With reissues of Led Zeppelin’s first three albums just released, Stuart Ryan delves into the all- toooften underrated acoustic playing of Jimmy Page.
ALTHOUGH RIGHTFULLY revered as the grandfather of the bone- crunching heavy- rock riff, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page is also one of the most creative and technically proficient acoustic guitarists to emerge from the world of 70s rock.
A mainstay of London’s 60s session scene, he was exposed to the leading acoustic players of the time, who could be seen regularly performing all over the capital. The folk stylings and altered tunings of gamechanging players including John Renbourn, Roy Harper, Bert Jansch and Davey Graham would have been a huge influence on the young guitarist.
An adept fingerpicker, Page placed the acoustic guitar to the fore in many Led Zeppelin tracks, while also featuring it as a solo instrument in pieces like the Celtic- tinged Bron- Yr- Aur. Indeed, the sensitivity of his acoustic playing is in such stark contrast to his work on the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Telecaster for which he is famous, that at times it can seem like an entirely different player.
While Jimmy’s electric guitar playing was rooted in the heavier side of blues, rhythm and blues and rock, his acoustic voice often leans more towards the Celtic side. So, you’ll find an array of alternative tunings, unusual chord voicings and drone strings – the latter being a technique he most probably developed after
An adept fingerpicker, Page placed the acoustic guitar to the fore in many Led Zeppelin tracks, as well as featuring it as a solo instrument.
hearing Davey Graham, who was employing DADGAD tuning in order to emulate the droning characteristics of Middle Eastern instruments like the oud.
I’ve written this issue’s piece in DADGAD so you can really get a sense of some of the Page- esque chords and licks to be discovered within this tuning. In addition to the unusualsounding chord voicings, the open strings are great for adding resonance and depth to a piece; especially in the key of D, DADGAD’s natural home. There are several sections to this exercise, so you can really focus on each key element of Jimmy’s acoustic style – the strummed chords need to be played very cleanly, so you can keep the all- important open strings sounding, while the Celticinspired licks will really test your frettinghand legato while also providing a good workout for the picking hand.
Overall, Jimmy Page is a multi- faceted player, and it’s fascinating to consider how well his acoustic parts would work as standalone tracks, and also how melodic and technically challenging his solo acoustic pieces are, from Babe I’m Gonna Leave You on the debut album, up to Over The Hills And far Away on Houses Of The Holy.
Had it not been for his meeting Messrs Plant, Bonham and Jones, who knows which musical direction this versatile and vitally important musician would have taken?
JImmy Page fingerpicking his Martin D- 28