We are delighted to welcome this fabulous Canadian rock guitarist to GT. Nick is a great player and an enthusuiastic teacher.
GT is very excited to have this fantastic guitarist offering us rare insight into his talents. We open with a brilliant track chock full of Texas blues and instrumental rock vocabulary. Nick says that playing over the track was a challenge, so our video captures a spontaneous performance without too much over-thinking. The first thing to note is that Nick is tuned down a
(Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb) semitone on all strings This was popular with players like Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan as it fattens the tone and reduces string tension. If you wish to learn the licks and play along using the tab then you will need to tune your guitar down or it will sound a semitone out with the audio.
Nick explains that phrasing-wise he likes to mix up the rhythmic subdivisions and the rhythmic feel. If you take a look at the transcription you can see that pretty much all the rhythmic conventions are used at some point. In addition to this Nick plays ahead and behind the beat to add feel.
A key part of his sound is the use of single-coil pickups and a relatively low gain amp setting reminiscent of blues guitarists like SRV. This allows the picking dynamics and changes of feel to really shine through. For the faster lines Nick uses the hybrid picking technique (pick and fingers) and this facilitates ear-grabbing intervalic leaps, string skipping and chromatic passages. It is well worth watching the video to see which notes are picked with the plectrum and which are plucked with the fingers.
A helpful part of the video is where Nick explains that his arpeggio-based approach allows for intervallic embellishment. We have tabbed this pattern for you to check out (see Arpeggio Sequence). We have also included a couple of scale boxes to get you started with
(A-C-D-EbE-G) your own solo. The A blues scale is a guitarist’s favourite and a great choice for this track, while A Natural Minor (A-B-C-D-E-F-G) will help you to play some of those more melodic lines. The backing track and chord chart is included for you to practise over in addition to a full transcription of Nick’s performance from the video.
A quick recap: the tab is exactly what he plays if you watch the video, but you will need to tune down a semitone for it to work.
Hopefully, there will be a new technique, lick or phrase in here somewhere for you to perfect. If you find one that you like, then memorise it and use it in the future, especially if the semi-quaver or six duplet feel is what’s required. Once you have mastered some of the concepts in Nick’s solo, why not try creating a solo of your own over the very same backing track included on the disk - it is sure to both challenge and inspire. So check out the chord chart for the chord changes.
I USUALLY THINK OF MY LEAD PLAYING AS ARPEGGIOS, AS OPPOSED TO MODES OR THREE-NOTES-PER-STRING SCALES Nick Johnston
NEXT MONTH Part two of our series with Canadian rock virtuoso Nick Johnston