Pierre Bensusan is one of my two favourite fingerstyle acoustic guitarists, the other being the late Michael Hedges. Bensusan is the master of DADGAD tuning. The song that he is doing, from my memory was an old O’Carolan tune about a battle between two groups of warring fairies. I like Bensusan because he takes a tune and makes it his own. This piece is a grreat one to add to the acoustic guitarists repertoire. One thing that I often do is use an instrumental to string a couple of tunes together which are in the same key or even play a whole tune as a guitar break. By playing solo arrangements it will make you a stronger player and also it’s handy for when the vocal mike falls off the stage and you need to recover without a fuss.
Michael Hedges admired Pierre Bensusan so much he recorded a tune called Bensusan on Aerial Boundaries and Bensusan recorded a tune in memory of Michael Hedges on the Intuite album. Bensusan’s music has a certain amount of sensitivity, don’t be fooled by the ease which he plays it, try it yourself. 🙂 Then you may have an idea why I admire this guy so much.
Badi Assad is a very brilliant contemporary classical guitar player from Brazil, she is sister of the famous Assad brothers. In this Youtube Video she is demonstrating how to play harmonics. Also at one point she starts singinging as well, it reminds of a tune by the legendary Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento.
Brilliant, musical and educational at the same time.
Every now and then I discover a new guitar player (to join the database of thousands in my head) and it’s great to share these players with you. This guy is called Antoine Dufour, he’s French Canadian born in Quebec, he’s inspired by Kottke and Hedges. He’s got a great tapping and harmonics technique. It’s very musical, slightly funky in a non-disco way and very percussive.
Jan Akkerman was a member of Focus, think Hocus Pocus in the seventies and seeing him live back then was by far one of the highlights of my musical life. His tone on electric guitar back then was sweeter than most, the only others I could compare to would be Leslie West or Santana for sweetness.
On this Youtube video, Jan Akkerman is playing a semi-acoustic with f holes, it’s close enough for me to be acoustic guitar and if you are a guitar aficionado you’ll appreciate this. It’s very jazz ballady in parts.
Visit the Jan Akkerman website
The Acoustic Guitar is something that I believe to be in a constant transitory phase.
C F Martin led us out of the gut string stage into the steel string and such others such as the Larsons Brothers and the Stella guitars helped pioneer where we are at now. But everything changes, currently in India we have the Mohan Vina, an instrument played by Vishwan Mohan Bhatt with its sympathetic drone strings, in the seventies we had John McLaughlin playing his scollaped fretboard guitar with additional strings and in the eighties we were blessed with the brilliant Michael Hedges playing the harp guitar and opening up new possibilities.
We also had Davey Graham with his Moroccan style tuning in the late sixties opening new doorways with DADGAD and other players such as Nick Drake with his haunting vocals riding over his alternative tunings.
Currently we are in the Golden Age of Handmade guitars, small workshops turning out masterpieces, examples would be Linda Manzer and her baritone guitar. Also the development of electronics and the way they are implemented into various players styles such as Adrian Legg and even John Butler with his dirty sounding acoustics are giving us all new possibilities for us to build on.
Then there is Andy McKee with his beautiful tapping and harmonics. Andy McKee manages to keep it musical wheras other players at times make it sound like guitar tricks. And in the end guitar tricks will impress guitarists but won’t really do much for listeners.
So where is this leading? As each new player and invention comes through and adds itself to the database of players and extremely cool guitars, we find that it inspires us to dig deeper and find a music within us which is more personal, less like what you’ve heard before, something that is unique and undeniably our own. And that’s why I love the acoustic guitar so much, because when we play a decent acoustic guitar, it will allow each of us to define our musical voice, at a low volume and because the instrument is basically an organic instrument it will respond to the nuances and individualness of our playing.
Ike Isaacs the great jazz guitarist would always inspire me to take what he had to offer, the theory, the technique, the harmonies, and turn it into something of my own. He always pointed out when people were playing what he called ‘typewriter music’, paint by numbers music. So I pass this on, with so many different players leading the way and the numerous music tools available now, why not try and be yourself instead of being copies of other players? Take what you can from the wealth of information available and BE YOURSELF.
John Renbourn the British guitarist has been at the forefront of acoustic fingerstyle guitar for many years now, he is a former member of the band Pentangle, and recored some extraordinary music with American Guitar Player / Historian Stefan Grossman.
This youtube has him doing Sandwood down to Kyle, it’s in DADGAD tuning, the tuning that Davey Graham made famous and Pierre Bensusan has mastered.
To see Grossman an Renbourn performing he jazz standard Round Midnight click the link
Grossman and Renbourn Youtube
A great guitar teacher of mine said to me about 35 years ago that every guitar player at some point falls in love with the nylon string guitar. Although I like to hear straight classical well played, I really like to listen to players playing nlon string in another musical style. The nylon string always sounds so full. You may have heard this video youtube of Sting playing Fragile, maybe not but the interaction of the two guitars together is worth a close listen, I saw it some years ago on tele and to this day it still rings in my mind. The other guitar player is Dominic Miller. Do yourself a favour, try and play the guitar part and sing against it.
PLEASE NOTE: The original video has been removed. It was really quite brilliant but due to a copyright issue, the embedding feature has been turned off at youtube.
There was No intentional breach by the site, it is strictly a youtube issue. It is very unfortunate because the educational value of seeing a live performance cannot be over estimated. Also the marketing value as well, I have no doubt that this version of the song would encourage listeners and guitar players alike to appreciate the musicianship that was displayed. If it ever becomes available again I will post it immediately.
There is a standard version of the song at the follwing url Sting Fragile. This version lacks the beauty of the other one.