Four giants of mu­sic com­bined to form one of the very first su­per­groups: CSN&Y. Stu­art Ryan delves into the their le­gendary acous­tic sound.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Stu­art Ryan looks at the acous­tic play­ing of CSN&Y and, in par­tic­u­lar, Gra­ham Nash.

It’s rare in the his­tory of rock that four such unique and in­di­vid­ual song­writ­ers, gui­tarists and vo­cal­ists join to­gether to cre­ate mu­sic that some­how man­ages to tran­scend the sum of even its grand parts. CSNY are a treat for any gui­tar-play­ing fan of the rock sound of the 1960s and ’70s as they cover so many bases from ethereal acous­tic fin­ger­pick­ing to all-out elec­tric rock and roll. David Crosby per­haps de­scribed the more com­monly seen Crosby, Stills and Nash in­car­na­tion best at their 2009 ap­pear­ance at the Glastonbury fes­ti­val when he said: “In this band we each have a job – Stills writes fan­tas­tic rock and roll; Nash writes an­thems and I write the weird stuff.”

The clas­sic ex­am­ple of a su­pergroup, CSNY com­prised Amer­i­can stars David Crosby and Stephen Stills, Bri­tish song­writer Gra­ham Nash and Canadian Neil Young. Crosby found fame with The Byrds, Nash was a mem­ber of The Hol­lies and Young and Stills had been part of Buf­falo Spring­field. The band was es­sen­tially formed at a party at Joni Mitchell’s house in 1968 when Nash, Stills and Crosby jammed to­gether (Young would join the band later) and re­alised how spe­cial their sound was. This trio re­leased their de­but al­bum, Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969 and fol­lowed it the next year as the ex­panded CSNY with the Déjà Vu al­bum. As with many of th­ese out­fits, there were nu­mer­ous in­ter-band quar­rels that saw them split up in 1970 only to re­unite in 1974. It’s amaz­ing to think that even dur­ing this pe­riod the four mem­bers re­leased some stunning solo works (Neil Young’s Har­vest!). Af­ter the depar­ture of Young in the mid ’70s the band con­tin­ued to re­lease al­bums as a trio and con­tinue to tour as this line-up.

Given the pow­er­ful mu­si­cal per­son­al­i­ties of such a group it’s no sur­prise to dis­cover that there is no one ‘gui­tar sound’ herel; rather, it’s a melt­ing pot of in­flu­ences and ap­proaches. There are po­lar op­po­sites: the up­tempo strum­ming Bri­tish pop sound of Nash’s Mar­rakesh Express against Crosby’s oth­er­worldly fin­ger­picked al­tered tun­ing opus Guin­e­vere. As I cov­ered Crosby’s imag­i­na­tive fin­ger­pick­ing style in GT sev­eral years ago this time I’ve elected for a more Nash-in­spired, strum­ming-based track with some typ­i­cal CSN chordal move­ment. We’ll look at Stills’ lovely acous­tic pick­ing in a fu­ture is­sue.

there are elec­tric songs and acous­tic songs. the test of an elec­tric song is to play it on an acous­tic Stephen Stills

NEXT MONTH Stu­art looks at the acous­tic style of mod­ern acous­tic su­per­star Ed Sheeran

Crosby and Nash: half of one the great­est har­mony bands of all time

It’s mostly Martins for th­ese guys (ex­cept for Stills’ fa­mous use of the Gretsch White Fal­con on the elec­tric side of things). Any good acous­tic will work for this style al­though I would veer to a larg­er­bod­ied dread­nought to get that clas­sic CSNY sound. I recorded this on a Gib­son J-35 Col­lec­tor’s edi­tion through Tele­funken and Brauner mics and Chan­dler TG 500 mic preamps.

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