NIgEL pRIcE, part 1
So what’s behind Nigel Price’s astonishing chord melody playing? Dario Cortese has been on a journey of discovery and is ready to reveal all.
This amazing British jazz guitarist astounds with his first video masterclass on chord melody.
to investigate the secret of his success we caught up with Nigel and asked him to shed some light on some of the grey areas of jazz guitar; the thinking behind it, so to speak. In this first instalment we will focus on Nigel’s approach on chord melody. With the aim of making things as simple as possible we kept everything in the key of c major and c minor and left you, dear reader, the task of transposing the concepts into other keys. to make the material as usable as possible, we concentrated on the most widely-used chord progression: II-V-I-VI.
In the examples you’ll also find the chords written out in two ways. The first way refers to what is actually been played and this is shown above the notation. the second way is shown bracketed between the tab and the score and refers to the basic chord progression on which the playing is built. the underlying story, if you like. this is done to stress how important it is to interpret the harmony instead of simply reading it. For instance, you’ll find that the basic chord is supposed to be Dm7 and Nigel plays a Dm11. or the simple chord is G7 and Nigel plays a G7#5#9. the way to understand this is to realise that the basic chords – the ones often found in songbooks such as the Real Books – usually represent the family of the chord and not the actual chord being played. Dm7 doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to play a Dm7; it means that we can play anything in the family of Dm7: like a Dm9, or Dm11, etc.
So how do we learn chord melody? What are the various steps? Nigel uses a very simple system that provides a clear path to master this playing style.
It starts by organising the chords according to their melody note. Have a look at Examples 1 and 4 and you’ll see how Nigel is able to go through a chord progression, keeping whenever possible the same melody note. this is a tremendously useful skill to have and a very piano-like way to play guitar. the next step would be to start moving those chords in a simple ascending or descending melody like Nigel does in examples 2 and 5.
How well we master these first two steps determine how free we feel in creating and improvising chord melodies. Once we’ve built this solid foundation the next step would be to start using these chords to create melodies. this can be done improvising, like Nigel wonderfully demonstrates in examples 3 and 6, or even arranging some famous melodies.
I do hope you enjoy this series as there’s so much great stuff here, whether you’re a jazz player or you simply want to try new ideas. Join me next month when we’ll look at more great concepts from Nigel’s playing.
His style is characterised by a mastery of the blues side of the jazz tradition.
Nigel Price: one of the UK’s finest jazz improvisers