Head And Heart

Tuning: BADGAD (6 ->1)

1. Pick open 5th string then slide from 5th to 7th fret on 4th string followed by 6th fret on 3rd string, 7th fret on 4th string again.

2. 2nd fret on 5th, strum 5th, 4th, 3rd with the JM slap on off beat, including 1st and 2nd strings on final stroke.

3. Repeat step 1

4. 2nd fret on 5th string, 4th fret on 4th string, also pick open 3rd string alternately as required, including 1st and 2nd strings on final stroke.

(Optionally allow 6th string to resonate on slap. Direct picking causes buzz when tuned so low. Maybe heavier gauge would solve this).

5. Maintain this position for the start of the ‘chorus’ and pick as required. (I don’t think we need to be too precise here).

6. Change to 5th fret on 6th string,5th fret on 5th or dampen 5th and strum all with possible exception of 1st.

7. Back to 2nd fret on 5th, 4th fret on 4th.

8. Back to 5th fret on 6th string. Optionall throw in this bit : open 5th string, hammer 2nd fret on 5th string, open 4th string, hammer 2nd fret on 4th string, open 5th string, hammer 2nd fret on 5th string, return to 5th fret on 6th string.

9. Without spelling it out just now, the fast-sounding solo bit is played in first position on 5th to 1st strings on the 2nd and 4th frets.

Transcribed by Willie Milne.

Ian Barnett adds: I think you can play this in DADGAD without it making any difference except when required you fret the 6th string at the 2nd fret instead of the 5th.. In chord 2 I think the 4th string should be fretted at the 5th and not left open.

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Couldn’t Love You More

Tuning: CFCCGD

This song is basically two chords;

(1) 1st finger 2nd fret 2nd string, play 2nd/3rd/4th/5th

(2) 3rd finger 4th fret 6th string, play 2nd/3rd/4th/6th, and pick 1st string open just after and the ‘duh-duh’ bit in between the chords is a slide from 5th to 4th fret on 6th string (I fret the 5th string as well, sliding 4th to 2nd fret simultaneously, but not picking it, just letting it vibrate sympathetically). The right hand technique is a simultaneous pick on all strings, not a strum, and you kind of tap them on the off-beat to maintain the rhythm.

PR: Just a couple of things I noticed from a video: at the start of the line (your “duh-duh”) he also slides with the first finger on the first string from the 3rd to 2nd fret. And at the end of the verse “I could-” I think he plays 4th finger 5th fret 2nd string; 3rd finger 5th fret 4th string; and 1st finger 4th fret 5th string followed by 4th finger 4th fret 2nd string; and 1st finger 2nd fret 5th string. The other thing is that the way he plays stuff can change anyway- these days when he plays CLYM, on the “first” chord he frets the 1st string too, at the d fret…

Transcribed by Ian Barnett with comments from Paul Reid.

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An Introduction to John Martyn’s Guitar Technique.

Here are a few tips for all you budding guitarists. If you have some you would like to share then please get in touch via the contact form.

Although Martyn is now first and foremost a singer, he owes his reputation and his place in musical history in no small part to an extraordinary guitar technique, which evolved over some twenty years. The first recordings reveal an acoustic player in the British 60’s mould, with the string snapping typical of Bert Jansch and an interest from the start in alternate tunings, in coaxing a diversity from the instrument. The guitarist Davy Graham was a significant early influence- Graham’s eclecticism, juxtaposing blues, jazz and traditional folk with Indian forms, had a profound impact which remains even today on Martyn’s musical vision.

By 1971 Martyn was pushing the envelope with his sound, playing through a tremolo-wah-wah combination which could sweep from a soft and mellow chording to a pulsing cackle. Within the following year he discovered that by tuning the guitar low and using repeat echo he could play with and over his own guitar figures, and create bass and percussion,  this produced the Bo-Diddley-on-Red-Leb rhythmic pattern which was for years his trademark and which he has never entirely abandoned. Hot wiring his acoustic through two separate pickups, each connected to its own amplifier, he could, by switching between the two, play lead guitar over his own chordwork, a technique which finds total expression on the live Outside In on Live At Leeds (1975) and BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert (from 1977). He also began to use a volume pedal/echo combination to generate wafting, lapping waves of sound, of which Small Hours from One World (1978) is the best example.

Martyn had begun to play electric guitar on stage in the mid-seventies. At the beginning of the eighties this became his instrument-  his acoustic was relegated to a small spot in his stage show, and it disappeared from his studio albums. For the next three years or so his obvious interest was in playing electric lead guitar, and the live Philentropy (1983) is a fine memento of this phase, showcasing Martyn’s powerful, emotional lines. The albums Sapphire (1984) and Piece By Piece (1986) reveal him experimenting with electronic guitar treatments, playing a small part in a now very keyboard-oriented sound. By The Apprentice (1990) guitar had all but disappeared, although the final track Patterns In The Rain features some gentle classical playing, the first acoustic sounds on record for a decade.  Cooltide (1991) saw the return of that insistent echoplex pattern, and the slower, bluesier, quieter approach that was to characterise his lead playing from here emerged on the title track. Recent albums have continued the ‘band’ approach, the sound keyboard based, Martyn adding electric guitar embellishments. His acoustic playing is reserved for the 1970’s crowd pleasers he adds to his live shows, although he continues to promise an acoustic album at some point, and enjoys the occasional return, as The Transatlantic Sessions (BBC2) ably demonstrated. Nothing demonstrates his progression more clearly than his composing the songs for his last studio album, Glasgow Walker (2000) not on guitar but on synthesiser.

Those who clamour for his return to guitar, particularly to acoustic, miss the point, Martyn is progressive in the true sense of that word. My subjective impression is that by the mid-eighties he had reached the limit of what he wished to accomplish on guitar and that the instrument no longer has the interest for him that it once did, Martyn having concentrated more and more since then on his vocal technique. We cannot imprison him in a timewarp or in our own vision of what John Martyn should be, this is artistic strangulation to a gift such as his.

In General

The tunings John mostly uses is CFCCGD and DADGAD (Spencer The Rover. Bless the Weather, Make no Mistake, Man in the Station all use DADGAD, Head and Heart is the same with the bass string dropped to B) Others used are EADGBE (One Day Without You) and dropped D tuning (i.e. standard tuning with 6th sting dropped to D) on Jelly Roll Blues and May You Never. The tuning for Solid Air however is DAFGCE and then it’s just bar chords (I worked this out from a video). A lot of songs are just the CFCCGD tuning and these chord shapes;

Picking just the 1st, 2nd [sometimes 3rd too] and 6th strings; thumb on the 6th string and 1st finger across the 1st and 2nd [sometimes 3rd too] strings, on the same fret. (That makes a ninth chord I think- I don”t know about stuff like that ). Add the 3rd finger on the 1st string on the next fret up makes a minor chord, on the next fret up again makes a major. The other chord he likes is; 1st finger across 1st/2nd/3rd strings at third fret, play 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th, and used as a bar chord too. (Look At That Girl is just this chord, open and barred at the 5th and 7th for the verse, and barred at the 9th, 4th and 2nd for the middle eight).

I think Small Hours, Dealer, One World, Big Muff, Some People are Crazy, Grace and Danger, Lookin’ On, Sweet Little Mystery, Hurt In Your Heart, Could’ve Been Me (and that’s not exhaustive) are all combinations of the above.

Ian Barnett

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