Whether you love it or hate it, ‘Wonderwall’ has been a mainstay for street-side buskers ever since it was released in 1995. Every guitarist will remember learning it at some point or another.
For me, that moment came when I was eleven. Equipped with the half-scale nylon guitar my dad had bought my sister and me – which I quickly commandeered – I followed my guitar teacher’s coffee-breath instructions; watching his hands as they switched between those four simple chords. Here, we see Noel Gallagher sharing a similar moment with the famed Beatles producer George Martin, during which, Gallagher explains how he crafted the era-defining track.
There is an important connection between George Martin and ‘Wonderwall.’ The track, after all, is imbued with references to the 1960s. Many have spotted the similarities between Noel’s song and George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music, an instrumental album the Beatles guitarist wrote for the movie Wonderwall – From Psychedelia to Surrealism, starring Jane Birkin. By all accounts, it’s a terrible film.
When the song was released, ‘Wonderwall’ was an immediate hit, sparking many rumours about the origins of Noel’s lyrics. Many believe that the song was written for Gallagher’s then-girlfriend Meg Williams in an attempt to cheer her up when she was down on her luck. However, Gallagher eventually started denying this, frustrated by the media’s desire to take the meaning away from its creator.
In the footage below, Noel Gallagher picks up a guitar and begins strumming basic major chords, with a capo latched on the second fret. Em to G, to D, to A, and back again: these cyclical opening chords are simple enough, but, when played this way, aren’t particularly exciting either. “I had these chords for a long long time, and they’re just major chords – which to me wasn’t saying anything really. They’re just chords I’d use all the time and they didn’t really set a mood,” Gallager begins.
Gallagher’s response was to leave his third finger on the G string. “The third finger holding that string down gives it a constant… it’s like a…a constantly singing note, you know.” At the same time, the Oasis guitarist decided to mix up his strumming pattern, adding syncopated upstrokes to create a churning rhythm that pushes the song forward. Gallagher also leaves his little finger on the B string, emphasising the higher notes to create a warm, rich tone. “Every chord in the song is just based on that,” he concluded. Make sure you check out the full video below.