ACOUSTIC GI­ANTS

Clapton and Page

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

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!

Eric Clapton

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.

Jimmy Page

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

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