Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

The Basics of Britpop

The Basics of Britpop

How jangle, glam, punk, shoegaze, and more blended to create a worldwide phenomenon. Just don’t forget your tambourine.



  • Learn genre-defining elements of Britpop guitar.
  • Use the various elements to create your own Britpop songs.
  • Discover how “borrowing” from the best can enrich your own playing.
{'media': '[rebelmouse-document-pdf 12854 site_id=20368559 original_filename="Britpop-Dec21.pdf"]', 'file_original_url': '', 'type': 'pdf', 'id': 12854, 'media_html': 'Britpop-Dec21.pdf'}

When considering the many bands that fall under the term “Britpop”–Oasis, Blur, Suede, Elastica, Radiohead’s early work, and more–it’s clear that the genre is more an attitude than a specific musical style. Still, there are a few guitar techniques and approaches that abound in the genre, many of which have been “borrowed” (the British music press’ friendly way of saying “appropriated”) from earlier British bands of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.


It’s difficult to say when Britpop started, the term was bandied about in the British press in the early 1990s to label such bands as Suede and Blur. You can argue the Stone Roses created the template in 1989 with their self-titled debut album. But I think you can hear the sound of Britpop much earlier, 1970 in fact, on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Harrison’s bright rhythm guitar, wah-wah lead, and drum groove on “Wah-Wah” all fit the template for 1990s Britpop. Ex. 1 emulates these three characteristics of that proto-Britpop recording.

Ex. 1

Wah-Wah (Remastered 2014)

Ex. 2 jumps ahead two decades with a specimen Britpop fans will be more familiar with as it pays homage to both the Stone Roses’ “Fools Gold” and Suede’s “The Drowners.” Once again, the wah-wah pedal is employed. In the first section, the wah-wah is engaged primarily on the muted strums to generate a funky rhythmic pattern. In the second section it’s used for texture. The strum is basic, playing four, quarter-note down strums, but the wah-wah is rocked back and forth creating the illusion of eighth- and 16th-notes. This could take more practice than you might imagine, but you should think like a drummer. Note the Bb major chord in the first section and the B major chord in the second section. These are non-diatonic chords (meaning not in the key), giving the progression a slightly more sophisticated, or at least unexpected, sound.

Ex. 2

The Stone Roses - Fools Gold (Official Video)

Yet another two-guitar-wah-wah groove, inspired by Pulp’s “Lipgloss” is shown in Ex. 3. Guitar one features cowboy chords strummed with a busy rhythmic pattern–a hallmark of Britpop–while guitar two plays a motif (a short melodic pattern), with the wah-wah on, though not moving much. It’s more for tone and texture.

Ex. 3

Pulp - Lipgloss

Layered Guitars

As seen in two of the previous examples, dual guitars are a big part of the Britpop sound, no doubt inspired by the likes of the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones. Ex. 4, based on Blur’s “Coffee and TV,” features guitar one playing barre chords and distinctive mutes thrown in for accents, while guitar two plays a double-stop riff that creates suspensions between the 3 and 4 of the chord. The G chord is a rather surprising choice in the key of B.

Ex. 4

Blur - Coffee And TV

Moving on from 1960s influences, Ex. 5, based on “Delicious” by Sleeper, has that 1980s “jangle” sound (for more on jangle guitar see my June 2021 lesson “What Exactly Is ‘Jangly’ Guitar?”) heard in songs by such bands as the Smiths and the Cure. In this example, guitar one, a la “Delicious,” is dirtier, and guitar two has that glorious 1980s clean tone.

Ex. 5

Sleeper - Delicious (Video)

Britpop is not without its solos, but once again we can find the influences worn prominently on the sleeves of the guitarists. Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which, besides the intro piano that sounds as if it came straight out of John Lennon’s “Imagine” sessions, has a guitar solo reminiscent of George Harrison’s lead on the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” Ex. 6 provides the feel, atmosphere, and quintessential licks of “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which also features a IV to IVm (in this case F to Fm) chord movement, another classic Beatles move. It is notable that Oasis founder, Noel Gallagher said of the song, “It reminds me of a cross between ‘All the Young Dudes’ [Mott the Hoople] and something the Beatles might have done.”

Ex. 6

Oasis - Don’t Look Back In Anger (Official Video)

The Blues Influence?

Though not as overt, there is a blues influence to be heard in Britpop too, however, it’s filtered through the prism of ’70s glam rock. Once again Oasis–with help from T. Rex–is our point of reference. Ex. 7 demonstrates the influence “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” had on Oasis’ “Cigarettes & Alcohol.” Pay attention to the syncopations found in guitar one, as you must play through four measures before the progression repeats exactly. Guitar two has syncopations of its own although you only have to play one chord shape.

Ex. 7

Oasis - Cigarettes & Alcohol (Official HD Remastered Video)

As we heard in Ex. 5, arpeggios, play a large role in Britpop. Blur’s “She’s So High” and Suede’s “Lazy” are worthy examples. I don’t think Britpop arpeggios get any better than the Stone Roses’ “Waterfall”, which Ex. 8 is based on. If you’re searching for forerunners to this sound, look no further than the Beatles “Ticket To Ride,” “She Said, She Said,” or “Run For Your Life.”

Ex. 8

Blur - She's So High

Beg, Borrow, and Steal

As with most overview lessons, this one has barely scratched the surface of the Britpop sound or the post-Britpop bands that followed. More examples of references can be heard in the Verve (“Bittersweet Symphony” via the Rolling Stones), Radiohead (“Creep” via the Hollies) and Elastica, who appropriated some riffs by the band Wire. All of those bands busted over these similarities, but don’t let these “borrowed” ideas worry you. To paraphrase the Who’s Pete Townshend, “All songwriters are magpies and thieves.” Just make sure you steal from the best!

As he approaches his 80th year, Chris Smither remains a potent songwriter and guitarist whose work is truly timeless—carved from experience and a deep perspective into the human condition.

Photo by Jo Chattman

The veteran fingerstylist and songwriter—who’s had his songs covered by Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and others—ponders the existential while celebrating the earthly. He also talks about the trajectory of his six-decades-long career, and how he learned to stop doing what’s unnecessary.

Now well into his sixth decade as a performer, with more than 20 albums behind him, singer-songwriter Chris Smither is doing some of his finest work. His vivid lyrics and resonant baritone on his new recording, All About the Bones, are elevated by his inimitable guitar style.

Read MoreShow less

The latest generation of Boss’ flagship digital amp is out to snatch the tones-per-dollar title belt.

Exceptional sounds throughout. Great high-gain tones. Off-the-charts value.

A built-in tuner would have been a nice touch.


Boss Katana Artist Gen 3, $599,


Boss’ Katana digital amps are among the most successful amplifiers of all time. They’ve sold over a million units since the first one appeared in 2016. But that’s hardly surprising given the wealth of sounds most Katanas put on offer, their abundance of features, and almost unrivaled bang for the buck.

Read MoreShow less

“Bill Bass” Nelson’s playing on Fred Wesley’s Say Blow by Blow Backwards is distinct from that of his other P-Funk bassmates.

When columnist Bill Leigh played bass behind trombonist Fred Wesley, he got an up-close look at how P-Funk bassists helped define a sound.

Most of us are continually working to broaden our bass skills, from fretboard familiarity and technical mastery to specific musical competencies, like bass-line construction and development, walking, and soloing. Along the way, we may try to incorporate the tone and techniques of specific bassists into our playing, sometimes while learning their parts from songs they played on.

Read MoreShow less

With new features like the Aguilar Cabinet Suite, dual XLR outputs, and upgraded power sections, these amplifiers are designed to meet the exacting standards of today’s bassists.

Read MoreShow less