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!).
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.