Stu­art Ryan rev­els in some blue-col­lar, Amer­i­can-style acous­tic ge­nius with one of the most im­por­tant singer-song­writ­ers of all time.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Stu­art Ryan rev­els in the tal­ents of the won­der­ful Bruce Spring­steen.

Over the course of a hugely suc­cess­ful 40-year long ca­reer Bruce Spring­steen has proven him­self to be the con­sum­mate rock and roll song­writer with both elec­tric and acous­tic gui­tars al­ways at the fore through­out his writ­ing. In the early days the acous­tic was used in the most tra­di­tional way – as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment de­vice to the bur­geon­ing hit maker. Sem­i­nal tracks like At­lantic City show­case sim­ple open-chord ac­com­pa­ni­ment ideas, but as Bruce’s writ­ing de­vel­oped and pro­gressed through the years his acous­tic parts also be­come far more so­phis­ti­cated, to in­clude an ar­ray of al­tered tun­ings and fin­ger­pick­ing pat­terns that serve to make his or­ches­tra­tions way more than just the ‘three chord trick’ of some of the many renowned acous­tic gui­tarist-song­writ­ers.

Born in New Jersey in 1949 Spring­steen first de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in mu­sic from the su­per­stars of the day: Elvis Pres­ley, Frank Si­na­tra and The Bea­tles. Af­ter years of play­ing in bands as a teenager he signed his first record deal with Columbia Records in 1972. Ini­tially com­pared to Bob Dy­lan, Van Mor­ri­son and Rob­bie Robert­son, suc­cess was not forth­com­ing un­til the re­lease of 1975’s sem­i­nal Born To Run. A huge tour­ing sched­ule en­sued and was fol­lowed by The River in 1980 and the stripped-down solo acous­tic al­bum Nebraska in 1982. The big one came in 1984 with the re­lease of Born In The USA, which con­tains many of his most fa­mous tracks.

With his fame ce­mented and the E Street Band now a part of pop­u­lar cul­ture Bruce was able to ex­plore his acous­tic side more and the folk in­flu­ence of leg­ends like Woody Guthrie be­came more ap­par­ent. The re­lease of The Ghost Of Tom Joad in 1995 saw him em­bark on a solo acous­tic tour on which he re-worked many of his older songs. In the 2000s the acous­tic re­mained at the fore on al­bums like Dev­ils And Dust and We Shall Over­come, ex­plor­ing the in­flu­ence of Pete Seeger.


On these later al­bums Spring­steen’s acous­tic ideas seem far more in­ter­est­ing and de­vel­oped – a va­ri­ety of open tun­ings led to chord voic­ings that go be­yond the stan­dard ma­jor and mi­nor ideas you find in reg­u­lar tun­ing. He per­forms with a fan­tas­ti­cally-chunky ap­proach to rhythm where the strings take one heck of a beat­ing; much like that other great, Neil Young. It can take some work to get the rhyth­mic ‘thwack’ in place – as you go to strike the bass strings with the pick you must ap­ply a pick­ing hand palm mute at the same time. It’s the down­ward strike with the pick and the damp­ing ef­fect of the palm mute that pro­vide the great big rhythm ‘thump’.

Spring­steen strum­ming his ubiq­ui­tous black Takamine elec­tro

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