Leonard Cohen

Hal­lelu­jah! Stu­art Ryan dances like ‘a bird on the wires’ to shows you the folk trou­ba­dour’s usu­ally ny­lon-string fin­ger­pick­ing style.

Guitar Techniques - - LEARN­ING ZONE -

Hal­lelu­jah! It’s one of those tracks that sends tin­gles down your spine and I, like many oth­ers, first be­came aware of it thanks to Jeff Buck­ley’s stag­ger­ing cover on his de­but al­bum, Grace. The com­poser of the track was of course Leonard Cohen and it first ap­peared on his 1984 al­bum Var­i­ous Po­si­tions. Although Cohen’s place in the pan­theon of great song­writ­ers was al­ready as­sured, the fresh ex­po­sure that Buck­ley’s cover pro­vided gave his ca­reer a sec­ond wind and in­tro­duced him to a whole new au­di­ence.

Leonard Cohen was born in Canada on Septem­ber 21, 1934 and, un­like many folk artists of his gen­er­a­tion, com­menced his mu­si­cal ca­reer com­par­a­tively late at the age of 34. Prior to find­ing suc­cess as a singer­song­writer Cohen had started out as a poet and nov­el­ist – in­deed, lis­ten to the rich im­agery of the orig­i­nal, much longer ver­sion of Hal­lelul­jah and his way with words be­comes im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent. Cohen is in many ways the ar­che­typal folk trou­ba­dour – gifted with a bit­ter­sweet ob­ser­va­tional lyri­cism and us­ing the gui­tar as back-up to deep themes. His gui­tar style is typ­i­cal of the time – sim­ple fin­ger­pick­ing pat­terns, ba­sic strum­ming and arpeg­giated chords but he will throw in in­ter­est­ing har­monic twists and turns so while it’s not too tech­ni­cal un­der the fin­gers there is al­ways some­thing for the ear to lis­ten out for.

Cohen moved to New York in 1967 and be­came a part of Andy Warhol’s fa­mous Fac­tory crowd. Though a pe­riph­eral char­ac­ter, this world in­tro­duced him to var­i­ous well-known artists who would go on to cover his songs, thus in­creas­ing his ex­po­sure and al­low­ing him to de­velop as a solo artist and per­former. His de­but al­bum, Songs Of Leonard Cohen was re­leased on Columbia records in 1967 and James Tay­lor and Judy Collins cov­ered sev­eral songs from the al­bum. He toured ex­ten­sively through­out the 1970s though faced some­thing of a ca­reer hia­tus in the 1980s – his pro­file grew again in the 1990s and 2000s and saw him tour world­wide again for many years. Over the decades he ex­am­ined many styles and would com­bine his folk roots with jazz based or­ches­tra­tion, even work­ing with Phil Spec­tor on his 1977 al­bum, Death Of A Ladies’ Man.

In this study we’ll ex­am­ine a typ­i­cal Cohen style part in 6/8 and see how Leonard would of­ten take his lis­ten­ers on an in­ter­est­ing har­monic jour­ney along the way.

NEXT MONTH Stu­art looks at the dis­tinc­tive acous­tic strum­ming style of Bruce Welch

most of the time one is dis­cour­aged by the work, but now and again by some grace some­thing stands out Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen play­ing a Gib­son Chet Atkins ny­lon­string elec­tro

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