Despite performing for more than a decade, and having seven solo albums to her name, the British folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling insists she’s not a natural entertainer. She calls herself the “subtle event” rather than the life of the party.
Accordingly, instead of serenading her fans with concerts from her home in London, she has made the most of her lockdown by livestreaming weekly guitar tutorials on Instagram, @lauramarling. Since late March, Ms. Marling has posted more than a dozen 10-to-15-minute videos breaking down some of her most famous songs, garnering tens of thousands of views.
Ms. Marling first learned how to play guitar as a child in Hampshire, England, by watching and playing alongside her father, who owned a recording studio and often strummed Joni Mitchell and Neil Young covers for fun. Both artists have heavily influenced Ms. Marling’s work, which, like Mitchell’s and Young’s, often relies on nonstandard tunings.
Her tutorials are geared toward more inexpert guitarists. “I hope that people don’t know that much about the guitar, because I think knowing too much about music stifles your ability to try odd things,” Ms. Marling said in an interview. A basic knowledge of the instrument and tablature language could be useful, but isn’t necessary, she noted.
She recommends that beginners start with the tutorial in which she discusses “The Suite.” The four tracks — “Take the Night Off,” “I Was an Eagle,” “You Know” and “Breathe” from her 2013 album, “Once I Was an Eagle” — were originally written as a single, longer song. “The Suite” requires DADDAD tuning and most of the chords use only two fingers. “It’s such a beautiful tuning and it’s really easy to get your head around,” she said.
She cautions viewers to tune carefully. Turning the tuning keys gently and slowly while keeping your other hand on the strings, over the sound hole, helps prevent string breakage. (To help you nail the exact tunings Ms. Marling uses, there are plenty of free or low-cost guitar tuning apps, like Guitartuna.)
Ms. Marling uses her own oeuvre as a jumping-off point, but she said her tutorials are “not about learning my songs, it’s about exploring the guitar.” Even as a successful musician she has sought out lessons from people she admires, like the producer and songwriter Blake Mills and the guitarist Peter Randall. But she hasn’t yet had the opportunity to learn from women artists she looks up to.
“Learning from female guitarists by female guitarists is really important,” she said. “I wanted for so long a kind of female mentor or somebody to show me un-judgmentally how to grow in all forms of life.”
Join Ms. Marling live every Sunday at 2 p.m. Eastern time from her home in London.