Two for Tuesday: Lenny Breau

I only recently became acquainted with the playing of Lenny Breau. His playing is influenced by country, classical, and jazz, and by the styles of Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. He wrote a column for Guitar Player magazine in the Seventies and Eighties and was active as an instructor during that time. In 1984, he was found dead in the swimming pool of his Los Angeles apartment complex. The cause of death was strangulation, and while his wife was originally suspected, the case is officially unsolved.

Lenny pioneered the use of the seven-string guitar, the seventh a high A. The guitar used here was custom made by Kirk Sand. The two samples are taken from a master class at USC shortly before his death. The first is his arrangement of Bill Evans’ “Funny Man,” the second an arrangement of the standard “Stella By Starlight.”

Lenny Breau, your Two for Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

6 thoughts on “Two for Tuesday: Lenny Breau

    1. He had drug troubles, but as I understand it he had gotten over them before he died.

      Most 7-string players that I am familiar with use the seventh string as another bass string, tuned to B two octaves below middle C. He’s the first one I’m aware of that used it as another treble, tuned to A above middle C

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  1. The seventh string A (an octave below the 5th string) was used by George Van Eps (find him on Youtube; he’s really good). Kenny Poole just tuned his whole guitar two steps lower (to CFBbEbAbC). A Van Eps disciple, he’s worth checking out as well.

    The B tuning is cool because you can play 1-5 bass parts going down from a 6th string root, with no position change.

    Of course, Lenny was the master of the high A tuning. You can ‘duplicate’ that tuning on a 6-string by tuning your G string to F#, and pretending the 7th string is missing 🙂 Everything shifts down a fourth, including your grips, but you do get that extra melody string. I suspect Lenny may have done this. Try it! On a seven string, tune your 7th to B.

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    1. Van Eps was pretty amazing. I think I read once where he called his style a 7-string piano. I haven’t heard much of his playing, but I’ll certainly give him more of a listen; I really like his read on “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” Thanks!

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