It’s that time of year. Trimming the tree, sipping on egg nog, and of course, strumming a few tunes with family and friends. Many of the songs we love to sing and play this time of year of simply arranged. And you can dig right in and play ‘em to your heart’s content. Here are some of our faves that are easy to play at the drop of a hat (a Santa hat that is!).
Every day I get to write, and to play music, is a great day, for which I am very grateful. I am a recovering lawyer, and while that was a great gig for me for a while (and while I cast no aspersions whatsoever on the noble profession), as a songwriter I am able to connect with my feelings of joy and gratitude more directly. Here's a story of how stepping away from my usual songwriting routine lead to a flash of inspiration.
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.”
One simple technique that is often used to spice up many chords – and in the process make a lot of garden-variety chord progressions sound more interesting – is the manner-on. To play a hammer-on, pick a string and then, while the note is still ringing, sound a higher note on that same string by firmly tapping, or “hammering,” it onto the fretboard with one of your fretting fingers without picking it again.
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.
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.
Here’s a blast from the past. A young John Petrucci accompanies Dream Theater singer James LaBrie in this tenderly performed acoustic version of “Another Day.” Yes, the audio is spotty, but it’s worth checking out nonetheless.
For his eighth studio album Twelve Tales, A.J. Croce (son of legendary songwriter Jim Croce) took on a recording approach that was ambitious, if not downright challenging. Recorded with a multitude of legendary producers across a variety of American cities, the songs represent a patchwork of styles and influences, making Twelve Tails a sharply written and effortlessly performed blend of Americana and folk rock.