This month Martin Cooper ducks for cover as he checks out the playing style of the Motor City Madman, The Nuge – the great Ted Nugent!
Martin Cooper gets cat scratch fever while he plays in the rock guitar style of Ted Nugent.
Born in Detroit in 1948, and the son of a very strict Army staff sergeant, Ted Nugent found fame both with The Amboy Dukes in the 1960s and the Damn Yankees in the 80s. but it was as a 70s solo artist that he enjoyed most of his success. These days he is also associated with strongly Conservative political views on hunting and gun ownership. However, although he is often criticised for these views, he is also an active campaigner against drug and alcohol abuse. While he may not necessarily be a household name outside rock guitar circles, Nugent has sold over 30 million albums in a career that has spanned almost 50 years. And he actually played his first gig at just 10 years of age!
Ted’s musical output is firmly in the classic rock genre, but he has also toured with the likes of US Country star Toby Keith, and played on Christian artist David Crowder’s Remedy album. Ted is also a fan of musicians as diverse as Frank Zappa and Muddy Waters, and he has also appeared in TV shows such as Miami Vice, and also in Nickelback’s video for their hit Rockstar, in 2007.
Nugent is famed for playing through amps at extremely loud volumes, but he has also suffered considerable hearing loss over the years - so don’t crank up the volume to hazardous levels this month!
When Ted formed the Damn Yankees, he joined forces with some stars of the day such as Night Ranger’s bassist, Jack Blades, and former Styx guitarist, Tommy Shaw. But it is his solo output from the 1970s that we’re referencing this month. This era of The Nuge’s playing featured plenty of blues-rock riff playing, not a million miles away from southern rock bands like ZZ Top. His tone and guitar equipment was unique in rock circles (see our Get The Tone box), and he always played aggressively but with plenty of taste. The high-volume at which Nugent plays, and the nature of his gear (a hollow thinline Gibson Byrdland), means he often uses sustained feedback notes in concert. Ted still tours to this day, although without quite matching his schedule of 300 concerts per year during the late 60s and early 70s!
Our musical example is in the key of A minor (A B C D E F G), although the G and D power chords in bars 13-14 and 17-18 hint at a bVII-IV progression in A Dorian, which adds to the blues-rock feel. It’s built around a driving rock riff, with classic power chords, rhythm guitar arpeggio parts and a solo that uses unison bends, minor pentatonic and blues scale phrasing.
The feel is aggressive but controlled during the rhythm part, so it’s best to mute any unwanted strings and play the open fifth string and power chords accurately. Also feel free to add some palm muting to the rhythm part. There’s a slightly lazy, almost behindthe-beat feel to some of the lead phrasing, particularly with some of the string bends, so aim to get the correct feel here as well - and don’t rush ahead of the beat.
While he may not necessarily be a household name, Nugent has sold over 30 million albums.
Ted Nugent: brandishing a Byrdland