ACOUS­TIC

Should he leave on a jet plane or let coun­try roads take him home, pon­ders Stu­art Ryan as he delves into the wist­ful style of this late, great Amer­i­can singer-song­writer-gui­tarist?

Guitar Techniques - - TALK BACK -

Stu­art Ryan on the acous­tic style of Henry John Deutschen­dorf Jr, also known as John Den­ver!

1971’s Po­ems, Prayers & Prom­ises yielded the mas­sive hit take me home Coun­try roads. to­wards the end of the 1970s den­ver shifted his fo­cus from his mu­si­cal ca­reer and be­came in in­volved in hu­man­i­tar­ian and eco­log­i­cal work. trag­i­cally he was killed in a plane crash on oc­to­ber 2, 1997.

although strum­ming and ba­sic fin­ger­pick­ing formed the bedrock of Den­ver’s style, in this study we’ll see how he would of­ten use his ac­com­pa­ni­ment part to cre­ate more in­tri­cate lines than the stan­dard arpeg­giated open chord shapes. in essence, imag­ine that the melody in this study is dou­bling up a vo­cal melody with the chord shapes act­ing as a gen­eral ‘frame’ within which it all sits – luck­ily for you Gt doesn’t per­mit me to record my vo­cals! although we are in the open po­si­tion for much of this study we’ll see that you can get a great deal of mileage and in­ter­est by em­bel­lish­ing th­ese chords with melodic ideas. Your fin­gers will be well used to the open chord shapes here but it’s sur­pris­ing how mov­ing notes within them can feel dis­ori­en­tat­ing, so if that’s the case start as slowly as pos­si­ble.

one of the key things to get­ting this to work prop­erly is be­ing able to get the ‘flow’ of a piece in place. Keep­ing notes sus­tained and ring­ing through the bar is es­sen­tial, as is look­ing for­ward through the bar to get a sense of where ev­ery­thing is go­ing. Clar­ity is key so make sure your fret­ting hand is com­fort­able sus­tain­ing bass notes while the other fin­gers fret the melody notes. sim­i­larly the pick­ing hand wants to en­sure that all the notes can be plucked at an even vol­ume so the bass notes don’t over­shadow the melody, and vice versa. in ad­di­tion you want to make sure your tim­ing is re­ally ac­cu­rate for this style – even though you are just pluck­ing an even eighth note (qua­ver) pat­tern through­out it’s es­sen­tial that your rhythm re­mains con­stant and steady. den­ver’s mu­sic lends it­self to a gen­tler ap­proach, tech­nique wise, so if you find you gen­er­ally attack the strings with the pick­ing hand try eas­ing back a bit here.

I’m no Henry Mancini or Michel Le­grand. I just play the gui­tar and write songs. John Den­ver

John Den­ver: Play­ing one of his many Guild gui­tars

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