“When you find that little sweet spot where the guitar’s really kind of singing… that’s the fun of it. Especially when it’s just a two-piece, because you get those little ghost notes”
As we venture further into the year and the summer months tentatively take hold we find ourselves moving towards festival territory: great weather (wishful thinking in the UK), big gigs, and epic live sets by your favourite artists week in, week out.
All of the above really applies to the featured artist in this edition of the Player Spotlight. This instalment focuses on a real, raw, and exciting guitar player that drives the song by the riff and surfs on the melody.
A bluesman at heart with a psychedelic, fuzz-driven, modern twist, this guy is a guitarist’s guitarist 🎼
One historical moment that defines this week’s player, capturing both his personality and playing style is when he decided to trade the Stratocaster his mum had bought him for a relatively unknown brand; an obscure guitar with 4 pickups… He still plays that very Teisco to this day and it’s one of his mainstay instruments.
Finding guitar hooks and euphoric choruses has never been a struggle for this man, a true icon of the modern age. Let’s blow some speakers with the enigmatic Dan Auerbach 🎹
Blues Harmonic Harmony 🥁 🎸
As seems to be typical of this generation, we find that many parents appeared to have exquisite taste in records and a strong vinyl collection providing amble musical juice to inspire the next generation. Dan Auerbach is no exception to this pattern of “hand me down Blues”.
Born in Ohio, 14th May 1979 his mother Mary Little was a French teacher and his father was an antiques dealer.
Growing up with these available musical roots, an inquisitive mind let to the discovery of his father’s vinyl collection which introduced him to the Blues. Further to this, practical inspiration and development came from his mother’s side, his uncles were Bluegrass players, and his grandmother was a piano 🎹 teacher.
“As Dan Auerbach grew up, he got used to the enormous collection of records in the library of his father, and there was never a dull moment with the music always playing in the background. Dan’s father was also involved in the dainty world of music writing in the latter part of his life. Robert Quine, the rock guitarist of fame, was also Dan Auerbach’s cousin while his was uncle, James Quine. His uncle was one of the enduring sources of inspiration he looked up to. As he began to play music, Dan’s father was noted to have helped him get confident on stage. Dan Auerbach joined the Barnburners in his teen years for paid gigs around Akron. Dan also tried his hands on the guitar for other acts as a bass player. At other times, he played as a second guitarist.”
Excerpt – sunsigns.org
A dedicated young player fuelled by inspiration and discovery you can see his love for the instrument to this day in the following video where he really conveys how his influences imprinted on him and continue to be the driving force behind creativity and development.
Dan uncovers tricks he learnt from The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and Mississippi Fred McDowell. In the interview Auerbach reveals that he learnt to play guitar from studying original bluesmen on footage recorded by folklorist Alan Lomax.
“You know what was great, the Alan Lomax videos of those guys,” he says. “That’s how I learned to play this stuff. I went to the library and I would get the VHS tapes and I would watch. ‘Cos the best way to learn is to watch.”
Drum & (No Bass) Guitar Duo
“Dan Auerbach is a guitarist that many players should play some attention to, in terms of how he plays his instrument and how he writes his music, regardless of who your guitar heroes are. Sure, much of his sound comes from his gear, but outside this limitation, Auerbach is a unique guitarist that others can learn lots from, not just those that want to sound like him or those that want to play guitar and write songs like Dan Auerbach does.”
Excerpt – Thehardbaroquer
School was a fairly normal outing until the love of guitar took over and Dan began to disregard his studies in favour of a self education in the six string.
Junior Kimbrough became a key influence and it was this fixation that led to a world of endless possibilities.
A bond with a childhood friend would prove to be the foundations of something incredibly special. Initially meeting at around 9-years-old hailing from the same neighbourhood Dan Auerbach & Patrick Carney reconnected in 1996 and began to jam together.
Carney owned a drum set and a four track recorder, Auerbach was still learning guitar.
“In an interview with Rolling Stone, the duo revealed that their big start came from a demo-recording session in Carney’s basement. Auerbach initially went to record a demo with his band at the time but no one showed up. He and Carney then decided that they would just play instead. What came out of that session was ultimately sent out to several labels to try to secure a record deal.”
Quote Via – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Auerbach
The Black Keys 🎹
As far as garage-rock-blues-based duos go The Black Keys are a truly phenomenal band; a personal favourite of ours here at Strings Direct and I believe many music fans and guitar players like have a real soft spot for this killer full-vibing duo.
A two-piece band that really shakes the room with sheer volume and pure melody, the group is undeniable and the musicianship is 2nd to none, while always feeling completely relaxed and complicated and free.
Grammy award-winning tracks and iconic live shows, it’s amazing to think that these two musicians came from the same neighbourhood and simply became friends that like to jam. This duo has furious sonic capabilities and is a serious musical force to be reckoned with, faultless musicianship and an undeniable chemistry.
“Pat and I have this special relationship where when we get together it just sounds like the Black Keys. We don’t even have to try.”
Quote – Guitarworld.com
“Classic blues is the foundation of The Black Keys, with many fans pointing out that blues musician Junior Kimbrough was especially influential on the band in their early days. ‘The Big Come Up’ contains covers of Muddy Waters, Junior Kimbrough, and R. L. Burnside – all blues players worth listening to – and ‘Thickfreakness’ also contains a Kimbrough cover, Everywhere I Go. Other influences include Howlin’ Wolf, and Robert Johnson, while the blues rock element can be seen in the likes of ZZ Top and Captain Beefheart.
Guitarist Glenn Schwartz, allegedly ended the Black Keys’ hiatus as a discussion about him with another guitarist eventually led to a jam and recording session with Schwarz, rekindling Auerbach’s interest in guitars. The result: 2014’s ‘Turn Blue’ and hits such as Fever.
Since ‘El Camino’ The Black Keys have brought in a lot more influences outside of their blues roots, such as genres from the 50s, 60s and 70s, such as psychedelia. Auerbach has gone on record saying they are influenced by hip-hop not the blues, evidenced by their BLACKROC side project which featured acts such as Mos Def, Ludacris and RZA of Wu Tang Clan, among other collaborators.
Understanding Auerbach’s guitar style requires getting a good understanding of his own guitar heroes. It’s worth taking some time to listen to these influences and see for yourself how he’s implemented their techniques in his own playing.”
Excerpt – Thehardbaroquer
Strings Are The Key(s) 🎹
As we are aware Dan Auerbach is a truly masterful player that has actual ability and finesse, the important thing to consider is of course that he is carrying the entire sonic capability outside of the drums when they are functioning as a duo in their original formation.
The songs are focused around heavy riffs and a blues style that incorporates a combination of techniques, therefore the string choice needs to be solid, reliable, weighty, and durable.
Dan uses a custom gauge strings sets on pretty much every guitar in his arsenal – which makes perfect sense – comprising of: 11-14-18P-30PW-40-50
He’s a player that likes to hit hard and force the tone out from the dynamics, his playing is based around alternative open tunings and heavy riff-based playing. Get “your touch” here with our custom inspired set 🤘
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