This folk icon is an ex­em­plar of the 60s folk style says Stu­art Ryan, with fin­ger­picked chords, melodic ideas and added Span­ish in­flu­ences.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Stu­art Ryan stud­ies folk icon Joan Baez’ ex­quis­ite ap­proach to play­ing gui­tar.

This month we are tak­ing a look at the gui­tar style of one of the most fa­mous of the ‘protest singers’ of 60s Amer­ica, Joan Baez. A stal­wart of the folk genre, Baez was born in New York in 1941 though moved fre­quently ow­ing to the tran­sient na­ture of her fa­ther’s work. Her in­ter­est in mu­sic be­gan when she started play­ing ukulele as a child. This quickly led to the gui­tar, and see­ing Pete Seeger per­form in her early teens ce­mented her goal to be­come a singer­song­writer. Com­ing of age in the late 50s she found her­self in Bos­ton. The fer­tile folk scene at the time gave her op­por­tu­ni­ties to hone her craft as both song­writer and gui­tarist. Her first big break came when she was in­vited to play at the New­port Folk Fes­ti­val in 1959; this led to the record­ing and re­lease of her epony­mous de­but al­bum the fol­low­ing year. Al­though she is a writer her­self her early re­leases fea­tured mostly old bal­lads, gospels and blues with her orig­i­nal ma­te­rial com­ing to promi­nence later.

Baez’s gui­tar style falls into the clas­sic folk singer-gui­tarist ter­ri­tory of clean fin­ger­picked chords with melodic ideas in­ter­wo­ven with the un­der­ly­ing har­mony. How­ever, she also has a strong Span­ish her­itage and you can hear this in­flu­ence in her play­ing. Lis­ten to one of her most fa­mous orig­i­nals like Di­a­monds And Rust and you can hear the dark, al­most fla­menco in­flu­ence within the melodies and chords. In ad­di­tion you will hear el­e­ments of the Span­ish style in her pick­ing hand pat­terns – we are not talk­ing about full ras­guea­dos here but when she rapidly picks or strums down the strings it’s ev­i­dent that the Span­ish sound is part of her musical make-up. Whereas many of the folk singer-song­writ­ers would of­ten cre­ate very ba­sic gui­tar parts to ac­com­pany their vo­cals (and mes­sage), with Joan Baez you get the sense that her parts are more cre­ative and com­posed and could even stand on their own as melodic in­stru­men­tal pieces.

If you are new to Joan Baez or the 60s protest move­ment gui­tarists in gen­eral it’s well worth check­ing out their ap­proaches. While Bob Dy­lan is the most well-known artist within this genre, su­per­stars like Baez also have much to of­fer to any­one em­bark­ing on an acous­tic gui­tar jour­ney, as her play­ing is al­ways su­per-ac­cu­rate, pow­er­fully-played and im­mensely musical.

while dy­lan is the best-known artist in the genre, joan’s play­ing is al­ways ac­cu­rate and im­mensely musical

NEXT MONTH Stu­art looks at the acous­tic style of per­form­ing leg­end Bruce Spring­steen

Joan Baez play­ing her Martin 0-45

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