Guitar Heroes

jonny greenwood

Posted: 31st January 2023

Best known for his role in the band Radiohead. Jonny Greenwood is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, musician and composer as well as having written numerous film scores.

Read time: 3 mins


Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood, known as Jonny, was born in Oxford, England on 5 November 1971.  Along with his elder brother Colin, Jonny attended Abingdon School where he would meet people who were later to become his Radiohead bandmates.

Originally called, On a Friday. Radiohead was formed in 1985 and consisted of singer Thom Yorke, bassist Colin Greenwood, guitarist Ed O’Brien and drummer Phillip Selway and finally Jonny.

Being two years younger than any of the other band members, Jonny was the last to join the band. He first began by playing the keyboard, which was soon followed by a move to the harmonica and then finally becoming the lead guitarist.

Still being called On a Friday, at this point, the band performed their eighth gig in November 1991. Since the band had already attracted the attention of multiple record labels, the audience at the gig included multiple A&R representatives. Only one month later, the band signed a six-album record contract with EMI and it was then that they changed their name to Radiohead. Inspired by the song "Radio Head" by Talking Heads on their album True Stories.

playing styles and equipment

Throughout his musical career, Jonny has used creative electronic techniques such as sampling and looping. As well as writing the music software that has been used by Radiohead to create some of their most iconic songs.

In some Radiohead songs, the brass and string arrangements composed by Jonny are very noticeable and help to bring different sections of the music together. Jonny loved to bring these more ‘traditional’ elements of music into his modern sound as he has composed for orchestras including the London Contemporary Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra in the past.

Listen below for an example of how this style is added to Radiohead’s music.

One of Radiohead’s debut single ‘Creep’ was defined by Jonny Greenwood’s aggressive and distorted guitar sound. This effect is particularly noticeable in iconic section before the chorus.

You can hear this in the clip below.

The origin of this distorted sound comes from Jonny using a Marshall Shredmaster pedal. Unlike the other Mark I pedals, the Shredmaster provided more high-gain distortion. Which, by today’s standards, is more suited to searing leads rather than heavy rock and metal.