The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel | acoustic
An acoustic guitar lesson on how to play "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel from their album "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" released in 1970.
In this lesson I'll show you how Paul Simon plays this live. It's a bit different than the way he plays it on the original recording. There are so many guitar tracks and bits and pieces on the original record that's it hard to separate who's doing what but when he plays live you can clearly hear what he's doing.
I'll also go over that classic descending intro lick that was played by Fred Carter Junior. It's capoed and in an alternate tuning. I'll show you a way to fake that in standard tuning although it just doesn't have the same sound as the original way of doing it.
Here's an excerpt from a Fretboard Journal interview with Fred Carter Junior abut how they recorded the song:
"I had a baby Martin, which is a 000-18, and when we started the record in New York with Roy Halee, the engineer, and Paul [Simon] was playin' his Martin — I think it's a D-18 and he was tuned regular — he didn't have the song totally written lyrically, but he had most of the melody. And so all I was hearin' was bits and pieces while he was doing' his fingerpicking . . . I think he was fingerpicking in an open C. I tried two or three things and then picked up the baby Martin, which was about a third above his guitar, soundwise.
"And I turned down the first string to a D, and tuned up the bass string to a G, which made it an open-G tuning, except for the fifth string, which was standard. Did some counter fingerpicking with him, just did a little backward roll, and Iucked into a lick. And that turned into that little roll, and we cut it, just Paul and I, two guitars. Then we started to experiment with some other ideas and so forth. At the end of the day, we were still on the song. Garfunkel was amblin’ around the studio, hummin’ and havin’ input at various times. They were real scientists. They’d get on a part, and it might be there [unfinished] six weeks later.
On my guitar, they had me miked with about seven mics. They had a near mic, a distant mic, a neck mic, a mic on the hole. They even miked my breathing. They miked the guitar in back. So Roy Halee was a genius at getting around. The first time we were listenin’, they killed the breathing mic. And they had an ambient mic overhead, which picked up the two guitars together, I suppose. And so, I was breathin’, I guess, pretty heavy in rhythm. And they wanted to take out that noise, and they took it out and said, ‘Naw, we gotta leave that in.’ That sounds almost like a rhythm on the record. So they left the breathin’ mic on for the mix. I played Tele on it and a 12-string, three or four guitars on it. I was doing different guitar parts. One was a chord pattern and rhythm pattern. Did the Dobro lick on the regular six-string finger Dobro — not a slide Dobro.
The guitars on the record are tuned down a half step putting it in the key of B but the chord shapes are all first position C. Most live versions of it that I've seen it's played in C in standard tuning.
The left hand is not hard, it's getting the finger picking pattern down that'll be the trick for most players. Like all travis picking patterns I find it best to separate what the thumb is doing from what the fingers are doing, and then slowly combine the two. Once you get it down it becomes second nature and is a lot of fun to play.
I hope that you get something from my lesson and that you enjoy playing this finger picking folk classic. Cheers
If you find this video useful, please consider making a donation. Thank you.