You know that Keith Richards plays with just five strings (no low E). But have you ever seen him set up a six-string for five-string play, and then jam away on it?
Take a look at the video below, because you’ll see him do it, and much more. Awhile ago, the 75-year-old rocker sat down with Matt Sweeney for an episode of Noisey’s excellent Guitar Moves program.
The two met at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York City’s Greenwich Village, and their interview session is priceless, as Richards offers up stories of his youthful experiences with the guitar and the deep lessons he’s learned over a lifetime of playing. Sweeney says at the outset, “I’m not sure if he’s going to touch a guitar because we were told that he probably won’t play guitar.” As it turns out, Richards plays up a storm.
By the end of the interview, he’s more than happy to oblige Sweeney with demonstrations of how he plays on five strings by removing the low E from an acoustic, retuning it and jamming out at length. The segment starts at around 12:45.
But by all means, watch the entire episode. Among the many things we learned from it:
1. When it comes to playing guitar, it’s all in the right hand. (1:09) “There’s two sides to every story,” Keith says. “And if that one [hand] don’t connect with that one, then you’re getting what, one and a half stories? Somehow you’ve got to get this one and this one to love each other. “
2. “The acoustic guitar is the most important thing for a guitar player to start with.” (1:57) “Learn the feel and the touch of that string and what it does against a fret,” Richards says. “Learn that. Then you can add the effects later on.”
3. Keith’s grandfather turned him onto the guitar. (2:36) “He had a guitar hanging up on the wall, and I was this high. And he teased me for years about it, because he noticed I kept looking at this damn thing, to the point where he said, ‘When you can reach it, then I’ll let you play around with it.’”
4. “Malagueña” was the first song he learned. (4:00) “[My grandfather] thought it was a great exercise to learn where the notes are and the possibilities.” Watch Keith play “Malagueña.
5. Keith made Christmas mail deliveries to make money to buy his first guitar. (5:58) “At Christmas they’d hire guys to deliver all the Christmas mail,” he says. “I maybe made 15, 20 pounds, which is not enough for a guitar. But I gotta say this to ma, that she saw my effort there and she sprang for a guitar for me. I think I was about 13.”
6. Sixties pop singer Bobby Goldsboro taught Richards how Jimmy Reed played a V chord. (7:44) “Bobby Goldsboro happened to be on the road with Jimmy Reed, and he showed me the simplest trick.” Watch Richards demonstrate.