Love Mumford and Sons? Joni Mitchell? Led Zeppelin? Patti Griffin? Have you tried to play their songs but just couldn’t make them sound quite right? Welcome to the world of alternate tunings. Not all songs are written for, or played in, the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning. Alternate tunings open up a whole new world for guitarists willing to look beyond the standard tuning, offering the possibility of creating combinations of notes not previously available, or only available to those with enormous hands.
Certain memorable themes, like those of Bill Wither’s “Lean on Me” and Gustavo Santaolalla’s "Brokeback Mountain," to name just two, artfully derive melodies and chordal accompaniment from an extraordinarily useful system called scale harmony.
In past lessons we’ve spruced up rhythm patterns by adding extra notes to chords, and by inserting bass lines and scale runs. This time around the subject is intervals, specifically thirds. Here we give you some practical examples of how to put thirds to work for you. In fact, thirds in particular are real workhorses, frequently used by guitarist, R&B, rock, country and blues.
Even if one were to limit himself to an examination of pop songwriting over the last 40 years, a true instructional “guide” would take up many volumes, as it would involve a serious study of musical theory. Our aim here is to prove a sampling of common chord progressions that you can use with your own songs, and to examine some of the things a guitarist can do to add a little zip to his or her songs.
A song containing a few as one or two chords can be just as well-crafted as a far more intricate composition. Of course, the world is full of guitarists who play a D-to-G strum pattern ad infinitum, rhyme “fire” with “desire” and declare that they’ve written a song. You goal as a songwriter is to not be that person.
These videos are bonus content related to the December 2013 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.
Fills, those brief instrumental runs that occupy the spaces between vocal lines, no doubt have their origin in the call-and-response vocal tradition associated with country blues, gospel, work songs and field hollers. On records, guitar fills can be overdubbed, but you can enhance both your rhythm playing and soloing by learning to alternate seamlessly between steady chord patterns and well-placed melodic phrases.
Most of you are probably familiar with the two-beat “boom-chick” style of rhythm playing so prevalent in classic country music. You may be surprised to learn that the groove that drives, say, Hank Williams’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is not that far removed from the one that drives a funk song like the James Brown instrumental “Night Train.”
In this segment of our exclusive Acoustic Nation Play It Now video series, hit singer songwriter Matt Nathanson teaches me, and YOU, how to play his latest single, “Mission Bells.” The track appears on his new album, The Last of the Great Pretenders. Nathanson, and his guitar player Aaron Tap, run through the riff, verse and chorus arrangements for what is basically a fun to play three-chord song.