Something in the way he grooves (here comes the pun)! Stuart Ryan checks out the distinctive chord work of Beatle George - The Quiet One.
Stuart Ryan is intrigued by the chords and changes in George Harrison’s post-Beatles work - his ‘All Things Must Pass’ era...
Learn anything by any of The Beatles and it’s virtually a music lesson in itself – three distinct guitarists all with their own styles and quirks. What’s more, the lesson doesn’t stop after The Beatles disband: the various solo albums by John, Paul, George and Ringo contain guitar playing gems and unusual chord progressions that can take your playing in different directions from just one lesson. And so it is that this month we will focus on the guitar style of ‘the quiet Beatle’, George Harrison. Arguably the most ‘guitar focused’ musician of the band, George’s acoustic playing is full of character and in this study we’ll see how unexpected chords can really bring a piece to life.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney are, of course, known for writing the majority of the band’s hits but The Beatles were a classic example of the sum being more than its parts – take George’s classic guitar ideas away from the tracks and you’d certainly miss them. What’s more, he wrote some of their most distinctive songs – it’s impossible to imagine their back catalogue without George-penned classics like Here Comes The Sun, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something.
George Harrison was born in Liverpool on February 25 1943. His formative influences were the rock and roll legends of his time – principally Buddy Holly and Little Richard. However, like most guitarists he was also drawn to the more ‘technical’ players of the era and so developed an interest in rockabilly legend Carl Perkins, gypsy jazz genius Django Reinhardt and bluesman Big Bill Broonzy. With such a diverse palette of influences it’s no surprise that he became the band’s ‘lead’ guitarist. However, even through his solo career you can hear elements of all these players, not least in his unexpected chord progressions where jazzy diminished 7ths could appear when least expected.
I’ve covered George’s ‘Beatles’ style so for this study we’ll focus on his All Things Must Pass phase. This solo album was released in 1970 and was a triple affair containing songs that George had not managed to get onto the band’s records. It featured a plethora of music legends from Eric Clapton to fellow Beatle Ringo Starr. In this study you’ll encounter some unusual chord moves that will serve as a great exercise for the fretting hand. The picking hand will focus on tight, rhythmic strumming and clean arpeggiated chords.
GEORGE’S ALL THINGS MUST PASS WAS A TRIPLE ALBUM OF SONGS THAT HE COULDN’T GET ONTO BEATLES RECORDS
NEXT MONTH Stuart looks at the style singersongwriter-guitarist Tracy Chapman
George: here pictured at the 1971 Concert For Bangladesh