

McLaughlin is well known for his formidable alternate picking technique and my guess here is that he plays the arpeggiated chords entirely with this technique, making this therefore one of the more challenging pieces I have featured on CGL.

Performance Notes

John McLaughlin


This composition requires a very assured picking technique to execute the multiple arpeggios accurately and my suggestion would be to work on it in small sections at first. In addition, some of the chords may sound a little unusual in isolation, but it is very important that you are comfortable with each arpeggio before trying to put everything together at tempo.

If you are going to attempt to play the entire composition with alternate picking, it might also help to write out your picking directions on a printed out score. I have found sometimes that this really helps in practice as you maintain the exact same picking attacks (i.e. downstrokes and upstrokes) each time you practice.

Some of the suggested fingerings I have indicated in the tablature could also be played in other ways on the fingerbaord and I’ll leave it up to you if you want to experiment with this.  Sometimes an otherwise difficult musical passage can be made much easier if you use a different fingering so experimentation is always worthwhile in this regard.

Below is a MIDI generated recording of the guitar part that John McLaughlin plays (played twice) and I have omitted the violin/guitar melody here so that you can focus on learning the guitar part.


Here is the PDF transcription with both regular music notation and guitar tablature. Take especially careful note of the multiple time signature changes as well, as the composition moves rapidly through them and they can catch you unawares.

‘Guardian Angels’ by John McLaughlin PDF

Enjoy working on this great composition by the master guitarist John McLaughlin

Happy Practicing,


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