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.
Here Alex Lifeson tells the story of the inception of the acoustic introduction to this classic hit. “All of our early albums were written on acoustic guitar. When Geddy [Lee, bass and vocals] and I would write the music, we’d sit down with a cassette recorder and two acoustic guitars, in spite of the fact that we were a hard rock band...
While Don McLean was recording “American Pie,” the eight-minute-plus song that brought him stardom in late 1971, his label, Media Arts Records, went under. Understandably, the situation put a damper on any great expectations McLean had for the song. “I wasn’t thinking of releasing or editing it,” he says today. “My expectations were that I would be looking for a record company.”
Last year I accomplished my dream of playing festivals. I’ve already done four in the last year. Somehow I instinctively knew how to manage my first one. Whatever I suggest here is what worked for me as a current solo artist. Some things will work for everyone, some won't. But here are 11 ideas you can try out.
The first thing you have to realize when amplifying an acoustic guitar is that in doing so you’ve gone interactive, which sounds very nice except that it happens to work against you in this situation. What do I mean by “interactive?” Just that your acoustic guitar interacts with its sonic environment, and when that environment gets loud, acoustic guitars get weird.
The full-chord strum is only one way to skin the rhythm cat. A subtler but no less effective approach is playing broken chords, which involves successively picking the individual notes of a chord in a following pattern. An arpeggiated, or “broken,” chord simultaneously outlines the harmony, meter and rhythm.
I grew up listening to James Taylor, and I admit I know pretty much every word of every song he’s ever performed. But when it comes to the guitar parts, that’s something I’ve still gotta work on. Luckily the legendary Mr. Taylor has taken steps to remedy that. He’s posted a series of free lessons on his site that not only run through some of his most beloved songs, they also incorporate new portable camera technology so that you can see his right hand technique from the inside.
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!).