Jimmy Page

John Wheatcroft takes us back to swing­ing late-60s and ex­am­ines the play­ing of the leg­endary Jimmy Page in early Led Zep­pelin.

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Blues -

Where would the world of rock be with­out the mighty Jimmy Page? Along with a bunch of his mates knock­ing about London in the mid to late 60s with names like Beck, Hen­drix and Clap­ton, Jimmy’s play­ing changed the face of rock gui­tar. Never mind his song­writ­ing and pro­duc­tion skills - even the way he holds the in­stru­ment has gone on to in­flu­ence gui­tarists from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. Due to a re­cent bout of ac­tiv­ity re-mas­ter­ing chunks of his mu­si­cal legacy, this in­flu­ence shows no sign of di­min­ish­ing.

This month’s ar­ti­cle looks at Jimmy’s play­ing from a time when what was to be The New Yard­birds took a turn in an al­to­gether heav­ier di­rec­tion, to be­come the might Led Zep­pelin who, ar­guably after The Bea­tles and The Rolling Stones held ti­tle of Most Im­por­tant Band In The World.

The band’s his­tory is well doc­u­mented, form­ing in London in 1968 with Jimmy bring­ing to­gether the tal­ents of stu­dio mu­si­cian John Paul Jones with the inim­itable vo­cal­ist Robert Plant and pow­er­house drum­mer John Bon­ham. The band quickly signed to At­lantic and world star­dom was be­stowed upon them. Fas­ci­nat­ing though this is, what we’re re­ally in­ter­ested in here is Jimmy’s gui­tar style, and quite a style it is. Jimmy’s solo­ing style is the per­fect amal­ga­ma­tion of the grit from blues com­bined with the snarl of rock’n’roll. Add a lit­tle nifty jazz, à la Les Paul, don’t for­get to add some Celtic folk and fi­nally a pinch of modal In­dian melod­i­cism, and what we end up with is one of the most recog­nis­able styles in mod­ern gui­tar his­tory.

Jimmy’s play­ing is far from be­ing one-di­men­sional and purely lead ori­en­tated. Ar­guably, it’s his prow­ess as a rhythm gui­tarist, or­ches­tra­tor and com­poser that set him apart from his peers, likely a re­sult of the years he spent as a stu­dio gui­tarist, play­ing in­volved and of­ten highly com­plex ar­range­ments. Page is a ver­i­ta­ble riff ma­chine, al­ways serv­ing the mu­sic and un­afraid to play what­ever the song re­quires, of­ten sim­ple and equally of­ten highly in­tri­cate, but al­ways se­lect­ing just the right part, or com­bi­na­tion of parts, to set the mu­sic off per­fectly. It’s the com­bi­na­tion of ex­tremes that makes Jimmy’s play­ing so in­trigu­ing in my opin­ion; the con­sid­ered and bal­anced na­ture of his rhythm play­ing, against the wild and of­ten reck­less aban­don of his solo­ing, mis­takes and all, but al­ways an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ride for the lis­tener.

I be­lieve ev­ery gui­tar player in­her­ently has some­thing unique about their play­ing. They just have to iden­tify what makes them dif­fer­ent and de­velop it. Jimmy Page

There is a com­plete solo study for you this month, based around two cho­ruses of a rocky 12-bar in E. In tried and trusted blues and clas­sic rock style, much of the vo­cab­u­lary is de­rived from the Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic, its as­so­ci­ated Blues scale and pep­pered with a strate­gic smat­ter­ing of chord tones. For all its melodic simplicity, the skill lies in de­liv­er­ing the notes with the same sense of en­ergy, ex­cite­ment, com­mit­ment and in­tent. Just watch any video of Page in ac­tion and you’ll wit­ness just how much he puts into it, with ev­ery solo be­com­ing a true per­for­mance, putting his heart and soul into ev­ery run, lick or note. Go on, un­leash your in­ner rock God and turn your amp up just a bit too loud and give this solo a go. Your neigh­bours might not be too keen, but you’ll cer­tainly have a whole lotta fun and learn some great new licks and ideas in the process.

Jimmy Page, here play­ing his painted ‘Zep­pelin 1’ Tele

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