onewilyfool Posted December 16, 2011 Report Share Posted December 16, 2011 It’s hard to imagine what the term singer-songwriter might mean today without the music of James Taylor. From the reflective ballads that reached back to his rural North Carolina childhood to his sophisticated pop-folk songs, Taylor has melded thoughtful songwriting with distinctive fingerstyle guitar to form a sound that has inspired several generations of musicians. In a conversation with Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, he talked about the role of his guitar in the writing process. How has the way you use your instrument as a writing tool changed over the years? Taylor: When I started writing songs, I wrote with a guitar and that was it. The songs were written to be played on guitar and sung by a single voice. But then, working with the band, you begin to write more anticipating what the band is going to sound like . . . [Even now] there are very few songs that I don’t write on guitar. Some stuff I write a cappella—riding down the road with a tape recorder in an automobile . . . Writing that way without any accompaniment is interesting; that’s a good thing for me to do because it frees me up from the elementary guitar style that I work with. You’ve said that your songs are more centered around chord progressions than around melodies. How conscious are you of the theoretical basis of your chords? Do you work them out by feel, or do you think about chord degrees? Taylor: Not necessarily chord degrees, but progressions and tone leading and that sort of stuff. It’s not that I’m thinking about them—it’s jut that I have a very clear and very traditional sense of music [based on] church music, Anglican hymns, Christmas carols, that’s basically it. Aside from the way your voice feels in different keys, do you think the way the guitar is constructed leads you to a certain key? Taylor: To me, it’s E, A, and D, or G and C—those are the keys that I play in. A and D are the same for me; they have the same kind of tonal quality to them, and the same with G and C. I’m led there. You see, I haven’t made that sort of chromatic leap with the guitar where I can play in any key. I’m an open, standard guitar player with folk, blues, and country roots who likes to play in those keys that give you good access to open notes. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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