Bil­lie Joe Armstrong

Stu­art Ryan con­tin­ues with a look at the acous­tic side of a gui­tarist nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with elec­tric in­stru­ments - Green Day’s Bil­lie Joe Armstrong.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON: ACOUSTIC -

Power Punk trio Green Day first came to the fore with their smash hit Dookie al­bum in 1994 though they had been tour­ing and re­leas­ing harder ma­te­rial for years prior to that.

In­ter­est­ingly though, the acous­tic guitar had been a part of their ar­se­nal even in these early days with an in­ter­est­ing logic be­hind its in­clu­sion in their tour­ing rig. of­ten the band would find them­selves booked to play base­ments and small clubs that ei­ther didn’t have the cor­rect per­mits for live per­for­mances or were the tar­get of noise com­plaints. While for many bands on the punk scene this would mean sets were of­ten can­celled or short, green Day sim­ply pulled out the acous­tic gui­tars and car­ried on with an all-acous­tic set – ge­nius!

the band formed in 1986 in Berke­ley, cal­i­for­nia, and their first two al­bums were re­leased on the in­die la­bel look­out Records. It was with their ma­jor la­bel de­but Dookie that re­ally pro­pelled them into the main­stream and that al­bum went on to sell a stag­ger­ing 10 mil­lion copies. the acous­tic guitar started to come to the fore via the 1997 re­lease nim­rod, an al­bum that was de­signed to ex­plore new sounds and ap­proaches for the band. the smash hit sin­gle good Rid­dance (time of your life) show­cased Bil­lie Joe’s sim­ple though melodic acous­tic style per­fectly and no doubt in­trocuced the band to a new au­di­ence. Although his in­flu­ences were bands like the Ra­mones, husker Du and the Re­place­ments, Bob Dy­lan came to be a huge in­flu­ence on Armstrong and you can hear his dis­tinctly Amer­i­can folk style at the fore of Armstrong’s acous­tic style. In­deed, Dy­lan’s Bring­ing It All Back home al­bum from 1965 was some­thing Armstrong lis­tened to re­peat­edly dur­ing writ­ing ses­sions for what would be­come the fol­low up to nim­rod, the al­bum, Warn­ing.

since then acous­tic guitar has be­come more prom­i­nent on green Day’s record­ings and you will even hear Armstrong add man­dolin parts on some re­leases. over the last 15 years the acous­tic guitar has even been

Mu­sic - that’s been my ed­u­ca­tion. There’s not a day that goes by that I take it for granted. Bil­lie Joe Armstrong

a pri­mary fea­ture on some of their big­gest tracks - the sim­ple arpeg­giated fig­ure from Wake me up When septem­ber Ends or the strum­ming pas­sages from Boule­vard of Bro­ken Dreams. Although you won’t find vir­tu­oso licks or high-tempo fin­ger­pick­ing in Armstrong’s play­ing he is a great ex­am­ple of how hook-based acous­tic guitar parts can be lay­ered with power chords and riffs in or­der to cre­ate a huge-sound­ing end re­sult. For­get chops for a minute and fo­cus in­stead on clean, well-timed pick­ing and see how tight your strum­ming is with the back­ing track!

Bil­lie Joe with his sig­na­ture black Gib­son Everly’s style acous­tic

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