Nigel Price Masterclass
In the second instalment of our Nigel Price video tutorials, Dario Cortese investigates the jazz virtuoso’s single-note playing – and we meet ‘the arpeggiator’!
the main aim of this article is to shed some light on the thinking that Nigel, along with many other jazz musicians, uses when it comes to choosing what notes to play while improvising over chord changes – probably most guitarists’ biggest challenge with jazz.
Improvising is a huge topic and it’s beyond the aim of this article to cover all aspects of it. What we’ll cover here is simply what notes Nigel chooses to play over each chord. Just as we did in last issue’s feature, we kept everything in the key of c major and c minor so you can really grasp the concepts without dealing with difficult key signatures. We also kept the same chord sequences so everything is played over a II-V-I-VI progression.
So what actually is the fundamental knowledge required to be able to freely improvise using the appropriate notes over any chord progression? Nigel says: “It’s all about knowing the chord tones, the arpeggios.” the reason he says this is that most of what we play relies in one way or another on the arpeggios of the chords. every phrase or lick starts, ends or somehow emphasises one or more chord tone. this doesn’t mean that we can only play arpeggios. that would be incredibly boring! chord tones can be seen as the landmarks that allow us to highlight the harmony and the single-note lines are just the ways to connect them. to give an analogy: it’s like going for a trip knowing the places we’d like to stop by: our favourite hotels, restaurant, venues, etc. What is left for us to decide is how to get there but, luckily, this can be done at the very last moment. We don’t need to plan it ahead.
So where do we start? Nigel suggests we practise what many might know as ‘the arpeggiator’ exercise. the arpeggiator is not Robocop’s cousin, but it’s a very useful exercise that has been around for many years. there are many variations of it so it can be adapted to whatever level of ability one is at.
Nigel demonstrates the basic ‘arpeggiator’ in examples 1 and 5. this consists in playing the basic chord tones of the chord progression. In example 2 and 6 Nigel adds some interesting notes (eg #5, b5, #9) to the arpeggios. In examples 3, 4, 7 and 8 he demonstrates how the ‘arpeggiator’ is used in real improvisation. To finish this article we asked Nigel to turn up the heat so we could switch the focus onto his flawless technique. In Example 9 you’ll find a burning solo with some great lines and another demonstration of the importance of arpeggios.
check in again next month when we’ll be treated to a full improvised solo by this very special guitarist.