It’s no surprise that the sound of Radiohead has influenced more than just the average rock enthusiast. Jazz and Modern Classical composers alike seem to find common ground with their complex instrumentation and musical directions. With a career spanning over 2 decades and showing no signs of slowing down, Greenwood’s scoring and sound variation within and outside of the band are a must listen to for anyone looking to broaden their artistic horizons.
Influenced by classical music at a very young age, Greenwood’s first instrument choice was the recorder which he continued playing into adulthood. Another early endeavor was studying the viola in school. This would eventually lead him to joining the Thames Vale Youth Orchestra and describes this experience as his first true understanding of what an orchestra should sound like. Jonny Greenwood is the only member of Radiohead to have studied music theory.
It doesn’t stop there. Percussion roles varying from tom toms on songs like There There to more complex drumming on live performances of Bloom while other instruments under his belt include harmonica, piano, modular synthesizers and the ondes martenot (an early theremin sounding French instrument played by moving a ring along a wire). Also a pedalholic, his ever growing selection of effects allows him to get more than just the average guitar sound.
I mean, who could ever forget the all around guitar wizardry classic that is Paranoid Android?
Aside from the band’s endless touring and recording schedule, Greenwood is also known for his film scores which include Bodysong, There Will Be Blood and the most recent, Inherent Vice. His arrangements can also be heard on Radiohead’s recently acclaimed album, A Moon Shaped Pool providing string and choir arrangements which were then performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra.
It's definitely worth mentioning that some of his collaborations are of the same nature- the most recent being his contribution to Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur's 2015 album, Junun which was produced by Greenwood and features bowed-string instruments associated with the Manganiar community.
For his film soundtracks, Greenwood commonly uses instruments and recording techniques associated with the period of the story. This can be heard prominently in the 2010 Japanese drama Norwegian Wood where Greenwood recorded parts of the soundtrack using home studio equipment, thus truly replicating what one of the characters might have actually sounded like. Use of microtones are also a common trait in his scoring and compositions.
Any Radiohead geek would also probably know that he writes the software used in their recordings. Being interested in computer programming from a very young age, this skill has given any producer working with the band full access to reverbs, sequencers or delays that have never been used by anybody else. It’s no surprise that the software used to sample their takes on 2011’s King Of Limbs was written by Greenwood himself.
For further Jonny Greenwood instrumentation be sure to check out my favorite Radiohead clip: live from the basement. Effortless harmonies and professional musicianship at its finest awaits so take notes!