Stu­art Ryan in­ves­ti­gates the style of Amer­i­cana acous­tic leg­end Dave Matthews.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

One of Amer­ica’s most orig­i­nal and quirky singer-song­writ­ers, Dave Matthews is also one its big­gest sell­ing. A ver­i­ta­ble su­per­star in the USA The Dave Matthews Band fills sta­di­ums and are­nas across the coun­try. Although less known through­out the rest of the world his unique ap­proach to writ­ing acous­tic gui­tar parts mer­its wider study and recog­ni­tion, and so in this les­son we’ll ex­am­ine some key fea­tures of his style.

Matthews was born in Jo­han­nes­burg, South Africa, in 1967 and spent his child­hood both there and in the USA. He set­tled in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia in 1987 and be­came a fix­ture on the lo­cal mu­sic scene writ­ing songs and per­form­ing his first solo gigs. He’d been play­ing gui­tar since the age of nine, though it was only in his early 20s that writ­ing and per­form­ing be­came a se­ri­ous propo­si­tion. He formed The Dave Matthews Band in 1991; a fas­ci­nat­ing mix of vo­cals, gui­tar, bass, drums and the un­usual com­bi­na­tion of sax­o­phone and vi­o­lin. The lat­ter two in­stru­ments, along­side Matthews’s orig­i­nal way of song­writ­ing, con­trib­ute to the unique (and of­ten huge) sound of the band.

Although you will oc­ca­sion­ally see him on stage with an elec­tric gui­tar, Matthews’s pri­mary writ­ing and per­form­ing tool is an acous­tic gui­tar. There are many el­e­ments of his play­ing that serve to make it unique – not least his in­flu­ences that range from Bob Mar­ley to avant garde pi­anist Keith Jar­rett and many more points in be­tween. His songs of­ten fea­ture strummed chords that are ex­panded by ring­ing open strings or tight, picked riffs that may be dou­bled by the horns or vi­o­lins. It’s worth not­ing that Matthews has large hands and con­se­quently a large reach, some­thing that of­ten comes into play when he em­ploys wide stretched Andy Sum­mers-es­que chords and mov­ing basslines against static chords. We are deal­ing with acous­tic rhythm

chords with mov­ing bass, strummed parts with open strings and deftly picked riffs all ap­pear in this study gui­tar here, and while you will find him play­ing con­ven­tional open-chord strum­ming, he will of­ten com­bine such ideas with the more off-the-wall riff­ing or chords that you may not ex­pect.

For our study I’ve com­bined sev­eral ap­proaches in much the way Matthews does – static chords with a mov­ing bass, strummed parts with open strings and deftly-picked riffs are all fea­tures that make their way into this month’s study. Some of the al­ter­nate pick­ing may come as a sur­prise but watch him play and you’ll see that he is ac­cu­rate and pretty fast with this when needed!

Dave Matthews belt­ing out riffs on a big Tay­lor 12-string box

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