John Butler's style features elements from many genres
Example 1 - John's often uses his right hand to drum rhythms on the guitar's body, using the area where the strings leave the bridge as a bass drum and the face itself as a snare drum. Notice how he occasionally gets extra snap by using his nails. At the same time, John uses the fretting hand to hammer-on a counter-rhythm on the fingerboard.
Example 2 - This is the same principle as our first example but with a slightly more complex 6/8 cross-rhythm. It's best to make sure you know what's going on with each hand in isolation before you attempt to bring them both together. Once you're comfortable with the rhythm, experiment with some note locations of your own.
Example 3 - John's rhythm guitar style fills a lot of space, often combining elements of bass, harmony, rhythm and melody in the same part. Here he deconstructs a part into its basic elements, and then puts it back together again. John's playing is spontaneous, rarely repeating the same bar twice. Get into the vibe and make variations as you see fit.
Example 4 - John says he learned this one from a guitarist called Brian, from Byron Bay, whilst out on one of his busking jaunts. It's basically a repetitious fingerstyle 'engine', which can be moved around the guitar whilst maintaining the same groove.
Example 5 - This is a slightly less pattern-orientated phrase that John came up with, illustrating the same rhythmic fingerstyle concept.
Modern acoustic guitar with John Butler
A lesson in guitar groove from a modern acoustic master
Since taking up guitar at the age of 16 and starting out busking, John Butler and his trio have gone on to take the music world by storm, combining reggae, folk, funk, rock, hip-hop beats and more. In this video lesson, John demonstrates his unique approach to acoustic guitar.
John’s guitar style is a blend of many elements. The American Dobro-playing blues expert Bob Brozman and the Australian acoustic singer-songwriter Jeff Lang are big influences on John. His playing is always groove-based, relying on what John refers to as “cyclical rhythms”, which is what we’re looking at in this lesson.
John plays a 12-string acoustic guitar with a string missing. He intentionally omits the high octave G string, which he says makes the instrument more stable. Sonically, it’s more balanced too. Tuning is from low to high, C G C G C E – although most of the rhythmic ideas here will work just as successfully in regular tuning on a standard 6-string.#