This month Stuart Ryan takes on the challenge of Fleetwood Mac supremo Lindsey Buckingham’s stamina-sapping modified Travis-picking style.
Stuart Ryan on the relentless picking style of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham.
Although famed as a member of uber-group Fleetwood Mac, Californian guitarist Lindsey Buckingham also has a successful solo career, and it’s in this setting that you’ll often hear his fingerpicked guitar at the fore.
Buckingham’s early interests were folk music and banjo styles and you can really sense the influence of the latter in his picking hand approach. He started his professional career in music with then girlfriend and later Fleetwood Mac bandmate Stevie Nicks, and signed with Polydor Records in 1973. However, their early work didn’t achieve the sales the label was hoping for and they were dropped after the release of their debut album, Buckingham Nicks. However, success was around the corner via a chance encounter with Mick Fleetwood while they were recording in the legendary Sound City studios. That encounter led to Buckingham and Nicks joining Fleetwood Mac, and the rest is history.
Although his playing has its foundation in Travis picking, he has adapted this to come up with his own approach. Many of his parts feature simple arpeggiated chord patterns, but there are times when he positively explodes. Check out his live Big Love from The Dance, to see what I mean.
Rather than focus on Buckingham’s West Coast-inspired singer-songwriter style, I’ve gone for the more challenging side where his guitar takes centre stage. We’re looking at modified Travis picking, so a pulsating bassline keeps the beat while a melodic, riffy figure is played over the top. There are several challenges inherent in Buckingham’s style – not least building the speed and stamina it requires. When you are over this hurdle you have to deal with his embellishments – the hammers-ons and pull-offs that he effortlessly injects into these uptempo ideas. There is also the challenge of dynamics – the thumb is naturally going to be stronger as it keeps the beat pounding away, so you have to either
Lindsey Buckingham is a rare figure – a player with a unique approach who manages to combine complex guitar lines with accessible vocal hooks.
compensate with a strong picking-finger attack or learn to ease off on the thumb so the other notes don’t get lost. I’d always suggest going for the latter approach, so you can leave more dynamic range in your playing.
Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps one of those rare figures in the pop and rock world – a player with a unique approach who manages to combine complex guitar lines with accessible vocal hooks. Next time you’re listening to him really home in on his guitar parts and you may be surprised.
Lindsay Buckingham: gifted acoustic and electric guitarist