Sunny War’s “No Reason” Is Built from a Cool and Distinctive Riff 

It has a non-Western vibe, but at the same time connects to the Travis picking tradition
Sunny War with acoustic guitar

In a profile on Sunny War for this magazine’s September 2018 issue, editor at large Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers wrote about the resemblance of the singer-songwriter’s idiosyncratic guitar approach to that of Malian musicians like the late Ali Farka Touré. Rodgers was surprised to hear that War was unaware of that tradition until some fans pointed it out to her and she searched for it on YouTube. 

At the time, War was in the habit of busking at the colorful boardwalk in Venice, California, playing a 1989 Guild True American DC-1E NT she dubbed Big Baby. That cutaway dreadnought is still War’s main guitar, and it—and the West African tinge—can be heard to excellent effect on her recent single “No Reason.”


Sunny War performs “No Reason” on CBS Saturday Morning.

War plays “No Reason” in the key of G major, with a fourth-fret capo transposing it to B. The song is based on a curious riff that, with its pull-off ornaments and static harmony, has a non-Western vibe. At the same time, a steady root-fifth bass pattern connects the riff to the Travis picking tradition. These parts came to War from out of nowhere. “I was just noodling around and thought it sounded fun,” she says. “The riff lived in the voice memo app of my phone for a long time before I was ready to try putting words to it.”

To play the riff, fret the sixth-string G with your second finger, keeping it held down throughout the G chord measures. For the double pull-offs on string 3, use your third and first fingers, respectively, to play the third- and second-fret notes. If you find yourself struggling to play the pull-offs cleanly, practice them on their own until each note sounds even and clear.

Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the March/April 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 62.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Adam Perlmutter
Adam Perlmutter

Adam Perlmutter holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory. He is the editor of Acoustic Guitar.

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