Saturday, September 5, 2009

Davy Graham - Guitar Hero of the Folk Era

By Ricky Sharples

If you enjoy playing acoustic guitar music you will most likely have heard of Davy Graham. Some people believe he is the founder of the world music genre, some guitar players believe he invented the DADGAD tuning.

Davy was born in England in 1940. He grew up in the age of the "beatnik", the time when the values of society were being questioned by young intellectuals and the traditions of music were being challenged by the interest of young people in jazz. The changes in society that began in the nineteen forties and fifties also included the widespread use of drugs, and Davy Graham's career was all but destroyed by his substance abuse.

Davy's guitar playing roots were in folk music but his interests were much wider. Jazz was beginning to influence many musicians in the fifties and this, in turn led folk guitar players like Davy Graham in unexpected directions. One of these directions was towards the music of the middle east. It was commonplace for players of the slide guitar to deviate from the standard E A D G B E tuning but until Davy Graham began tuning his guitar to D A D G A D there was no one alternative tuning for guitarists interested in improvisation.

Davy Graham's DADGAD tuning gave guitar players a way of maintaining a predominant accompaniment while they explored new melodic and harmonic possibilities of the piece they were playing. This was a step further than simply tuning the guitar to an open chord as the slide guitar players often did.

If the DADGAD tuning started with Davy Graham, it is ironic that his most famous composition is played using standard tuning. In the early sixties Davy composed a tune called "Angie", named after his girlfriend. The piece is basically a set around three riffs, and every guitarist who has recorded it has added his own variations on the existing riffs or added his own. The theme that drives the piece is a descending chord sequence of A minor, G, F and E. This is a progression you will find in many styles of music, used in many ways but "Angie" seemed to fire up the imagination of everyone who heard it. The spelling of the tune appeared as "Anji" on Simon And Garfunkel's "Sounds Of Silence" Album.

Apart from Paul Simon, Davy Graham's guitar innovations of the nineteen sixties influenced many other guitarists over the next twenty years. Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and the members of folk-rock fusion bands like Pentangle and Fairport Convention owe a debt to Davy Graham.

Do you want to learn to play the guitar? Learn How To Play A Guitar For Free is a constantly updated blog which contains all the resources you need for learning to play solo guitar, how to learn guitar chords, how to learn to read and play easy acoustic guitar tabs, finding a free online guitar tuner, looking for free guitar lessons online, and how to learn guitar scales.

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1 comment:

  1. Learning guitar scales is important, even if you think it almost as boring as learning chords. The problem with many new guitarists who have just started learning is that they want to go too far too soon. That is the road to disaster, as many failed guitarists will tell you. Have you ever seen these piano players learning how to play, when they are going up and down the octaves playing their scales? Well, they are putting money in the bank because it will help them later when they have to play certain note combinations without thinking. If you are going to be a good lead guitarist, or a solo guitarist of any description in any genre, you too will have to spend time learning your guitar scales.