Dave Grohl Guitar Methods

Dave's inventive style has defined the Foo Fighters. But how exactly does he do it?...

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Now I notice that most of the beloved guitar legends that have a methods lesson are the big lead players (Slash, Satch, Vai and so on..). Some thing I think is far more underated is the value of good inventive rhythm playing. That's where Mr Grohl comes in because if you listen close enough, he has his methods just as any other guitar legend would do. First some things I've noticed from being a massive Foo Fighters fan.
  • Lots of open strings.
  • Where possible, alternate voicings.
  • Simple, but effective lead, rhythm interaction.
  • Experimentation. I'll address these observations in order

    Open Strings Are Your Friend

    There is a definite twinkly and bright quality about many Foo Fighters songs, one which comes about by a technique Grohl uses, the result of which makes many chords, that would otherwise be bar chords, open chords.
         W                   W                 
    E||--0----------------|--0----------------|
    B||--0----------------|--0----------------|
    G||--3----------------|--4----------------|
    D||--4----------------|--7----------------|
    A||--4----------------|--7----------------|
    E||--2----------------|--5----------------|

      W                   W                 
    --0----------------|--0----------------|
    --0----------------|--0----------------|
    --4----------------|--4----------------|
    --4----------------|--4----------------|
    --6----------------|--2----------------|
    -------------------|-------------------|

      W                   W                  
    --0----------------|--0----------------||
    --0----------------|--0----------------||
    --8----------------|--9----------------||
    --9----------------|--9----------------||
    --9----------------|--7----------------||
    --7----------------|-------------------||
    For a Foo Fighters fan, many of the above chords may seem farmiliar. 1 and 2 appearing in "Walking After You", 2 in "Marigold" aswell, 3 and 4 are seen in the likes of "Best of You" where the use of the top stings is very evident, 5 and 6 appear in "But, Honestly" and "Breakout". You can see how the chords posess the major, minor and power chord shapes, but instead of baring them he has let the upper strings ring open. This not only changes the actual chord musicallity, but it's also changes the whole feel of the music. Playing around with these sort of chords can be tremendous fun; finding ones of your own, finding ones Dave has used etc. After not too long you can learn to make just about anything sound like a Foo Fighters song just through this technique alone. Use of their kind of picking patterns here, can futher enhance the Fooishness. The other thing Grohl likes to do with open strings is to usethe resonance of, usually the open top e-string, sometimes the B and the e, with a moving note on the string below it. This dominates many of their lead lines, good examples being in "My Hero":
         E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   
    E||--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--|
    B||--4--5--5--5--5--5--4--4--|
    G||--------------------------|
    D||--------------------------|
    A||--------------------------|
    E||--------------------------|

      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   
    --0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--|
    --7--4--4--4--7--4--4--4--|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|

      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   
    --0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--|
    --4--5--5--5--5--5--4--4--|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|

      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E    
    --0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--||
    --7--4--4--4--7--5--5--5--||
    --------------------------||
    --------------------------||
    --------------------------||
    --------------------------||
    and "The Pretender":
         E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E    
    E||--0--0--2--0--3--0--5--0--||
    B||--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--||
    G||--------------------------||
    D||--------------------------||
    A||--------------------------||
    E||--------------------------||
    And the solo in "Cheer Up Boys" (which essentially sums up his love for this little method):
         E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   
    E||--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--|
    B||--5--5--5--3--3--5--5--0--|
    G||--------------------------|
    D||--------------------------|
    A||--------------------------|
    E||--------------------------|

      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   
    --L--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--|
    --L--0--0--0--0--0--0--3--|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|

      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   
    --L--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--|
    --L--3--3--8--8--3--3--5--|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|
    --------------------------|

      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E    
    --L--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--||
    --L--5--5--5--5--5--5--5--||
    --------------------------||
    --------------------------||
    --------------------------||
    --------------------------||
    Yet another signature Foos sound for the list. And then of course you can expand further on these....

    Move Those Shapes About

    Again alternate voiceings play a massive role in the sort of sound that Grohl creates. These are variants of the chords above, other ways of playing a regular open chord to achive a slightly different effect. A very common one of these used by Grohl is the "C Shape" movement. He often takes this shape:
    E||--3----------------||
    B||--1----------------||
    G||--0----------------||
    D||--2----------------||
    A||--3----------------||
    E||-------------------||
    And moves it all over the fret board, again contributing to the twinkly-ness but also providing a "high-open" sound that can almost seem like your using a capo. This movement can be seen in full use in a song like "The Deepest Blues Are Black":
         Q    E  E  E  E     Q    E  E  E  E   
    E||--8----8--8--8--8--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    B||--6----6--6--6--6--|--6----6--6--6--6--|
    G||--0----0--0--0--0--|--0----0--0--0--0--|
    D||--7----7--7--7--7--|--7----7--7--7--7--|
    A||--8----8--8--8--8--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    E||-------------------|-------------------|

      Q    E  E  E  E     Q    E  E  E  E   
    --8----8--8--8--8--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    --6----6--6--6--6--|--6----6--6--6--6--|
    --0----0--0--0--0--|--0----0--0--0--0--|
    --7----7--7--7--7--|--7----7--7--7--7--|
    --8----8--8--8--8--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    -------------------|-------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E   
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ---9-----9---9---9---9--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --10----10--10--10--10--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ------------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E   
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ---9-----9---9---9---9--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --10----10--10--10--10--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ------------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E   
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ---9-----9---9---9---9--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --10----10--10--10--10--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ------------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E     Q    E  E  E  E   
    --11----11--11--11--11--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    ---9-----9---9---9---9--|--6----6--6--6--6--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|--0----0--0--0--0--|
    --10----10--10--10--10--|--7----7--7--7--7--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    ------------------------|-------------------|

      Q    E  E  E  E     Q    E  E  E  E   
    --8----8--8--8--8--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    --6----6--6--6--6--|--6----6--6--6--6--|
    --0----0--0--0--0--|--0----0--0--0--0--|
    --7----7--7--7--7--|--7----7--7--7--7--|
    --8----8--8--8--8--|--8----8--8--8--8--|
    -------------------|-------------------|

      Q    E  E  E  E      Q     E   E   E   E   
    --8----8--8--8--8--|--11----11--11--11--11--|
    --6----6--6--6--6--|---9-----9---9---9---9--|
    --0----0--0--0--0--|---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --7----7--7--7--7--|--10----10--10--10--10--|
    --8----8--8--8--8--|--11----11--11--11--11--|
    -------------------|------------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E   
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ---9-----9---9---9---9--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --10----10--10--10--10--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ------------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E   
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ---9-----9---9---9---9--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --10----10--10--10--10--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ------------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E   
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ---9-----9---9---9---9--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --10----10--10--10--10--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ------------------------|

       Q     E   E   E   E   
    --13----13--13--13--13--|
    --11----11--11--11--11--|
    ---0-----0---0---0---0--|
    --12----12--12--12--12--|
    --13----13--13--13--13--|
    ------------------------|
    ...and so on. You can see how he has that original shape, but places it at the 8th, 11th and 13th a string positions to produce perculiar variations of the F, G# and A# chords. Again in the outro of "Times Like These" we see a variation of the standard D chord to make it something much more interesting:
       C                  Em7                Dadd4
        Q  E E +E  E E E   Q  E E +E  E E E   Q  E E +E  E E E  3x
    ||-------3-(3)-------|------0-(0)-------|------5-(5)--------||
    ||o----1-1-(1)-1-1---|----3-3-(3)-3-3---|----3-3-(3)-3-3---o||
    ||--0--0-0-(0)-0-0-0-|-0--0-0-(0)-0-0-0-|-0--0-0-(0)-0-0-0--||
    ||--2--2-------2-2-2-|-2--2-------2-2-2-|-4--4-------4-4-4--||
    ||o-3--3-------3-3-3-|-2--2-------2-2-2-|-5--5-------5-5-5-o||
    ||-------------------|-0--0-------0-0-0-|-------------------||
    Infact this technique and the sounds derived from it become the whole basis for a song like "Let It Die", which uses similar shapes, but goes mad with the picking on them. Though this is the most common alternate voicing there are many others. This one played at the 4th postition on the A string:
    E||--0----||
    B||--0----||
    G||--4----||
    D||--2----||
    A||--4----||
    E||-------||
    An alternate voicing/shaping for the one of open chords in the 1st section being the basis for for "Best Of You", becomes the basis of the chorus in "But, Honestly" by just moving it up to the 13th postition:
    E||---0----||
    B||---0----||
    G||--13----||
    D||--11----||
    A||--13----||
    E||--------||
    Others might include:
    E||--0----||
    B||--0----||
    G||--9----||
    D||--9----||
    A||--7----||
    E||-------||
    becoming...
    E||--0----||
    B||--0----||
    G||--8----||
    D||--9----||
    A||--7----||
    E||-------||
    (another very commonly seen Foos chord) and so on, and so on. Virtually all Foo Fighters songs have some hint of this kind of playing in and again you can have great fun just experimenting for yourself with these techniques. But what about when they get heavy!

    Shifflet And Grohl: Working As One

    Here's a very easy and simple method use in many Foo's songs when they get a little heavier. This is most predominantly and obviously seen in "In Your Honor" and "Hell", but is well utilised in "Cheer Up Boys" and "My Hero" to name but a few. Of course this technique shows it's self in snippets very often but these are very obviousl examples. Basically what goes on is use of these sort of "octave chords" - e.g:
    E||------------||
    B||------------||
    G||--5---------||
    D||--x----5----||
    A||--3----x----||
    E||-------3----||
    Where you do basically a power chord, but you mute the center string, so you have the root and the octave only - on both guitar so a harmony is produced. So on "My Hero" during the chorus for example: Guitar One
         E  E  E  E   E   E   E   E   
    E||------------------------------|
    B||------------------------------|
    G||--------------11--11--11--11--|
    D||--2--2--2--2---x---x---x---x--|
    A||--2--2--2--2---9---9---9---9--|
    E||--0--0--0--0------------------|

       E   E   E   E  E  E  E  E    
    ------------------------------||
    ------------------------------||
    --13--13--13--13--8--8--8--8--||
    ---x---x---x---x--x--x--x--x--||
    --11--11--11--11--6--6--6--6--||
    ------------------------------||
    Guitar 2
         E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E   
    E||--------------------------|
    B||--------------------------|
    G||--------------8--8--8--8--|
    D||--2--2--2--2--x--x--x--x--|
    A||--2--2--2--2--6--6--6--6--|
    E||--0--0--0--0--------------|

      E  E  E  E  E  E  E  E    
    --------------------------||
    --------------------------||
    --9--9--9--9--4--4--4--4--||
    --x--x--x--x--x--x--x--x--||
    --7--7--7--7--2--2--2--2--||
    --------------------------||
    Also in "Hell" and "In Your Honor" where the one note of E resounds with vigerous strumming of one of these "octave chords" is complemented by the movement of other such "octave chords" around the base note. We see how they complement the basic harmony of chords aswell in the likes of "Cheer Up Boys" or the climatic ending to "End Over End". Basically what I am saying is that this is another of Grohl's essential methods and it's a good weapon in the arsenal of any songwriting guitarist. They sound awesome when ever you want to use them. Just use them well!

    I Can't Stress This Enough

    Experiment with all this stuff and you'll be able to broaden your rhthmic playing and perhaps slip some unexpected sounds into your progressions, other than minor/major etc. I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure that all of Grohl's writing is derived in some way from these techniques and experimentation built upon them. So I hope you guys/foo fans found this imformative. I know for some of the more experienced amoungst you, writing about this type of playing may seem less complicated/challanging than many other lessons, but ones this of this nature, at least in my opinion, are just as important. All the best. Dan.
  • 20 comments sorted by best / new / date

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      priceless_twirp
      TOMMYB22 wrote: rather boring lesson. I've got to be honest, i love the Foo's and they're a great band but their guitar playing isn't unique or complex enough to grant a lesson. Foo's music has always been about the result and playing as a unit rather than them all trying to melt faces off.
      A point I precisely made in the opening paragraph...And as for it not being unique or complicated enough to grant a lesson...? Well...I did alright to get that much out of it and not cover it all no? ahaha! Glad so many people have found this interesting and helpful and to the rest? Well I now own the 10+ mins you spent reading and the extra u spent commenting so who's laughing? Muhahahaha! Dan
      Jamshid
      it is unfair to give dave grohl credit for these types of chords. these chords were used by the likes of many melodically infused bands for quite some time. the chord shapes you offer where the high e and b string are left open have been used for quite some time by bands like jawbreaker.
      TOMMYB22
      rather boring lesson. I've got to be honest, i love the Foo's and they're a great band but their guitar playing isn't unique or complex enough to grant a lesson. Foo's music has always been about the result and playing as a unit rather than them all trying to melt faces off.
      jo.zo.96
      Does somebody knows what chord Dave plays in Everlong
      @2:38
      @4:43 Thanks
      ZeligtheAxMan
      Great Job, I have to agree, as a solely rhythm guitarist Dave does not get name-checked enough... Great Job Twirp ;
      sparta09
      Very good lesson, I think Foo Fighters work as a good rhythm lesson. So many times rhythm guitarist aren't looked at as being anything special, so thanks to giving credit to one.
      priceless_twirp
      wicked_hobbit wrote: Hey, great lesson here. Good to see some of his techniques broken down like this. I've recently got myself into learning some FF songs and I was blown away by how "original" the guitar parts are (original at least to me, whose playing has overused power chords all the time). I end up grabbing their whole discography off the shelves, finding songs that I like, learning them and incorporating guitar parts that I find fresh into my songs. Studying Grohl's style has made me try new things especially chord voicings which I haven't used a lot.
      Happy to help!
      wicked_hobbit
      Hey, great lesson here. Good to see some of his techniques broken down like this. I've recently got myself into learning some FF songs and I was blown away by how "original" the guitar parts are (original at least to me, whose playing has overused power chords all the time). I end up grabbing their whole discography off the shelves, finding songs that I like, learning them and incorporating guitar parts that I find fresh into my songs. Studying Grohl's style has made me try new things especially chord voicings which I haven't used a lot.
      Caseyz
      priceless_twirp wrote: TOMMYB22 wrote: rather boring lesson. I've got to be honest, i love the Foo's and they're a great band but their guitar playing isn't unique or complex enough to grant a lesson. Foo's music has always been about the result and playing as a unit rather than them all trying to melt faces off. A point I precisely made in the opening paragraph...And as for it not being unique or complicated enough to grant a lesson...? Well...I did alright to get that much out of it and not cover it all no? ahaha! Glad so many people have found this interesting and helpful and to the rest? Well I now own the 10+ mins you spent reading and the extra u spent commenting so who's laughing? Muhahahaha! Dan
      Lol. Dave Grohl is a great musician. It doesn't matter how complex his guitar riffing is. It's how he plays and its cool to read how he broke down his playing. And yes it was a cool lesson, thanks dude. Some interesting ideas to maybe incorporate. Different harmonies and sounds are always good to know. It builds your chord progression, which all good bands use. Period.
      priceless_twirp
      ultrasonic wrote: great. well written. cant fault it. the one thing i would have said is mention the monkey wrench riff when talking about open B and e strings. apart from that its great.
      True. I found it difficult though because, played properly, while ,yes, it does use that method on a basic level, it isn't simply a case of one note moving with the open strings; it uses fingering of other bits, much like the "Let It Die" instrumental section, which I thought would complicate the issue. Cheers for reading though. Dan
      ultrasonic
      great. well written. cant fault it. the one thing i would have said is mention the monkey wrench riff when talking about open B and e strings. apart from that its great.
      priceless_twirp
      Cheers for your comment - its appreciated. Just wanted to clarifiy that I'm under no illusions that Grohl invented or pioneered these chords or techniques at all, I simply meant to illustrate what types of chords and songwriting techniques he used most commonly in Foo Fighters songs. Dan