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George Harrison Learned a Guitar Technique From Listening to Buddy Holly

George Harrison was a talented guitar player whose contributions to The Beatles often went underappreciated. Like most musicians, he had to learn the instrument from scratch and had a few different education methods. While it helps to read music and learn manually, he also learned by listening to music, and he learned an impressive guitar technique by listening to Buddy Holly.

George Harrison picked up a guitar skill from Buddy Holly

While Elvis Presley dominated the 1950s rock n’ roll genre, Holly wasn’t far behind him. The singer had a unique look and style, but he also played the guitar in his songs, something not many artists did at the time. Holly was one of George Harrison’s earliest influences, especially when he was learning to perfect his guitar skills.

In a 1974 interview with Alan Freeman on Rock Around the World, the “quiet Beatle” discussed his earliest inspirations and how he learned to play his primary instrument. Harrison said it was a challenge at first as the manual he bought wasn’t the most helpful.

“As a guitar player I started trying to learn the guitar,” Harrison explained. “I got a manual, and it showed me all the wrong chords. It showed like one or two fingers. It showed me C to G. I learned this [plays guitar], and then a few months or a year later, I found, ‘Those stupid buggers have given me a manual that doesn’t show me all the notes!’”

However, he listened to Holly and learned things no manual could show him. He picked up a chord transition from A to F that he called “fantastic.”

“I think one of the greatest people for me was Buddy Holly because, first of all, he sang, wrote his own tunes, was a guitar player, and he was very good – exceptionally good,” he continued. “Buddy Holly was the first time I ever heard [plays guitar] A to F-sharp minor. A to F-sharp minor, fantastic! He’s opening up new worlds there. And then [plays guitar], [singing] ‘Pretty pretty, Peggy Sue’. A to F. Buddy Holly was sensational, so I mean a little bit of that rubbed off in as much as I no longer have a fear of changing from A to F.”

Buddy Holly was a significant influence for The Beatles

Buddy Holly’s career was cut short when he died in a plane crash in 1959. While he was only 22, his music still had a massive impact on the band that would become the most popular musical act ever. In an interview with Barnes & Noble, McCartney explained why the band was fascinated by Holly. He said they liked that Holly wrote, played, and sang his own songs, and this became the model they wanted to follow.

“Buddy Holly was pretty much on everything that he performed,” McCartney shared. “And so when we saw him, we liked that he’d written it, that he was singing it, and that he was playing guitar because a lot of other people just stood there without an instrument. So it became very much something for us to emulate.”

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