Opinion: Percussive acoustic guitar… is it any good?
In the first of a series of monthly opinion blogs Total Guitar's Music Editor, Chris Bird, asks if the acoustic scene really needs to get percussive.
Issue 202 of Total Guitar sees a full transcription of Newton Faulkner's cover version of Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' - a track that many would say gave a kick up the rear end to the whole genre of percussive acoustic guitar.
Now, I am a fan of this style of playing. I find it inventive, exciting and original – Thomas Leeb, Eric Roche, Andy McKee and Antoine Dufour are regularly found in my CD player, but I was shocked the other day when a friend and colleague of mine (an experienced producer of acoustic guitar music, as it happens) described percussive guitar as "just bashing the thing".
Somewhat taken aback, I retorted, "What about Preston's beautiful sense of groove… or the energy of Eric Roche's percussive playing?"
"Hmm," he replied. "It's still just bashing the thing, and often at the expense of a decent melody."
© Rune Hellestad/Corbis
I have to admit, I kind of find myself agreeing with him on this. A lot of percussive guitar is based on repeating grooves: 'Teardrop' can essentially be boiled down to one bar of music, for heaven's sake – the rest is just a variation on the theme!
This may also account for Newton's huge success. He has taken the style and added a huge voice: a melodic hook and a young face - something his forebears never managed. It's why your mum may very well have heard of him, but will look at a loss when you speak of any of the other players mentioned above.
So I pose the question: percussive acoustic guitar… is it any good, or is it just guitar-bashing?
Newton Faulkner's 'Teardrop' cover (including the 'bashy' bits) is tabbed in full in TG202 (on sale now).