Filthy lies I say.
Hey guys, George Woods here on behalf of the greatest Guitar School in Boston (obviously…) sending a message to all the folksy songwriters of the world. If you are a songwriter I highly encourage you to branch out from the open chord/bar chord go to’s and experiment with the instrument.
While, yes, guitar may well be one of the most illogically laid out instruments on the face of the planet that shouldn’t stop you from learning the matrix and delivering a Keanue Reeves style “I know Kung Foo” kick to your audiences with great accompaniment. Guitar is essentially a harp with frets stretched across a drum. That’s 3 instruments right there. Here are some textural options to consider.
1.) Straight up classic strumming. Down up Down up Down up up | Down up … You remember this part I assume.
2.) CONTRASTING sections of your song with more or less active strumming patterns. Maybe your verse sounds like your driving a semi into a brick wall. Try making your chorus completely stagnant and placid letting your vocal carry the rush across the front lines.
3.) Independent bass motion. Finger style or picked. Adding a bass line against stagnant chords not only puts you in the running with Mumford and Sons it makes Granny rock the Charleston and adds depth to your part without becoming distractingly complex.
4.) Harmonizing the sung melody with an independent bass line or a plucked melody line. (granted this generally requires learning different inversions of the chords… DO IT!!!)
5.) For more advanced players. Use the guitars percussion. Strum dead strings and hit the body for the “break it down” sections. Experiment with using nothing but rhythm to sing a verse or bridge. Think “Aint No Sunshine” – Bill Withers.
6.) If You are a soloistic performer learn to become comfortable with a BARE accompaniment. Try just using a simple riff. Or try sections that have no under pinning whatsoever. Sound is nothing without silence a whisper is nothing without a scream.
Of course there is a never ending list of guitaristic possibilities and combinations, but please, above all, remember this. The art of good composition is nothing more than the strategic confirmation or denial of expectation in order to deliver a subject matter fully and accurately.
AKA don’t strum everything all the time, because “it’s what guitars do”. Explore your instrument. Increase your pallet of techniques so that your raw emotional lyrics have room with that raw emotional guitar part. Don’t hide your art, don’t hide behind your guitar playing let each enhance and influence the other. That way you can really say what you need to say, and others can really listen.