Dispelling Myths about Freddie Green's Playing Technique
The brief article illustrates how Freddie Green myths are perpetuated by well-meaning publications. To correct the errors in the article below:
1) Freddie always used a pick (plectrum).
2) No research exists to prove that Freddie ever had a nickname of "The Claw".
Source: Acoustic Guitar Magazine #34
Question: What kind of strings did Freddie Green use to get his sound in the golden days of swing bands?
Answer: Freddie Green played archtop rhythm guitar as a sideman in Count Basie's orchestra for 50 years until he died in 1987. His unique sound was characterized by the hard chunking of chords on a huge 19-inch-wide archtop without a plectrum. He picked with his thumb and forefinger pressed together, making partial use of his thumbnail, which perhaps gave rise to one of his nicknames, the Claw.
[Editor's note: This myth of Freddie not using a plectrum may be based on 1950's advertisement photos from Gretsch Guitar that show him posing with the guitar but without a pick.]
This technique, in combination with the way that Green held the guitar (virtually flat on his lap with the neck raised up at a shallow angle) allowed him to voice the chords he played predominantly on the four bass strings, creating a deep, full sound. He also set his guitar up with heavy-gauge strings positioned very high over the fingerboard. His special sound was thus created by the way he strung, held, and played his unusually large guitar.
The moral of this story: don't believe everything you read, even in
a reputable publication like Acoustic Guitar Magazine.]