Leonard Cohen’s unique classical guitar style

Following my blog post a couple of weeks ago about the death of Leonard Cohen’s former partner, Marianne Ihlen, a reader e-mailed me to ask which of the singer’s works best portrayed his particular style of classical guitar playing.  That’s a tough question to answer.  His style has evolved over the years, so that the way he plays his earlier songs today is often different to how he played them in the 1960’s.  Age has also affected the flexibility of his joints and fingers, of course, so he’s no longer so ‘fluent’ in his style.

Nevertheless, I do have a personal favorite in terms of his guitar work.  It’s ‘Avalanche‘, from his third studio album, ‘Songs of Love and Hate‘, released in 1971.  Cohen “acknowledged in a 1992 interview with Paul Zollo that his ‘chop’, his unique pattern of playing classical guitar, is behind many of his early songs, and this one features Cohen’s trademark fast, syncopated classical guitar pattern as the accompaniment on the recording of the song.”

Lovely guitar work, and darkly poetic lyrics.  Classic early Leonard Cohen.



  1. He did a version of the Byrd's "Eight Miles High" on Saturday Night Live many years ago.

    Very interesting fellow…

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