TO P 10 NASHVILLE GUI­TAR ISTS Learn their styles

Steve Laney takes us on a tour of the styles of Mu­sic Row’s ses­sion greats. Pick it like a Nashville Cat and be­come a bet­ter player!

Guitar Techniques - - Guitar Techniques -

Nashville proudly boasts the ti­tle ‘Home of Coun­try Mu­sic’, so you’d be for­given for think­ing that the place is all Stet­sons and cow­boy boots, but leave the honky­tonk bars of Lower Broad­way, drive a cou­ple of miles west and you will ar­rive at the record­ing stu­dios of Mu­sic Row; it’s here that you will hear the true sounds of mod­ern day Nashville.

Coun­try is evolv­ing – in fact it al­ways has been – much to the dis­gust of the purists and their cries of “keep it coun­try”. How­ever, Mu­sic Row re­alises there’s no room for nos­tal­gia in the com­pet­i­tive world of the mu­sic busi­ness; if Nashville is to re­tain its other ti­tle of ‘Mu­sic City USA’, it has to con­stantly push the bound­aries and em­brace new gen­res. As a re­sult, many la­bels now have di­vi­sions spe­cial­is­ing in jazz, blues, rock and even Chris­tian mu­sic: big busi­ness in a city that’s said to have more churches than trees.

But how did Nashville come to be the mod­ern day epi­cen­tre of the Amer­i­can mu­sic in­dus­try? Well, a lot of the credit has to be given to The Grand Ole Opry ra­dio sta­tion. Be­fore TV, ra­dio was king. The Opry was the largest of all coun­try sta­tions and em­ployed some of the big­gest acts. How­ever, when these acts wanted to record they had to travel to Los Angeles or New York. This made no sense at all fi­nan­cially or lo­gis­ti­cally, so la­bels be­gan to open stu­dios and of­fices in Nashville, and the city’s win­ning for­mula was set.

Those dis­grun­tled purists have also played their part in en­sur­ing Nashville re­mains at the top. Fans of coun­try mu­sic have an al­most re­li­gious ded­i­ca­tion and are very pro­tec­tive of their art form; this has helped en­sure con­tin­ued nour­ish­ment and preser­va­tion of Nashville, at a time when LA and New York have frag­mented some­what, mu­si­cally.

The plethora of gen­res in Nashville to­day means a gui­tarist must be versed in many styles; a pro­ducer is just as likely to ask for some Edge style de­layed gui­tar, as he is for

You gotta be nice to ev­ery­body in Nashville ’cause the guys park­ing your car can play you un­der the ta­ble. Vince Gill

some chicken pickin’. So a Nashville gui­tarist must ar­rive pre­pared, with an ar­se­nal of gear in or­der to repli­cate these sounds and styles.

A player of­ten lands a ses­sion be­cause a pro­ducer or artist has re­quested them. On ar­riv­ing at the stu­dio the mu­si­cians will hear the song, of­ten for the first time, as a demo. One of the team will be nom­i­nated leader and will chart out the song us­ing The Nashville Num­ber Sys­tem. Mu­si­cians will then, if nec­es­sary, tweak the ar­range­ment to bet­ter suit the artist. Mu­si­cians are en­cour­aged to con­trib­ute ideas and are of­ten asked to come up with the hooks – the lit­tle de­tails that can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a hit or a flop.

Over the fol­low­ing pages I have writ­ten out some licks and phrases in the style of some of Nashville’s top ses­sion play­ers. By no means is this list ex­haus­tive, but I hope it helps set you on a path of dis­cov­ery of the many tal­ented and in­deed stun­ning mu­si­cians who call Nashville home.

The Nashville Num­ber Sys­tem

This is a way of tran­scrib­ing mu­sic whereby the let­ter names of a chord chart are re­placed with num­bers; the num­bers re­fer to the scale de­grees from on the chords are built. So in C ma­jor, C is the tonic chord and is as­signed the num­ber ‘1’, Dm is the sec­ond chord and so is as­signed the num­ber ‘2m’. In The Num­ber Sys­tem the C ma­jor scale chords are as fol­lows: C Dm Em F G Am B° 1 2m 3m 4 5 6m 7° Us­ing num­bers means a chart can be quickly trans­posed to any key. Say a singer brings in their demo to record a fi­nal cut; it’s in C and the leader charts it out. How­ever, two takes in it’s clear that C is wrong for the singer and so it’s dropped down a tone to Bb. Us­ing the Num­ber Sys­tem, all the mu­si­cian will need to know are the di­a­tonic chords of the new key.

On our chart be­low, the cir­cled ‘C’ tells us the key is C ma­jor; the 4/4 tell us it’s in 4/4 time.; and the num­bers that the chords are C, Am, F, G, Em F and G. There are also start and end re­peats, so in to­tal this is a 16-bar pro­gres­sion. Bar­lines are not used as they can be mis­taken for the num­ber 1. Mu­si­cians will of­ten jot down in­for­ma­tion that is only rel­e­vant to the part they are play­ing.

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