The recording of this song is played using a nylon string or classical guitar, so if you want to get that specific tone, then you have to use that kind of guitar. Other than that, it’s a good song to learn basic guitar fingerpicking patterns and movable barre chord shapes up and down the neck. Practice first at a slow tempo and strive to get every note to ring out clearly when fingerpicking. Most importantly, listen to the recording and try to play along.
An authentic reggae guitar tone is achieved by using the correct right hand guitar technique and least 95% of your tone is coming directly from your fingers. Although, if you want to sound like a guitar legend, these are the four guitars most commonly used for playing reggae music.
The stratocaster is a great guitar for playing reggae because it’s lightweight, the neck is a comfortable shape for lead and rhythm playing, and you can get a variety of tones with the pickups in the neck and mid-neck positions. Some famous reggae guitarist’s who played a stratocaster include Eric Clapton, and the lead guitarist for Bob Marley, Al Anderson.
The Fender Telecaster is more lightweight than the Stratocaster which lends itself to having a thinner sound and is good for doubling the bass line in reggae using the palm muting guitar technique .In addition, the Telecaster is great for playing the reggae rhythm guitar because of the bright tone in the neck pickup position.Two famous guitar legends who used a telecaster are Jimmy Page and Keith Richards.
The Gibson Les Paul is best known for its humbucker P90 pickups which gives it a fat sound and crunchy blues lead guitar tone. The neck has a wider shape, and it is a heavier guitar to shoulder than the Strat or the Telecaster. Bob Marley played a Les Paul while he was in the Wailers and Eric Rachmany plays one now with the reggae band Rebelution.
The PRS guitar is a like combination of a Strat and a Les Paul. It has a thin neck like the Strat, which makes it easier to play but it also has humbucker pick ups like a Les Paul for a crunchy lead guitar tone. PRS guitars are very versatile and can be used for playing Rock, Reggae, Jazz, Blues, and most styles of music. A guitar legend who plays a PRS is Carlos Santana.
The best way to learn this song is by listening to the recording, playing along, and trying to get the rhythm locked in. Once you get comfortable with the finger positions on the left hand just keep that right hand moving, keep the right hand going, don’t break the rhythm! Other than that, use a clean tone, have fun, and keep jammin!
The strumming pattern for “One Love” is a basic downstroke on the offbeat which is explained in detail in my video lesson “How to play reggae riddims”. This song sounds great on acoustic guitar, and if your are using electric guitar then use a clean tone for your amp settings and make sure your right hand attack is short and crisp. The barre chord shapes I have suggested are all in one position for smoother voice leading and so you won’t have to go up and down the neck.
The Wah effect pedal can be used for the rhythm guitar part Bob Marley is playing by pressing all the way down on your wah pedal. Using the clean channel of your guitar amp this should give your guitar more top end (treble).
The wah pedal can also be used during the lead guitar part that Peter Tosh is playing. You want to slowly press down on the pedal as you play the chord on the downbeat.
With guitar effect pedals less is always more, so try to be economic with your use of the Wah pedal when playing