This is a really fun song to learn, but it could be frustrating if you are a beginner and unfamilar with the chords and finger strumming style that Smith employs. There are alot of inaccurate tabs out there in “Internet Land” so here is a link to most accurate tab out there from SweetAdeline.net which I have learned from and believe is the most accurate tab out there for Angeles.
I spent quite abit of time learning this song and trying to find the most accurate tab, but what I figured out from learning this song is that it’s not only important to have a accurate tab to learn from but you must know how to execute the strumming technique.
He uses 2 techniques, and for the intro it’s straight up Travis Picking. If you can’t Travis Pick you should probably spend a few hours, sessions or weeks depending on your skill level learning this picking style before you even try to learn Angeles. If you study enough Elliot Smith songs you will find he uses this technique quite often; as well as other advanced strumming and picking techniques like appreggio.
Keep in mind that leaning Travis Picking will open you up to a world of other songs, as it’s a very popular picking pattern; and it has many variations.
Travis Picking is basically an alternating of the low bass note with a high treble note in between. Though there are alot of different patterns this is the general principle that underlies all Travis Picking. Click here for a Travis Picking lesson.
I am not sure if there is an offical name for the second style of strumming that Elliot Smith employs, but I think it is probably an arpeggio or flamenco-inspired technique. Basically he plucks the bass notes with his thumb and strums with his fingers. The first strum down is I believe with the thumb, then the others are alternating with the tip of his index finger and other fingers. And if you watch the video closely or slow it down you can see he rakes his finger upwards across the strings in some places. It almost sounds like fast finger picking. But he’s just brushing the strings with the tips of his fingers.
The best way you can see this is to watch the video that is posted here. Forward to 3:10 – 2:57 of the video and click the pause/play button rapidly so you can see Elliot strumming kind of in slow motion and you will see what I mean.
Another interesting clip is at around 1:58 to 1:55. I find this really interesting because although his back seems to be a little hunched the angle that he holds the guitar at and the way his arms and fingers are positioned are in an extremely relaxed and natural position. The basic fact of the matter is if you play with too much tension in your body then you will never learn anything.
You don’t have to have perfect posture to play guitar, god knows I don’t but I think it’s more important to relax when you play, rather than playing with tonnes of tension in your arms and hands…