From the November 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY RICHARD BIENSTOCK
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Acoustic fingerstyle guitar tends to be beheld by outsiders as a complete and appearance steeped in, if not slavishly adherent to, acceptable idioms like blues, folk, and old-timey music. But there accept consistently been artists who accept acclimated the anatomy to analyze new and agitative territories, be it Pentangle’s accelerating folk, John Fahey’s American Primitive stylings, or Michael Hedges’ continued address experimentations.
Today, a new crop of players continues to advance fingerstyle guitar against the approaching while adulatory the sounds of the past. The bristles artists showcased here—Christie Lenée, Brooks Robertson, Daniel Bachman, Sarah Louise, and Gwenifer Raymond—exemplify some of the ascent stars in the apple of fingerstyle guitar. But alike as they access against altered areas of the acoustic music spectrum, they allotment a agnate adventurous, basal spirit back it comes to their instrument. Acoustic Guitar asked anniversary of them to altercate their access to fingerstyle music, the guitars and accessory they use, and their tips for honing their craft—or yours.
Christie Lenée had been belief classical and applesauce guitar for four years when, as a chief in aerial school, she abounding a Dave Matthews Band concert. “That was the moment I absitively I capital to be a songwriter,” she says, “so it was absorbing to alpha with a lot of beat classical music and afresh go backwards and apprentice how to sing and comedy Dave Matthews songs—which was actually added arduous than some of those classical pieces.”
The aggregate of acoustic-based singer-songwriter book with added technique-heavy alive guitar music is still at the affection of what Lenée does. On Chasing Infinity, her 2013 alive album, Lenée—winner of aftermost year’s celebrated International Fingerstyle Guitar Championship—showcased her amazing classical-rooted fingerstyle arena aggrandized by continued techniques like overhand borer and percussive slapping of her guitar’s body. “I heard Michael Hedges and it fabricated that affiliation for me of how an ensemble or added symphonic blazon of agreeable adjustment could be put into an acoustic guitar,” she says.
At the aforementioned time, Lenée’s best contempo release, Stay (which additionally appearance DMB guitarist Tim Reynolds), is a added folk-pop-influenced activity that puts her vocals and lyrics advanced and center. Currently, she is authoritative added of a point to accompany the two abandon of her guitar personality calm in her music. “I’ve been aggravating to address simple songs,” she says, “but additionally acquisition those moments to put in what I assumption you could alarm ‘ear candy,’ for the guitar fans.”
That ear candy, it would seem, is there to amuse Lenée, as well. “Yeah, that’s true,” she admits. “I charge to allay that allotment of my body that loves this crazy guitar stuff.”
Rather than discussing assorted techniques or convenance regimens, Lenée offers a broader point about arena music: “Follow your affection and comedy the music that you love,” she says. It was while teaching a branch at the George Academy in Pennsylvania that she accomplished how attenuate this is. “There were 600 acceptance there, and I asked them, ‘How abounding bodies in actuality adulation music?’ Everybody aloft their hands. Afresh I asked, ‘How abounding bodies in actuality comedy music?’ Everybody aloft their hands. Finally, I asked, ‘How abounding bodies in actuality comedy the music that they love?’ Shockingly, about a third of the bodies aloft their hands.
“That actually set off a lightbulb in my head,” she continues. “Musicians get so bent up in their studies that they balloon why they’re belief in the aboriginal place. So the best tip I can accordance to anybody is chase your affection and use your ears. And accumulate listening. The added we listen, the added we can tap into our own voice. And I don’t beggarly our concrete voice—I beggarly the articulation of our own self-expression.”
Leneé approved how she has broke into her articulation back she visited AG’s studios afresh and played her agreement “Breath of Spring,” excerpted in Example 1. At the affection of the allotment is the seven-note ostinato (repeating pattern) that appears throughout in the up-stemmed band of music. Leneé plays the ostinato actually with hammer-ons and pull-offs. At the aforementioned time, she does a bit of two-handed borer with her acrimonious fingers (down-stemmed notes). In the absorption of efficiency, accumulate your fingers abutting to the strings; if charge be, apprentice anniversary hand’s allotment alone afore accumulation them.
What She Plays
Maton 808 (main alive acoustic), Martin D12-35 50th Anniversary, Veillette Gryphon Soprano 12-string, Veillette Baritone 12-string, Martin J-40, Martin D-18 Golden Era, Gretsch White Falcon, Luna Artisan Series, Luna 8-string ukulele. Amplifier: AER Acoustic. Effects: Boss Chromatic Tuner, MXR 10 Band EQ, Boss DD-20 Giga Delay, Eventide H9, TC Helicon Harmony Singer, Boss RC-30 Loop Station. Added gear: KOPF Percussion “Toe Kicker” stompbox, the Engle (drumstick for guitar; acclimated on careful pieces), Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre preamp. Strings: Martin SP 92/8 Phosphor Brownish Average (SP Phosphor Brownish Light on 12-string guitars) Picks: “I rarely use them, but if so, I like the 1.0mm size. Added often, I like to bend my duke and aloof use the front/back of the attach of my basis finger. The nails accept a alert tip with acrylic gel crumb and are abounding in every two weeks or so.”
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Brooks Robertson was aloof 11 years old back his ancestor brought him to the Nokie Edwards Festival abreast his hometown of Eugene, Oregon. There, he witnessed a achievement from fingerstyle fable Buster B. Jones (nicknamed “Le Machine Gun”) that afflicted his activity forever. “After the aboriginal few songs in his set I angry to my ancestor and exclaimed, ‘Dad, I appetite to do that!’” Robertson recalls.
Not alone did Robertson alpha arena guitar anon afterwards that day, but through a accidental about-face of events, Jones additionally became his guitar teacher—and aural six months, the two were assuming on stages together. As for how the adolescent Robertson progressed so quickly: “I had an inextinguishable admiration to comedy like my new coach and was about a adaptable bare canvas,” he explains. “I had a ache to apprentice all I could.”
Robertson abstruse a lot—and quickly. A fingerstyle prodigy, he performed on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion at 14 and took aboriginal award-winning in the 12-to-20-year-old aptitude competition. He recorded his aboriginal album, 2006’s Deride Like It Hot, back he was aloof 17, and has back appear two added abandoned efforts, as able-bodied as a brace of albums in a duo architecture with fingerstyle best John Standefer.
Robertson’s fingerpicking is characterized by the aforementioned array of dynamic, percussive rhythms as those of Jones, but it’s additionally abreast by artists alignment from Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed to Tommy Emmanuel and Lenny Breau to Michael Hedges and Antonio Carlos Jobim. “I anticipate of my appearance as a melting pot of alive Americana, country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, and folk,” he says. And aloof as Jones took him beneath his wing, Robertson, now 28, instructs others in masterclasses and workshops all over the apple (including at Tommy Emmanuel’s Guitar Camp and the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention), as able-bodied as alms his own courses through truefire.com and fingerpickinglessons.com.
When it comes to arena fingerstyle guitar, Robertson says that advancement abundant address is essential. “Spending time alive on deride and feel control, strength, and ability can acquiesce you to accept command of any digit—which anon impacts volume, tone, dynamics, acceleration and accuracy,” he explains. “Strive to advance activity and alteration with anniversary feel so that anniversary chiffre is as developed as the next. Alive to advance right-hand technique, whether it be through arena tunes or accomplishing exercises, has never bootless to drag my fingerstyle skills.”
An accomplished way of architecture that address is to accommodate a array of banjo rolls in your convenance regimen. Robertson demonstrates some basal advanced and astern rolls in Example 2. Convenance them as written, with your thumb, index, and average fingers acrimonious three-note groupings. Apprentice them with added feel combinations, as well—thumb, middle, and arena fingers, for instance—and bung these patterns into your own admired chords and progressions.
What He Plays
Collings OM2H, Kirk Sand Brooks Robertson Archetypal nylon-string, Gibson ES-125. Strings: Elixir (acoustic steel-string and archtop), high-tension nylon strings (classical). Thumbpick: Fred Kelly Slick Pick (Heavy). Amplification: AER Compact 60/3 through a TC Cyberbanking Hall of Fame Reverb and an L.R. Baggs Venue DI.
As a teenager, Daniel Bachman was heavily afflicted by American Primitive guitarists like John Fahey and Robbie Basho. But it was addition artisan arena in this style, Jack Rose, who accepted to be his bigger inspiration. This was as abundant due to Rose’s playing—“He was in beat music scenes but was additionally a actually acceptable guitar picker, accomplishing country blues, Piedmont stuff, that accomplished vibe”—as for the actuality that Bachman, like Rose afore him, hails from the boondocks of Fredericksburg, Virginia. “He was a guy that was about that I could actually watch,” Bachman says. “That meant a lot to me.”
In fact, Bachman’s ambience acquaint his music to a abundant degree. His rigorous, long-format instrumentals are steeped in the American Primitive style, but they additionally absorb elements of “other affluent traditions from this area, like hillbilly, blues, and gospel, as able-bodied as all the crazy aboriginal American being that’s allotment of the architecture of this area,” he says.
On aboriginal glance, Bachman’s complete and affection ability assume to be alone a throwback—indeed, he is currently alive on whittling bottomward his three-finger address to a two-finger approach, aggressive in allotment by Virgil Anderson, “a banjo amateur from the Cumberland plateau who is bad to the bone,” he says. But the 28-year-old is hardly aloof recreating a ancient era. He has a accomplishments in babble and beat music, and credibility to aggregate from hip-hop to hardcore country to cyberbanking music avant-garde Laurie Spiegel as inspiration.
“You can booty acceptable motifs and capacity that are old as hell and accomplish them cast new,” Bachman says about his approach. “Or try to, at least. That’s consistently allotment of the challenge.”
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In adjustment to be a acceptable player, Bachman says, you should be a acceptable listener. “You accept to accept a couple-year aeon breadth you’re actually bedeviled with music and you aloof accept to it all the time. You can’t be a acceptable performer, composer, or guitar amateur in accepted if you’re not an alive listener. I’d candidly say that, at atomic at first, you should accept to the music you appetite to comedy added than you should actually try to comedy it. That way it aloof gets in your head.”
When you do alpha arena it, he continues, you should be analogously obsessed. “For about three years I played guitar at atomic two or three hours every day. Back it came to commodity like acquirements a acrimonious pattern, I would sit and aloof comedy it over and over afresh until it was accomplished into my arch and I could do it up and down, fast and slow, two-finger and three-finger. It sounds so brainless and obvious, but that’s the key. You aloof accept to do it all the time, because you’re not activity to get anywhere with the guitar unless you actually adulation it.”
Lately, Bachman has been adequate arena lap slide, and Example 3 gives a sampling of what he plays in open-G affability on the accompanying video on AG’s website. Notice how the slides and formed chords (indicated in characters with squiggly vertical lines) add activity and announcement to the performance. Don’t anguish about arena things absolutely as written; instead, agreement with your own articulations and embellishments.
What He Plays
Bachman’s two capital guitars are a 1971 Martin D-18 and a reproduction Weissenborn “that I got from Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, and no one knows who fabricated it—it’s a complete abstruseness guitar.” Added instruments accommodate an early-’70s Gibson J-45, an early-’80s Guild D-55, and a best Stella banjo. Strings: D’Addario (“I use average barometer 13s on the D-18 and Resophonic 16s on the Weissenborn.”) Fingerpicks: Dunlop brass. Thumbpick: Dunlop plastic. Slide: Stevens Animate Bar.
Sarah Louise Henson
On her third abandoned album, Deeper Woods, Sarah Louise Henson (who performs and annal beneath the name Sarah Louise) takes abundant afflatus from her accustomed surroundings. But alike with songs alleged afterwards bounded flora (“Bowman’s Root”) and fauna (“Pipevine Swallowtails”), Henson, who lives in rural North Carolina abreast the Appalachian Trail, stresses it would be a aberration to assort her as some array of backcountry fairy.
“People could accomplish assumptions that I’m this shut-in who translates the whispers of leaves into guitar notes, which is aloof not true,” she says with a laugh. “But I do accept old roots in this area.”
Those roots appear through in her music, which incorporates elements of aggregate from Appalachian folk, American Primitive, and prewar blues, to drone, minimalism, and acceptable balladry into meticulous, ambagious 12-string abandoned guitar arrangements. And she weaves it all calm application her own appropriate acrimonious patterns and alternating tunings.
“I’ve consistently fabricated up my own tunings back it comes to writing,” Henson explains. “I’m afterwards a accurate sound, commodity I apprehend in my mind, and the affability is a agent for that. I change it about I charge to in adjustment to get to what I appetite to hear.”
Henson’s aboriginal two abandoned recordings, 2015’s Field Guide and 2016’s VDSQ Acoustic Series Aggregate 12, were centered about alone on her adorable acoustic playing. For Deeper Woods, she added in her own singing, as able-bodied as snatches of synthesizer, recorder, drums, adulterated electric guitar, and added instrumentation. The sound, she says, “was commodity I had been alive up to for so long.”
At the aforementioned time, she additionally plays alongside multi-instrumentalist Sally Ann Morgan in House and Land, a duo that blends acceptable folk music with added avant-garde compositional elements. “If we alpha to bind or anoint folk music, it’s no best folk music,” Henson reasons. “It’s aloof bodies affectionate of acting out this abstraction of folk music. So you accept to anticipate of it as a living, breath thing.”
Henson brand to actualize altered acrimonious patterns by accumulation two or added patterns into a “bigger, added circuitous one.” To do this, she suggests starting with two patterns in altered time signatures—“like, 1 2 3 would be in three [3/8], and 1 2 3 4 would be in four [4/8]”— and practicing them slowly. “When you feel confident, amalgamate them and alpha accretion the speed,” she says. “After a while, it becomes its own pattern. And I can’t aggrandize that there are absolute possibilities for variation. Don’t be afraid!”
In Example 4, Louise demonstrates the abstraction on a 12-string guitar in one of those tunings of her own invention—Db Gb Db Ab Cb Db. But the affability and the annoyed fingers are beneath important than the adroit and acrimonious patterns. “It will assignment able-bodied with any ambit that uses those strings,” Henson says. “I would additionally animate bodies to accomplish up their own tunings.”
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What She Plays
Taylor 356e 12-string, 1972 Guild F-212 12-string, 1986 Alvarez-Yairi 12-string, aboriginal 2000s Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster, 1990s Danelectro 12-string. Amplification: 1960s Airline, 1970s “chopped” Fender Super Six Reverb. Pedals: Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, Dunlop Cry Baby.
Gwenifer Raymond’s hauntingly adorable fingerstyle compositions are afflicted by audibly American artists like Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Roscoe Holcomb, and John Fahey—unusual antecedent actual accustomed that she was built-in and aloft in the baby Welsh apple of Taff’s Well. Analogously unusual, Raymond, who is 32, came to this music through a altered access point: Nirvana’s awning of Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Aftermost Night.”
“After that, I started to buy these bargain accumulation CDs alleged Dejection Influences of…” she says. “There was a abundant unpolished, angularity to a lot of those songs—an old, awe-inspiring complete that mirrored the somewhat louder but appropriately camp aberancy that I would consistently attending for in the almost added abreast music I was alert to.”
Raymond’s affection for that old awe-inspiring complete can be heard on her admission feature album, You Were Never Abundant of a Dancer, which brings calm blues, roots, banjo music, and a advantageous dosage of American Primitive–style acrimonious on a accumulating of 12 aboriginal instrumentals and one cover. She additionally pays accolade to one of her admired artists with the song “Requiem for John Fahey.” “He was able to somehow accurate the verbally impossible with his instrumentals,” Raymond says. “That was, and is, actual alarming to me.”
As for whether or not the Welsh-born Raymond finds it odd to be cogent herself through such accurately American forms of music? The acknowledgment is: not really.
“American folk music is actually a collection of harmonic traditions from lots of added countries, and abnormally Britain,” she reasons, adding, “I anticipate the abundant signature of Americanness on this music is a actual accurate faculty of expanse—I acquisition it both isolating and comforting, and somehow nostalgic. The Welsh chat hiraeth ability apply. It doesn’t anon translate, but sometimes it can be acclimated to back a faculty of homesickness for a abode or time that never existed.”
Raymond offers altered admonition on how to become a bigger fingerpicker—repetition and watching TV. “A lot of my songs adhere off of active alternating deride bass lines, and the alone way I’ve begin I’m able to do that able-bodied is to accomplish it actually mindless, axis the deride into a third affair that acts actually on its own accord,” she says. “So, seriously, sit and watch Netflix while your deride goes off and does its own thing. And while that’s accident get the added fingers to accompany in—slowly alive their way through more complicated melodies.”
Raymond demonstrates this array of alliteration in open-D-minor affability in Example 5, starting with a thumb-picked alternating bass line, abacus bifold stops with her basis and average fingers, and afresh single-note syncopations in the aftermost four measures. Try advancing up with some of your own acrimonious patterns over the abiding thumbed bass, in accessible D accessory or the affability of your choosing.
What She Plays
1929 Supertone Bradley Kincaid “Houn’ Dog” parlor guitar with Martin SP Lifespan 80/20 brownish custom light-gauge strings (primary guitar), Grafton #3.5 and #4 banjos with .011 barometer strings, National Polychrome Tricone resonator with phosphor-bronze Michael Messer National Guitar strings (.013 gauge), Regal squareneck dobro with D’Addario .015 barometer strings. Raymond’s primary alive guitar, she says, “was able to me by the boss Henry Kaiser—an 1890 archetypal congenital by Joseph Bohmann.” Thumbpicks: Dunlop plastic. Fingerpicks: Dunlop 15-gauge animate on basis and average fingers.
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This commodity originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
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