From the November 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY ADAM LEVY
Close your eyes for a moment and brainstorm Eric Clapton arena guitar. You apparently account him cradling his iconic atramentous Fender Stratocaster, or his Cream-era cherry-red Gibson ES-335, or maybe the sunburst Gibson Les Paul he played in the mid-1960s with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, right? Indeed, that’s how bodies accept tended to anticipate of Clapton anytime back he aboriginal hit the British blues-rock arena in the aboriginal 1960s as a affiliate of the Yardbirds. So back Clapton’s acoustic-driven Unplugged anthology was appear in 1992, his accomplishment on acoustic guitar (a 1939 Martin 000-42 additional a few others) came as a big abruptness to abounding music fans. This adventurous move was no lark, however. As the guitarist makes bright throughout Unplugged, he absolutely doesn’t charge a solidbody electric or a cranked-up amplifier to authentic himself.
Unplugged was recorded live, in advanced of an audience, as allotment of MTV’s acoustic-music television series. It went on to be Clapton’s acknowledged anthology and one of the best bestselling alive albums by any artist. It appearance a animated reboot of Clapton’s iconic rocker “Layla” (see archetype in the November 2018 issue), the carol “Tears in Heaven,” and several animated dejection numbers, as well, including “Walkin’ Blues” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.”
Clapton’s flattop assize isn’t bound to Unplugged. “How Long Blues,” from his 1994 From the Cradle album, showcases his aqueduct abilities on a wood-body resonator guitar. His 2004 accolade to Robert Johnson, Me and Mr. Johnson, has a few acute non-electric tunes. (“Come On in My Kitchen” is a highlight.) “The Folks Who Alive On the Hill,” from the 2013 anthology Old Sock, is an chaste charmer.
In this lesson, you’ll apprentice some of Clapton’s best arresting acoustic moves—sophisticated ambit shapes, antic rhythms, anfractuous abandoned lines, and more. All the examples are meant to be played fingerstyle, as Clapton best generally does back arena acoustic guitar. (Hybrid, or pick-and-fingers technique, is additionally viable.) The down-stemmed addendum in the music are to be played with the deride (or pick, in amalgam style). Comedy the up-stemmed addendum with whichever accessible fingers you’re best adequate using. Clapton’s picking-hand techniques aren’t absolutely consistent, and castigation needn’t be, either. Go for feel over orthodoxy.
“Change the World,” one of Clapton’s best acclaimed acoustic songs, comes not from Unplugged but from the soundtrack to the 1996 blur Phenomenon. (It was afterwards included on the accumulation Clapton Chronicles: The Best of Eric Clapton.) Archetype 1a is in the appearance of the slow-simmering addition from “Change the World.” While E, F#m7, and G aren’t difficult to play, booty time to accomplish abiding that every agenda rings with Clapton-like clarity.
Play the G ambit with your additional feel on the sixth cord (third fret). If you’re arena fingerstyle, there’s no charge to affront addendum on the fifth cord or first, as you ability do on a archetypal G chord, because those strings won’t be articulate here. (If you acquisition that your fifth cord is resonating uncontrollably, try aptitude the pad of your additional feel agilely adjoin the cord to aphasiac it. If the accessible aboriginal cord is bothersome, stop it at the third fret.) On exhausted 3, add the agenda A on the third cord (second fret) with your aboriginal finger. This added note, by the way, briefly apology the ambit from G to Gadd9.
Example 1b is in the appearance of the carol sections from “Change the World.” The ambit arrangement in the aboriginal four measures is agnate to the chords in Ex. 1, but actuality the atmosphere is added bluesy—owing to the E7 ambit in measures 2 and 3, as able-bodied as the low open-E pedal accent that sustains beneath the alive harmonies. The abutting four measures are agnate to the aboriginal four, antipodal up a absolute fourth to accompany with the harmonic shift, from I to IV. Now the pedal accent is played on the fifth cord (open A).
Examples 2a and 2b are styled afterwards “Driftin’,” from Clapton’s 1994 anthology From the Cradle. (This is about the aforementioned song as “Driftin’ Blues,” appear about 20 years beforehand on the alive anthology E.C. Was Here.) Clapton’s “Driftin’” addition is the archetypal for Ex. 2a. In the aboriginal two measures, the bass band (down-stemmed notes) rolls steadily along, establishing the song’s groove. It may be accessible to convenance the bass band on its own at first, abacus the chordal jabs (up-stemmed notes) already you get the bass grooving. A leash feel is alien in measures 3 and 4. (This song was aboriginal recorded as “Drifting Blues” by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in the 1940s. Clapton’s leash abstracts on his From the Cradle arrangement may accept been inspired, in part, by the piano arena of Three Blazers pianist Charles Brown.)
Ex. 2b is not clashing Clapton’s active breach about the mean of his recording. Measures 1–3 are straightforward, with the ambiguity leash feel continuing. The leash on exhausted 4 of admeasurement 1 has an accessible E area you acceptable wouldn’t apprehend it—between two college A addendum on the additional string. (This three-note amount is apparent afresh on exhausted 2 of admeasurement 4.) The 6/4 exhausted in measures 8 and 12 may attending tricky, but these measures should feel accustomed back played in context. Bar 9 appearance an camp B11 voicing, with the chord’s 3rd (D#) on cord 4, and the chord’s 11th (E) on cord 1. Sounding the 11th an octave aloft the third is a adventurous choice. Again again, the dejection is a adventurous agreeable form.
Brazilian and Jazz Strains
Clapton played a nylon-string guitar congenital by Spanish luthier José Ramirez III on “Signe”—Unplugged’s breezy, Brazilian-tinged aperture number. Archetype 3a is affiliated to the addition and aboriginal area from “Signe.” (It may not be absolutely authentic to alarm this instrumental’s aboriginal area a “verse,” admitting it functions as such.) The bass addendum are played with the deride and should consistently acreage absolutely on the beat, while adapted elements, played with two or three fingers, are sometimes anticipatory. This absurd delivery gives the music some advance and pull. The adumbrated slurs are capital to nailing the feel, as well. Archetype 3b is in the spirit of the second, chorus-like section. Again, booty affliction to get the syncopations and slurs aloof right.
As allotment of the alive achievement that became the Unplugged album, Clapton recorded the admirable carol “Circus Left Town.” For whatever reason, this song was not originally included on the album, but it’s on the choice edition, appear in 2013; a revamped version, artlessly alleged “Circus,” appears on Clapton’s 1998 anthology Pilgrim. Archetype 4 is based on the addition from the Unplugged recording. The fingerpicking arrangement in this archetype is a circuit on Travis-style picking. Bass addendum alternating on strings 5 and 4, which isn’t uncommon, but acknowledgment to the aberant ambit shapes, the bass addendum aren’t consistently the basis and fifth of the chord.
The Amaj7 in measures 1 and 2 is played unusually—with A on the accessible fifth string, G# on the fourth cord at the sixth fret, and C# on the third cord at the sixth fret. The agenda B is played on the accessible additional string, again formed up to E at the fifth fret. Use a bisected barre beyond strings 1–4 (or a fractional barre beyond strings 2–4 if you can) at affront 4 to accomplish the Badd9/A chord. Similarly, Adim7 may be played as a bisected or fractional barre, or with alone fingers on the addendum F#, C, and D#. You could additionally try arena the basis agenda (A) of Adim7 with your additional feel on cord 6, third feel on cord 3, and your aboriginal feel barring strings 2–4. On the Unplugged video footage, it appears that Clapton plays it this way, while his abetment guitarist, Andy Fairweather Low, plays the low A as an accessible string.
Example 5, this lesson’s final figure, is a acknowledgment to the blues. It’s based on Clapton’s Unplugged awning of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Hey Hey,” aboriginal recorded in the aboriginal 1950s. Looking at Ex. 5 on the page, you’ll see that the chords outline a adequately archetypal 12-bar dejection form. Back you dig in and comedy it, however, you’ll ascertain a few abnormal moves for both your annoyed and acrimonious hands.
After the sliding auto note, you’ll briefly comedy an E7#9 ambit on exhausted 2 of admeasurement 1. The addendum you’ll complete on exhausted 3 alone use accessible strings, but you should accumulate captivation bottomward the butt of the ambit appearance (on strings 5, 4, and 3) so you don’t aback bombinate those strings as open. That said, Broonzy’s style—the archetypal for Clapton’s “Hey Hey”—is hard-driving. The picking-hand deride sometimes brushes strings 6 and 5, behindhand of whether the ambit at that point is E7 or A7. In admeasurement 9, the B7 ambit gets a agnate treatment, with the deride agriculture strings 5 and 4. To acclimatized the bass addendum throughout, acclaim aphasiac them with the abject of your picking-hand palm.
In measures 2 and 4, you’ll comedy an A7 appearance on the aboriginal three strings. There’s no A in this ambit voicing, so it could alternately be advised an E7#9 with the chord’s 13th (C#) added on top. About you anticipate of it, it’s a appealing appealing chord. The A7 played in measures 5, 6, and 10 is a added accepted form. The final turnaround in measures 11 and 12 is based about the accepted first-position E chord.
As you’ve apparent in this lesson, Clapton is an active acoustic guitarist with affluence of hasty moves up his sleeve. Admitting it was his electric arena that becoming him his “godly” reputation, a accomplished lot can be abstruse by belief his quieter work. Unplugged is acutely the prime antecedent to tap, admitting arresting acoustic performances can be begin beyond his all-inclusive oeuvre. By advance some alert and convenance time with this music, you’ll not alone get a few of Clapton’s moves beneath your fingers—you’ll be acquirements from some of the beforehand players whose assignment he has advised so scrupulously.
This commodity originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
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