Before Noel was a High Flying Bird he honed his skills with indie legends Oasis. Stuart Ryan shows you how to nail the swinging indie strum.
Stuart Ryan nails Noel Gallagher’s indie strum.
This month we are looking at the acoustic guitar style of one of the singersongwriters that defined the sound of the 90s during the UK’s Britpop heyday. It’s hard to escape the impact Noel Gallagher has had on popular music over the last 20 years and his melodic, perfectly-crafted rock sits equally well on electric or acoustic guitar.
The erstwhile Oasis backbone and now frontman of High Flying Birds was born in Burnage, Manchester in 1967. Gallagher took up guitar at age 13 inspired by the playing of The Smiths’ axeman Johnny Marr. Coming of age during the ‘Madchester’ boom of the late 80s he gained his first professional experience within the music industry through touring with the Inspiral Carpets as a roadie and technician. He joined his brother Liam’s band Rain in 1991, quickly becoming the band’s sole songwriter. Cue a name change to Oasis and an inspiring performance in front of Creation Records’ boss Alan McGee and the band’s course was set. Oasis’ debut album Definitely Maybe was released in 1994 and was met with both critical and commercial acclaim. This album heralded the arrival of a dynamic new songwriting talent, with none other than George Martin proclaiming him, “The finest songwriter of his generation.”
Although ‘serious’ players will decry Gallagher’s lack of chops or musical education, it’s important to remember that he is a songwriter and the guitar is a tool used in service of the song. However, play a simple open Em7 chord and watch your listeners’ eyes light up as they think you are about to fire into that ultimate pub sing-along, Wonderwall! When you delve into Gallagher’s playing you discover that he has uncovered a simple style that gives him a musical voice. Typically a song will be composed of a standard chord progression (sometimes with a swing feel redolent of early Brit-rock icons like The Kinks), hinged together by common tones: notes that appear in all the chords within the progression. Wonderwall is a case in point with the top two strings being sustained at the 3rd fret throughout. This surprisingly simple device yields some interesting chord voicings – for example, try playing Wonderwall with standard open major and minor chords and see how much of the track’s appeal disappears. Secondly, it allows Gallagher to keep fingers in place on the frets and use them as anchors as he plays through a chord sequence.
play wonderwall with standard open major and minor chords and see how much of the track’s appeal disappears
Noel Gallagher: one of Britpop’s best writers and funniest commentators