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The Guitar Magazine (UK), Vol 9 No 2, November 1998

Classic Rock Lesson - Lindsay [sic] Buckingham

Lesson transcribed and annotated by Douglas J Noble

One of the more distinctive lead players to come out of '70s stadium rock, Lindsay Buckingham started his musical career playing bass in a rock band called Fritz with his partner, singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks. 'I started playing guitar first of all when I was about eight, because my older brother used to bring home all the Elvis records, Buddy Holly, the old Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis. Then I got into folk stuff and acoustic fingerpicking. When I got into rock'n'roll again I couldn't play screaming lead, which is why they put me on bass in Fritz,' he later revealed.

When Fritz broke up, Buckingham and Nicks carried on as a duo, releasing the aptly titled Buckingham/Nicks (1973), but they were still 'starving in LA'. Purely by chance, Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood heard Buckingham/Nicks and was so impressed he asked the duo to join the band a week later. The resulting album, Fleetwood Mac (1975) became the band's first US number one; the follow-up, Rumours (1977), became one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Buckingham recorded four more albums with Fleetwood Mac, Tusk (1979), Fleetwood Mac Live (1980), Mirage (1982) and Tango In the Night, (1987) which included songs earmarked for what would have been Buckingham's third solo album.

Reluctant to tour in support of Tango In The Night, Buckingham left to pursue his solo career. Ten years later, whilst working on a solo album, he gradually brought in the other members of Fleetwood Mac to help out, culminating in the Fleetwood Mac Rumours line-up reunion for The Dance (1997).

Like Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck, Buckingham uses his fingers to pluck the strings. 'I still don't use a flatpick,' he explained shortly after the release of Rumours. 'I always use my fingers on stage; I kind of thrash out the lead with my fingernails.' This technique of playing lead with the fingers can be heard in the solo in You Make Loving Fun from Rumours, (see fig. 5) [think they mean Fig 4 here] and can be seen and heard in the live version of the song in the video and CD The Dance. 'My fingernails take quite a pummelling sometimes, but it's just something you get used to - I've got a lot of calluses on the ends of my fingers. The only time I ever used fingerpicks was for bluegrass banjo, but I never used a flatpick for anything.'

Shortly after he joined Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham's main electric was a stock white Les Paul Custom. 'Before I joined the band I'd been playing a Stratocaster, but for some reason it didn't sound quite full enough live. I still use a Stratocaster more in the studio than the Gibson, but the Les Paul seems to be a very good, basic, solid stage guitar with a lot of output and fullness.' Later, he was also much seen playing an odd-bodied, single pickup Rick Turner electric.

'For amplifiers I used to use HiWatts, but they all of a sudden somehow became real dirty-sounding. So I got Marshall 100 Watts, and they seem to have a lot of bite. I use these tape recorder guts for fuzz. When I got out of Fritz and started doing lead, I bought a Sony 630 tape recorder deck for demo tapes. Then I got an Ampeg 4-track and started using the Sony 2-track for slap echo and effects like that with the preamp output of the deck into an amp. It's just an amazing fuzz device. Since then I've taken the guts out of the preamp and put them in a little box, and that's what I use both onstage and in the studio. I also use a Roland Space Echo and a Cry Baby wah-wah sometimes. My strings are Ernie Ball Regular Slinky, whatever set has an .010 on the top and a .046 or something on the bottom.'

For acoustics, Buckingham used a Martin D-18 in the studio, heard on Landslide from Fleetwood Mac and an Ovation for live shows. In the live video The Dance, he plays an electro-acoustic.

[Following on from the main text are Figs 1-4 showing music excerpts and tablature from Never Going Back Again, Big Love, Bleed To Love Her and You Make Loving Fun. I'm very sorry, but I don't know how to reproduce this here, so I've just typed the accompanying text to each figure.]

Fig 1. Buckingham frequently uses Travis picking, named after Merle Travis, in which the thumb of the right hand plucks a two note alternating bassline on the beat on the bass strings whilst the fingers pluck an often syncopated melody on the treble strings. This can be heard in Never Going Back Again from Rumours - all the 'down-stem' notes are plucked with the thumb. 'That was in standard tuning but with the E tuned down to a D. So in that tuning I would have to use a capo (at the fourth fret). Because I wouldn't be able to play that in any other key.' The excerpt shows the opening eight bars of the song. Played with a capo at the fourth fret, the music sounds in the key of F#, a major third higher than it is written, and the tablature refers to frets relative to the capo. Despite Buckingham's comment that he wouldn't be able to play it in any other key, in the Classic Albums TV programme and video (1997) he performs a version of this song in dropped D tuning without a capo and with the whole guitar tuned down a major third, sounding in the key of Bb. For the syncopated pattern between the melody and bass in bars 5 and 6, Buckingham can be seen plucking the strings using his ring finger for the top string, middle finger for the second string and index finger for the third string.

Figure 1 is an excerpt from Never Going Back Again - first 8 bars.

Fig 2. Originally from Tango in The Night, for The Dance Buckingham performs a solo version of Big Love demonstrating his considerable fingerpicking technique. Starting from the beginning of the song, the excerpt consists of a syncopated melody played over a bass part in steady quavers. Played on an electro-acoustic guitar with a capo at the fourth fret, the music sounds a major third higher than written and the tablature refers to frets relative to the capo.

Figure 2 is an excerpt from Big Love - 8 bars.

Fig 3. Buckingham uses a banjo-influenced technique of 'forward rolling' to play the three note ascending pattern in Bleed To Love Her from The Dance. In The Dance video, Buckingham can be seen plucking this three note pattern with thumb, index finger and ring finger. The pull-offs in the bars 1 and 2 are barely audible as Buckingham prepares for the next chord shape.

Figure 3 is an excerpt from Bleed To Love Her - 4 bars.

Fig 4. In The Dance video Buckingham can be seen using his fingers to pluck the strings for soloing in You Make Loving Fun. The excerpt shows the solo from the original version of Rumours, starting at 1:20. In The Dance Buckingham sticks closely to the original solo although he plays it on his electro-acoustic, as opposed to the electric guitar on the original and with a cleaner sound and some delay. This solo is based on the G pentatonic minor scale (G Bb C D F G).

Figure 4 is an excerpt from You Make Loving Fun - 15 bars.

Douglas J Noble is a professional guitar tutor and the author of books on both Jimi Hendrix and Peter Green; he is also Music Director of Univibes, the international Jimi Hendrix magazine. He has a teaching diploma in classical guitar and is an examiner for Rock School/Trinity College of Music. You can visit Douglas' internet site at

Thanks to Julie for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.