Amelia by Joni Mitchell | electric
An electric guitar lesson on how to play "Amelia" by Joni Mitchell from her 1976 album Hejira.
Joni Mitchell is one of the most unique artists that's ever come down the pike. Her songwriting is off the charts, both lyrically and musically. There's something about her music that touches people at the deepest levels. She truly is a special artist.
She uses open tunings almost exclusively and through them has essentially created her own musical universe. Her guitar playing is original and extremely nuanced and complex. She's been through a lot of different phases in her career but has consistently come up with amazing songs and beautifully played and produced records. Hejira is one of those and Amelia is one of my favorite songs from that album.
Here's a link from Jonimitchell.com that explains how she organizes her open tunings.
The article explains it in detail but in short, instead of writing down the tunings as notes ie: Most people will write down open C like this C-G-C-E-G-C, Joni writes them down with one letter and five numbers ie: C-7-5-4-3-5. The letter is what the low E string is tuned to, and the numbers correspond to the frets that produce the same note on the next string over. In standard tuning the notes would be E-A-D-G-B-E so Joni would write that down like this: E-5-5-5-4-5.
In open G the notes would be D-G-D-G-B-D but in Joni's format it would be
G-5-7-5-4-3. This demystifies a lot tunings where the tuning method is the same but the pitch is different.
Amelia is played in open C. The notes are C-G-C-E-G-C or C-7-5-4-3-5 in Joni's system!
Joni plays this a lot different live. It's more simplified than it is on the original recording where her guitar parts are very nuanced and complex. She has a unique finger picking style. If you watch her right hand when she plays, it pretty well channels her musicality and along with the open tunings is a huge part of her sound.
In my demo I played mostly the recorded version as close as I could get it, but also mixed in some of the live version. It's almost impossible to emulate her finger picking technique, so you do the best you can!
The chords in the second part of the verse are stunningly beautiful, and when you mix in the intricate picking it's just an awesome sound. When you're dealing with such beautiful chords, it almost doesn't matter how you play them, they're always going to sound great.
The guitar work that Larry Carlton did on this track is outstanding. He adds so much texture and mood. If you just listen to his fills they're pure magic.
I spent a long time working this one out and even longer trying to get the feel of it. Feel is everything when you play an instrument. No matter the style, you can get the notes right, but if you don't have the feel, it's not going to sound like music!
Anyways, I hope that you get something from my video and that it helps you to play this beautiful and haunting Joni Mitchell classic. Cheers
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