Join Stu­art Ryan as he ex­plores the acous­tic style of indie hero Johnny Marr, with his in­ven­tive chord work, capo use and tight rhythms.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Johnny Marr’s acous­tic style with his tight rhythms and in­ven­tive chord work in­fused Smiths clas­sics, says Stu­art Ryan.

Born in Manch­ester in Oc­to­ber 1963, Johnny Marr’s gui­tar style is per­haps the very def­i­ni­tion of ‘indie’ play­ing at the high­est level. Think of Marr’s clas­sic gui­tar parts with The Smiths and you prob­a­bly con­jure words like ‘jan­gly’, ‘tex­tured’, ‘lay­ered’ and ‘rich’. Al­though of­ten bashed by play­ers of a tech­ni­cal or lead­fo­cused bent, Marr is a fan­tas­ti­cally in­ven­tive gui­tarist whose parts com­bine a wide range of in­flu­ences to pro­duce some­thing dis­tinc­tive and mem­o­rable. Like that other great player from the 1980s, Andy Sum­mers, here we are deal­ing with a gui­tarist who es­chewed lead play­ing for com­plex, lay­ered rhythm parts and bright, sparse rhythm fig­ures that be­lie a dis­tinct rock­a­billy in­flu­ence. In­deed, take a care­ful lis­ten to Marr’s play­ing with The Smiths and you will hear ev­ery­thing from rock and roll style parts drip­ping with tremolo (How Soon Is Now), jaunty rock­a­billy (What Dif­fer­ence Does It Make) and even African High­life (This Charm­ing Man). Johnny Marr’s early in­flu­ences were Keith Richards, The Vel­vet Un­der­ground and T-Rex. How­ever, he has also been in­flu­enced by jazz-fu­sion le­gend John McLaugh­lin and funk man Nile Rodgers.

Marr’s early band work con­sisted of Thin Lizzy and Stones cov­ers. His first group, White Dice, also in­cluded fel­low fu­ture Smiths-man Andy Rourke. Soon af­ter this he met Steven Mor­ris­sey and The Smiths were born. The bright, jan­gly sound of Marr’s Tele­caster and Rick­en­backer were the per­fect foil for Mor­ris­sey’s mourn­ful vo­cals and The Smiths were right­fully her­alded as one of the era’s most in­ter­est­ing and in­ven­tive bands.

His elec­tric gui­tar work is well doc­u­mented but his acous­tic parts are just as in­ter­est­ing. Al­though the acous­tic com­monly forms a bedrock to bol­ster the rhythm sec­tion on Smiths tracks there are plenty of times where it comes more to the fore and show­cases Marr as a tight and con­fi­dent chordal gui­tarist. Tracks like There Is A Light That Never Goes Out show­case this in­ven­tive­ness while This Charm­ing Man dis­plays his lay­ered ap­proach with up to 15 parts in place to build the track.

This month’s study shows how Marr cre­ates tight, strummed rhythm parts us­ing a range of dec­o­rated chords to play through what may oth­er­wise be a stan­dard pro­gres­sion. How­ever, he is also a great fin­ger­picker so delve into The Smiths and you’ll hear a unique and in­ven­tive player and es­sen­tial study for any­one look­ing to de­velop their acous­tic style within a band con­text. NEXT MONTH Stu­art delves into the in­ter­est­ing chord work of 12-string lover David Bowie

while the acous­tic com­monly forms a bedrock to the rhythm sec­tion on smiths tracks, of­ten it comes to fore

Johnny Marr with an old Martin D-28

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