Riffs a la Paul Simon, Steely Dan, and David Grissom

February 12, 2014


One of the greatest acoustic parts of all time is Paul Simon’s fingerpicked line in “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” and that’s what inspired this little jangle fest. It’s not difficult, but the string skipping takes a little getting used to. For a more harpsichord-like sound, try hammering the fretted notes in the first two bars before picking them; just slam your fretting fingers down a sixteenth-note after plucking the open high E. Want to really Simonize it? Slap a capo on the 7th fret and smell the rosemary


Larry Carlton’s intro to the Steely Dan classic “Josie” is a flat-out amazing piece of guitar playing. The first few lines are relatively easy to pick out by ear, but the chords that lead into the verse groove always flummoxed me. When I learned how Mr. 335 voiced them, I was even more confused, because my fingers just don’t want to move like that. This is my simplified version of those mind-boggling changes, with an approximation of the keyboard fill at the end. So good!


When it comes to using open strings in cool and musical ways, David Grissom is an absolute master. This gorgeous set of arpeggios, based on his GP lesson from a couple of years ago, keeps an open B ringing throughout and creates some really interesting interval skips. Like with any of these kinds of licks, arch your fingers as you pick through the pattern. You can even slide up from the F#add4 to the last B chord while the open string sustains. Having the open drone on a middle string puts a whole new spin on this cool concept.

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