This month Stuart Ryan unveils the acoustic side of one of rock’s most original and enduring six-stringers - the maverick Canadian superstar, Neil Young.
Stuart Ryan on the acoustic style of Canada’s multi-talented singer-songwriter, Neil Young.
Acclaimed for his work with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and as a solo artist, Canadian musician Neil Young is a diverse player whose output has ranged from grungey riffing to pastoral acoustic guitar. A country-folk tinged sound became a part of his work with the release of After The Goldrush (1970). Interestingly, around this period he also started collaborating with James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt and this led to his fourth and arguably best-loved acoustic based release, Harvest, which raised his songwriting and lyrical ability to a new level.
Over the ensuing years he worked in a variety of guises, from collaborating again with Stephen Stills to releasing heavier music with his electric band, Crazy Horse. In 1993 his acoustic side came to the fore again, via a stunning full band performance as part of
Drop D tuning was a huge feature of grunge music; many thought it unique to the genre when in fact Young and others had employed it for years.
MTV’s Unplugged series. If you aren’t familiar with Neil Young, this live show is a great showcase of his guitar style, from pounding, chord driven work on Old Laughing Lady to more delicate, intricate fingerpicking of the legendary Needle And The Damage Done.
Young had a huge impact on Seattle’s grunge scene during the early 1990s: his heavier work like Rust was a great influence on bands like Pearl Jam, with whom he occasionally guested. Interestingly, Drop D tuning was a huge feature of grunge and many thought it unique to the genre, when in reality Young and many others had employed it for years. Harvest Moon, for example, really makes the best use of this tuning and you can hear him using the low open sixth string to drive things along in several of his tracks.
For this lesson we’ll focus on Young’s chordal rhythm playing, as heard on the Harvest album. His lovely, relaxed timing is an essential element to master so we are aiming for a lazy, swing feel throughout. Also important is the dynamic range on his strumming hand, from light to heavy, so make sure you explore the widest possible scope when strumming through our example. Neil’s playing also provides a great lesson in how using open strings can act as a hinge that keeps a chord sequence together and in this lesson we’ll focus on the open first string as such a cohesive device.
Neil Young with his gorgeous Martin D-45