Rory Gal­lagher

This month Stu­art Ryan steps out of singer-song­writer mode and shows you how to play pow­er­ful fin­ger­style acous­tic gui­tar like this leg­endary Ir­ish blues­man.

Guitar Techniques - - LEARNING ZONE -

how­ever, while we com­monly as­so­ciate him with a Vox Ac30 and his fa­mous bat­tered Fen­der strat (sup­pos­edly the first to ar­rive in Ire­land) he was equally adept at acous­tic blues. In­ter­est­ingly there is a def­i­nite Celtic in­flu­ence in his phras­ing and you can hear this in both his elec­tric and acous­tic work. con­se­quently this month’s les­son is in DADGAD, a tun­ing rory him­self used for sev­eral of his acous­tic blues out­ings.

rory Gal­lagher was born into an Ir­ish fam­ily with a strong ap­pre­ci­a­tion of mu­sic and his first in­stru­ment was the ukulele. Acous­tic gui­tar soon fol­lowed and af­ter a brief dal­liance with sk­if­fle he dis­cov­ered the acous­tic blues play­ing of leg­ends big bill broonzy and lead­belly among oth­ers. Gal­lagher started out with blues-rock group Taste in 1966; they went on to per­form sup­port slots with cream and blind Faith. Af­ter dis­band­ing Taste, rory went solo, which al­lowed his acous­tic play­ing to come more to the fore.

Gal­lagher’s deft acous­tic pick­ing cap­tured the Delta blues sound of his he­roes per­fectly, whether he was play­ing slide on his res­onator or fin­ger­pick­ing on his Martin D-35. How­ever, he of­ten in­cluded a twist which was the dis­tinc­tive Celtic flavour that crept into his fin­ger­pick­ing style. In this study we’re look­ing at how rory would play a blues in DADGAD tun­ing with a strong al­ter­nat­ing bassline pick­ing pat­tern and a moody Celtic in­flu­enced melody over the top. lis­ten to tracks like his ver­sion of lead­belly’s out on A West­ern Plain and you’ll hear this ap­proach in ac­tion.

As with all great acous­tic fin­ger­pick­ers rory had that rock solid in­ter­nal groove which meant that he was able to hold down the al­ter­nat­ing bassline on the sixth and fourth strings (of­ten re­ferred to as ‘Travis pick­ing’ af­ter the great Merle Travis); over this he would then ef­fort­lessly add syn­co­pated and dec­o­rated melody lines with phras­ing of­ten shar­ing as much as it did with tra­di­tional celtic mu­sic as old time blues. If you are new to this style then work on just the bassline at first, prefer­ably to a metronome. It may seem te­dious ini­tially but it’s crit­i­cal that you in­ter­nalise this al­ter­nat­ing bassline so the pick­ing hand thumb is on au­topi­lot when it comes to play­ing the melody over the top. In­ter­est­ingly, while many play­ers choose to palm mute the bass notes or­der to tame them and let the melody notes ring out clearly, rory pre­ferred to keep th­ese two strings ring­ing open through­out, no doubt con­tribut­ing to his big fin­ger­pick­ing sound.

A su­perb am­bas­sador for mu­sic, rory Gal­lagher’s style show­cased a truly in­di­vid­ual ap­proach to fin­ger­pick­ing and is a great les­son whether you are a fan of blues, celtic or just fine fin­ger­style gui­tar in gen­eral.

Rory Gal­lagher with his 1968 Martin D-35

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