Stu­art Ryan un­veils the acous­tic ap­proach of singer-song­writ­ers the Avett Broth­ers.

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Con­tin­u­ing the long and fruit­ful tra­di­tion of Amer­i­can acous­tic song­writ­ing, the Avett Broth­ers’ Amer­i­cana tinged sound echoes the styles of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and James Tay­lor among many oth­ers. Led by broth­ers Seth and Scott Avett on gui­tar and banjo re­spec­tively, the unit also in­cludes dou­ble bassist Bob Craw­ford, cel­list Joe Kwon, drum­mer Mike Marsh and key­boards player Paul Delfi­gia. The band’s rootsy, blue­grass in­flu­enced sound is capped off by pol­ished har­monies and the in­ter­play be­tween the broth­ers’ banjo and gui­tar styles.

In High School the Avetts led var­i­ous rock-ori­ented bands in­flu­enced by the likes of Soundgar­den and Nir­vana but they turned their at­ten­tion to acous­tic mu­sic and in 2002 re­leased their first full-length al­bum with Bob Craw­ford on bass. The turn­ing point came when Seth was for­tu­nate enough to be taken to see the leg­endary Doc Wat­son, a neigh­bour and ac­quain­tance of the Avett fam­ily. It was this that made the Avetts re­alise the full power and scope of the acous­tic gui­tar.

The band has since worked with über­pro­ducer Rick Ru­bin on fol­low-up al­bums, per­formed at the Gram­mys and re­leased a live DVD. They broke into the main­stream with 2009’s Ru­bin pro­duced I And Love And You and since then have be­come a fix­ture on the na­tional tour­ing scene in the USA. The band have un­fairly been re­ferred to as Mum­ford & Sons wannabees, a par­tic­u­lar bug­bear as the Avetts’ 2006 al­bum Four Thieves Gone was ac­tu­ally a huge in­flu­ence on the Bri­tish nu-folk su­per­stars.

The gui­tar in Avett Broth­ers’ mu­sic fol­lows a tra­di­tional Amer­i­can way of pro­vid­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ment that finds its roots in blue­grass. Sim­ple, open chord voic­ings (of­ten capo’d up) are em­bel­lished with ham­mer-on and pull-off fig­ures in the bass notes (on the sixth, fifth and fourth strings) that serve to give the rhythm parts ex­tra in­ter­est and ‘bounce.’ It’s a style you’ll come across in all of the best blue­grass rhythm gui­tarists, and also main­stream acts that use acous­tics, such as Neil Young.

You want to get to a point where you can see all the pos­si­bil­i­ties of these em­bel­lish­ments within an open chord shape so this study is de­signed to give you as many ideas as pos­si­ble. It’s a great way of mak­ing a quite sim­ple chord se­quence sound more in­ter­est­ing and var­ied, while also be­ing a good ex­er­cise for co­or­di­nat­ing the pick­ing and strum­ming hands when play­ing acous­tic rhythm parts. You can play this fin­ger­style or with a plec­trum – I went with the pick as this was best to mimic Seth’s style.

The band has un­fairly been re­ferred to as Mum­ford & Sons wannabes, but the al­bum Four Thieves Gone was a big in­flu­ence on the Brit band.

Scott and Seth Avett blaz­ing a US nu-folk trail

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