This month Stuart Ryan shows how to nail the acoustic guitar style of The Jam’s iconic frontman and perrennial solo artist, the great Paul Weller.
Stuart Ryan reveals the gentler, acoustic side of revered singer-song-witer-guitarist, Paul Weller.
I rediscovered my guitar in the 1990s.
Although synonymous with his spiky, post-mod electric guitar stylings with the Jam, acoustic guitar has always featured strongly in Paul weller’s playing - a track like 1980’s that’s Entertainment featured a driving acoustic at the fore, though this served as stark contrast to much of the band’s other output at the time. it was when he started to develop his solo career that the acoustic became a more prominent voice in weller’s writing. his 1993 album wild wood is predominantly electric but features several great acoustic moments from the driving, riff-based All the Pictures on the wall to the strumming on hung up. however, it’s the eponymous title track that’s probably the most famous cut from the album. wild wood is a great example of how weller will set up a simple strummed or fingerpicked chord progression but add some unexpected twists – in the case of wild wood it’s his innovative use of the minor 7b5 chord, not a device you hear in mainstream writing every day. you can also hear this in English Rose where a simple three-chord progression is made unique by the inclusion of a minor 7b5.
For this study we see how a standard chord progression can be given some Paul wellerstyle colour by changing some of the chords from what your ear may be anticipating. Although weller uses conventional strumming and fingerstyle techniques he is a ‘thumb over the neck’ player when it comes to fretting some chords. Although i haven’t focused on this here, it’s something that’s worth getting into your playing as it facilitates some chords that would be much harder to execute otherwise.
weller often starts with conventional major or minor chords and then releases or moves some of his fingers to get a different voicing which provides colour. you can hear this effect in wild wood as he starts off with a conventional B minor chord but then releases the fretted notes on the second and third strings for a more interesting Bm7sus2. if you find yourself writing this way I wouldn’t get too hung up on the theory (chords can end up having very complicated names that confuse the issue), just make a shape you know and add or remove fingers until you hear the desired result; it’s a liberating way of writing.
Beyond that you’ll also hear weller use the standard major and minor 7th chords – these will also add colour to your writing but the iV chord as a minor 7b5 is the one that really stands out (for theory buffs you can also view this as a V chord in which case it’s acting as the decidedly jazzy 7#5b9 – see what happens if you use that down at the folk club!).
NeXT MoNTH: Stuart tackles the acoustic blues style of Rory Gallagher
Paul Weller: in acoustic mode on Gibson J-45