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James Bay explains how his hit songs are made on Fender’s Technique of the Week

James Bay on Technique of the Week
(Image credit: FMIC/YouTube)

Fender’s Technique of the Week (opens in new tab) is great for picking up guitar playing tips.

This time around, British singer-songwriter James Bay offers some pointers on using open strings in riffs for greater resonance and power.

Using his top ten 2014 single Hold Back the River as an example, the Telecaster Deluxe-wielding maestro demonstrates how the song’s memorable fingerstyle riff utilizes open strings to add, as Bay puts it, “an atonal constant throughout what is a very moving melody.”

Reminiscent of Jimmy Page’s acoustic technique (opens in new tab), the open strings in Hold Back the River fill out the sliding melody, adding harmony as Bay moves up and down the fretboard.

“I wanted to create as much dynamic scale as I possibly could,” he explains.

Moving on to his 2015 hit Let It Go, Bay breaks down the song’s intertwining guitar parts, pointing out how the use of an open G string creates a sense of tension.

“In this case, it's a lot more kind of dissonant,” he points out. “It kind of creates a rub against the notes – the melody of the notes within the main part.”

Dissecting the chord progression of Let It Go, Bay demonstrates how open strings can elevate the simplest of ideas.

It just broadens the scope and scale of what I can get coming off the stage to the audience

James Bay

“It adds to the emotion of the song,” he says. “There’s something about that G string ringing through. It just gives a little bit of extra complexity and richness to the riff and the part.

“It just broadens the scope and scale of what I can get coming off the stage to the audience. Particularly when I'm up there [playing] solo.”

Watch the video here to learn more…

Explore the James Bay catalogue here (opens in new tab).

Rod Brakes
Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab)Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.