Clapton and Page
Two of the greatest British blues-rock guitarists are also fine acoustic exponents. While Clapton displays his Delta influences Page is more folk and world music inclined. Check them out!
Although both primarily known for their groundbreaking electric work – Clapton in the blues breakers, Cream, Derek and the Dominos and as a solo artist, and page primarily in led Zeppelin and various collaborative forays – these two british icons have also done much for the furtherance of the acoustic guitar as a serious instrument of rock and blues.
While their styles are very different, with Page more influenced by the folk scene and world music, and Clapton maintaining his blues roots, both guitarists display great touch on the instrument. i’ve taken some of their best-known approaches and laid them bare in the following seven pages, so you can pick apart the acoustic styles of these two legendary players. there’s tons here to get your teeth into, so grab that flat-top, find your best pick and emery those nails to perfection. get plucking and enjoy the ride!
heavily inspired by the likes of robert Johnson and muddy Waters, Eric has always been a blues purist. So much so that he left the yardbirds when they were on the brink of commercial success, objecting to the pop direction of For your love. though a pioneer of loud overdriven electric guitar, Eric’s passion for the acoustic has been clearly demonstrated over the years. he is a master of many traditional techniques, such as bottleneck, clawhammer and using the picking hand first finger to ‘flick’ chords with an upstroke motion, while playing bass notes with the thumb. our examples aim to give you a good overview of these techniques and others, without the need for years of dedicated study (you can always do that too, of course!).
more good news is, you don’t need racks of expensive gear to get close to the required tones. admittedly Eric’s vintage martins and his own signature EC model’s price tag puts such instruments firmly out of the reach of many players, but in truth any reasonable acoustic will suffice.
Eric favours smaller bodied guitars for the more focused midrange and clarity that they deliver. For bottleneck, he often employs a resonator guitar for the distinctive ‘boxy’ sound that’s ideal for this technique.
the examples on the gt audio were recorded with a yamaha CpX 900, which was mic’d in front of the soundhole. a little reverb was added for ambience afterwards. if you have an acoustic with a built-in pickup (like Eric’s) then you may want to do the same with a medium ‘room’ setting subtly blended in.
Initially inspired by skiffle and rock and roll but eventually becoming famous as the ultimate gibson les paul-toting riffmachine, Jimmy page was also drawn to the experimental acoustic styles of John renbourn and bert Jansch (among others) from a very early stage, and his distinctive acoustic playing features heavily on nearly all of led Zeppelin’s albums. he jokingly refers to his eclectic mix of acoustic styles as his Cia (Celtic, indian, arabic) connection and it is as significant a part of his style as the electric playing that frequently causes Zeppelin to be mis-labelled as ‘heavy metal’. page’s frequent use of both altered and open tunings enhances his vocabulary of exotic scales and chords learned from the likes of Davy graham, and from his own extended travels in North Africa. Jimmy fluctuates between this dissonant approach and a contrasting, more melodic folk sensibility.
Our examples reflect this, using a mixture of clawhammer style fingerpicking and more conventional ‘flat picking’ technique. though page was notable for adding ambient reverbs and even flanging effects to recorded acoustics on occasion, the basic tone was never completely obscured. the gt examples steer clear of the more outlandish effects, making it easier and more satisfying to sit and play them unamplified.
page has used a wide variety of guitars, including a harmony, gibson J-200, martin D-45 and occasionally, a custom doubleneck ovation for live work. So it’s fairly safe to say the sound is in the fingers rather than coming from any particular instrument.
as with our EC examples, the gt recordings were made with a yamaha CpX 900, mic’d at the soundhole. a few different reverbs were used to give a little extra authenticity, but these are by no means necessary to make these examples sound correct. Jimmy himself would have come up with the ideas and tunings long before studio effects came into the picture.
eric was always A blues purist, while jimmy was drawn to the folky styles of john renbourn and bert jansch