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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
JWB Guitar as accompaniment (69* d) RE: Guitar as accompaniment 18 Nov 04


The biggest hurdle I had to clear as a guitar player and singer was realizing that my main instrument is my voice, like for others. Once I figured that out I could let go of trying to have my guitar accompaniment be brilliant, compelling, and engrossing. It just needed to serve the song.

So my approach these days is to find the accompaniment style that supports the lyrics. I tend to use fingerpicking for "prettier" songs, with bass runs, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and all the rest used sparingly. An example is James Taylor's "Millworker": fingerpicking allows me to use a hook between verses and to make the most out of partial chords to build emotional tension.

Strumming I use to drive a song more, or give a fuller sound behind my voice. I enjoy playing with the rhythym while strumming, without loosing the pulse needed to move the song along. "When I ws a Young Maid" I treat with a marching pulse that has a lot of syncopation in between the downbeats.

I like standard and drop-D tunings for both finger and plectrum styles.

Since I play concertina, banjo, accordion and uke I always have to answer Jerry's question about which to use for a particular song. Sometimes the choice is driven by venue: I tend to use the squeezeboxes more for sea music gigs, for example. Other times it's an instinct for what I think will be most pleasing. One thing I have learned is that to revive a song I've grown tired of, all I need to do is accompany it on another instrument. Presto! All sorts of possiblities open up.

Arranging songs is a large part of the fun, I think. I'm continually pushing my limits with different accompaniments. I'm working on a guitar accompaniment for the traditional song "The Weary Cutters", trying out a very spare, minimalist fingerpicked arrangement, without a steady beat and with silences. It's exciting to go down new avenues like that, and it helps me remember cptsnapper's advice that it's about enjoying and sharing that enjoyment.


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