Video: Tommy Emmanuel Teaches Ballad Guitar Techniques in "Stay Close to Me"

Last week, our friend Tommy Emmanuel taught us about a G6 tuning he "stole from Chet Atkins" and then performed a song of his that utilizes it, "Antonella's Birthday." This week, Tommy is back in standard tuning to teach us techniques for mastering the ballad guitar style of "Stay Close to Me" from his 2000 release, Only.

"What I thought I'd do today is show you a ballad 'cause not many people teach ballads. And, you know, when I play concerts, nine times out of 10 the things that people comment on the most are my ballads, would you believe? It's true! So, this is a song I wrote back when I had hair and teeth—this is a song called, 'Stay Close to Me.'"

After playing his tune, Tommy explains that he was inspired to write it by great ballad-writing musicians like Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Carol King, Elton John, Billy Joel, and Mariah Carey. Though he initially wrote the song in A, he wanted to melody to be higher upon playing it as a solo piece, so he put a capo on the second fret and plays the song in B.

Tommy explains that nailing the right tone and feeling of a ballad rests on playing it as if you're singing along. Rather than a traditional lead singer, the melody of the ballad serves as the singer that the rest of the song is then built out around. "You don't want to do anything to disturb the melody. The melody must have a kind of life of its own." In that regard, it's important to maintain separation between the melody and its underlying backing, which Tommy Emmanuel is able to achieve with his fingerpicking style.

Be sure to follow along with the full lesson above, and check back next Friday for another brand-new guitar lesson with Tommy Emmanuel here on Reverb.


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