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Friday, July 28, 2023

Comment of the Moment #2: Neil Young's Solo Guitar Technique

Neil Young 
@ White River Amphitheatre, Auburn, WA - July 20, 2023 
Photo by Alan in Seattle  
  (Click photo to enlarge)

Earlier, we featured a Comment of the Moment by lonesome me on Neil Young's solo guitar technique.

In response, our latest Comment of the Moment is from post  Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's Solo Guitar Technique by Tomatron:

At the Greek Theatre in Berkeley I had a pretty good view of Neil’s strumming technique and was taking note of that as well! 

I love TW for the opportunity we have to all to geek out on these microcosmic elements together. The personal connection for me: I had acoustics on the brain since I recently bought a vintage Epiphone, a late 60s Eldorado. Like many of its ilk, it only has the strap button on the end, none where the neck meets the body. So you have to tie the strap on, which I’d never needed to do with any of my other guitars. I’d proceeded to buy a new strap and go through the steps of tying it on so I could stand up and play if I wanted. Very quickly I discovered that my previously in-tune guitar was all out of whack! Having the strap tied there above the nut pulls on the neck, yanking the whole guitar out of tune once any pressure is applied. I decided to just sit down and play, which was the original plan anyway.

So, having experienced this phenomenon and then seeing Neil Young up there whaling away at Old Hank and the rest as he stalked about the stage, I was very aware of how we hold the guitar, incorporating strumming techniques. I concluded that Bob Rice or whoever tunes Neil’s guitars must do that standing up, so the neck is in the position it will be during the show, with the same tension on it. The tied-on strap also places the guitar at a different angle than a strap on two buttons would, or sitting down with no strap at all. The guitar might hang a little farther back. This position might lend itself to a comfortable strum closer to the guitar’s neck. As far as Neil skipping a string or performing other such “errors,” I always heard that he was known for that imprecise form, going back to at least Zuma era shows. Sometimes he doesn’t fully fret a note and it sounds a little crispy, too.

But at this concert, my conclusion was that he was strumming that way simply because it sounded good to him. You get a nice rich tone hitting the string close to or over the neck, a full and almost chiming sound. He was moving back and forth from the soundhole to the neck and varying the tone subtly for a more expressive performance. There is likely something to the comments regarding his wrapped wrist, which could easily be a carpal tunnel/ tendonitis issue if not arthritis. 

That, along with the standing position, may be a deterrent to the bridge-position palm muting. I think the standing was a choice. He wants to be up and moving, not stuck on a stool. 

The variation of soundhole to over-neck picking and strumming definitely added as well as visual dimension to the performance, and it’ll be rewarding to listen and see this again when the Atmos-mixed shows hit NYA. 

Thanks much for the comment Tomatron.  Glad we can allow for the geek out.  It's all good. Nice observations along with Lonesome Me's earlier thoughts.

More on Neil Young's Guitar Techniques:

Neil Young’s ‘Old Black’ Guitar


Now that the NEIL YOUNG 2023 COASTAL TOUR (see concert reviews) has ended, we look back as we look ahead.

NEIL YOUNG 2023 COASTAL TOUR Concert Reviews 

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At 7/29/2023 12:24:00 PM, Blogger tomatron said...

Thanks, Thrasher. Neil says that Berkeley show may be featured when they present recordings of the tour.

Other players out there, what are your instruments of choice?


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