Cohen's guitar style

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Cohen's guitar style

Postby Reinout » Wed Jun 06, 2007 7:42 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum so let me introduce myself. I'm Reinout, a 20 year old Cohen fan from the Netherlands.

I got into Cohen a few years ago, after hearing him singing the Partisan in a duet with Noir Desir (at least, I think it was a duet, could be a Noir Desir cover without Cohen, can't remember and haven't heard the song since). Now, 3 years later, I have most of his albums and I'm trying my best to learn his songs and guitar style.

Cohen's music is beautiful, I love the melancholy and longing feeling, but it never depresses me. Strangely, I find it uplifting and energizing. His guitar skills are insane, I remember hearing Avalanche for the first time, I thought there were 3 guitars playing...

I don't know if any of you visit, but I'm hoping to get a few questions answered.

First, are all of the tabs on the website accurate? Are there any bogus files I should be aware of?

And second, is there a name to his guitar style? I'm refering to his older songs, like Avalanche and Suzanne. I ask because I think it'd be easier to learn the style if I could learn the basics of it, construction, basic fingerpatterns etc.

Is there anyone here who can help me?

Thanks in advance,

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Re: Cohen's guitar syle

Postby sach » Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:27 pm

Hi, I have used the transcriptions posted on the page you mentioned and yes, I have found some mistakes here and there, but in general they work ok.
On the other hand, I think LC's style is linked to flamenco, and his arragements, particularly in songs like "Avalanche", "The partisan" or "Stranger song", are very complicated because of the right hand accuracy they demand. I read somewhere that LC is very proud of this "chop" of his...
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby tomsakic » Wed Jun 13, 2007 2:41 pm

In recent DVD "Leonard Cohen Under Review", Leonard's first producer John Simon said the greatness of Cohen's style is that he's using the guitar as classical piano as he's clasically educated (Simon demonstrated typical Cohen guitar chord on piano). For the matter of fact, Leonard learned piano and clarinet.

As for the "chops", the important thing is also that he's using nylon strings on classical Spanish flamenco guitar (he got his guitar lessons from a Spanish immigrant in Montreal). - if there's something incorrect, you can simply write to the webmaster. It's the only complete Cohen chords site available, and Matjaz will be glad to get edits and comments.
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby Reinout » Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:42 pm

Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it.

So basically, Cohen plays a combination between classical music and flamenco?

I'll try to see if I can find a classical teacher in this city (don't like music school, only private tutors), he might be able to bring me up to speed, thanks!

I can play songs like Suzanne, Who By Fire and The Partizan fairly well now, only in the Partizan I play with my tumb and 2 fingers, instead of his 3 finger technique, so it sounds a bit different.

Cohen's really opened my eyes for the different styles of music and incorperating them into pop/rock, he's amazing!
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I'm an intermediate/advanced guitarist.

Postby marena » Sat May 31, 2008 9:32 am

I'm starting to give guitar lessons pretty soon. I'm an intermediate/advanced guitarist. I've been playing 2 years, but I practice a lot and I've gotten about 5 people who want me to teach them how to play. I've came up with a pretty good teaching method in my opinion, by combining the way I learned with stuff that I had wished I did in the beginning. I need some input though.
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby AnthonyR » Thu Nov 05, 2009 8:02 pm

Do we know much else about Leonard's (suicidal) Flamenco teacher?
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby tooc » Wed May 05, 2010 12:45 am

There is a track by a legendary Italian singer named Fabrizio De Andre' that is indistinguishable from the style of Leonard Cohen and has guitar accompaniment identical to the rhythm of 'The Dealer' - so much so that I wonder if it was actually LC who performed the accompaniment! The song is called Amico Fragile and can be found at the URL

I have tried to work out this guitar accompaniment but I am really stumped. It is not the right hand that I don't understand, but the left. I can find chords that work well enough, but I can't find the identical chords that have a very flamenco sound and are surely using open strings that are slightly discordant but very effective.

I am beginning to think that there is an alternative tuning being used.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think!
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby Maarten » Wed May 05, 2010 2:08 am

I think you're referring to "The Stranger Song", which is mistitled "The Dealer" on TOTP in the early days (
Can't comment on the guitar chords, because I don't have the knowledge, but the accompaniment is indeed very similar.

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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby guitarlover » Thu May 06, 2010 6:18 pm

I think his guitar type is classical Spanish guitar which can be used till now but need a professional to produce a good music.
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby kalinowt » Thu Jun 03, 2010 10:55 pm

AnthonyR wrote:Do we know much else about Leonard's (suicidal) Flamenco teacher?
Here's a link for an interview Leonard did with a Radion Station I think, wherein he gives a few more details. No names unforunately!

Relevent Excerpt:

Leonard: There was a young man in the park behind my mother's house. A dark young man, very handsome, played flamenco guitar. I asked him if he would give me a few lessons. He did. He gave me three or four lessons. On the basis of those lessons I wrote most of my songs. He showed me some changes with the guitar that was very very important to me. He didn't turn up for the final lesson, and I phoned his boarding house, they told he'd committed suicide. I don't know whether that was because of the progress with his student; or I think perhaps he had other issues. .
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby Daryl » Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:39 am

Does anyone know if this finger picking style has a name? (Stranger Song etc).
I can't seem to find anything.. and i'd really like to learn / understand how it's done.
Many thanks!..
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby Kat999 » Sun Feb 20, 2011 2:04 pm


As I asked recently in another post, I'm looking for the exact arpeggio L. Cohen plays in "The stranger song". I have a book of his tabs, all I learned until now look right but I'm not sure about The stranger song. I don't know whether it's because he plays so fast that it gives another sound. The pattern of the arpeggio for this song is playing
one of the 3 bass strings depending on the chord + the G string + the B string + the E string, so going down, but I don't hear on his recording this last E string played that's the reason I'm not sure about it.
I also found that version on the web : ... anger_song

Any help ? Thanks in advance,
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby ada » Tue Oct 01, 2013 8:39 pm

the cohenchords page seems no more functioning .

does anyone know of a website or a dvd/youtube channel where I can find videos or written instructions to practice the technique required especially for songs like "the stranger song", "the partisan", "avalanche".

it does not need to be directly related to cohen songs, but anything helpful to grasp his style would be great.

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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby Goldin » Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:11 pm

ada wrote:the cohenchords page seems no more functioning .
Maarten Massa currently hosts Matjaz's chords archive @
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Re: Cohen's guitar style

Postby eurydike » Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:20 pm

Try this site for the Stranger Song chords/arpeggios: ... ng_crd.htm

All others seem to be shut down.

If you know of other resources on Leonard's guitar style, please let me know.

Or friend me at (I am often playing Leonard Cohen there)

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