NICK JOHNSTON Video Masterclass
In this second instalment, Canada-based virtuoso Nick Johnston demonstrates some great Lydian mode and Natural Minor scale ideas over Jason Sidwell’s backing track, Biscuit In The Basket. Jon Bishop is your guide.
The Canadian prog-rock virtuoso’s second and final video lesson gives further insight into his fluidly fantastic soloing style. Fabulous!
In the second part of this Nick Johnston video masterclass we are featuring another exciting rock track with plenty of modal vocabulary. As Nick explains in the video, he had a lot of fun performing over this backing track. On the first listen it sounds like an odd time groove; it’s also interesting that the track contains a modulation and the use of contrasting tonalities.
The chorus uses the D Lydian mode and various chord fragments from that tonality in the backing track. We have written out a fingering for this scale to get you started. The notes of D Lydian are: D-E-F#-G#-A-B-C#. The verse section uses chords from the harmonised A Natural Minor scale (although the Em9 has an F#note in it. Again, we have written out a fingering for the A Natural Minor scale and the notes are: A-B-C-D-E-F-G. In addition to A Natural Minor and D Lydian scales Nick uses a mixture Minor Pentatonic scales, arpeggios and chromatic notes.
As with last month’s lesson, before we get going note that Nick is tuned down a semitone
(Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb) on all strings This is a popular choice used by players like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan to fatten the tone and reduce the 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 explained last month that he tries not to over-analyse what he is doing. The lines are a combination of some theory knowledge, muscle memory and selecting what ever feels is right at time. He visualises the key on the fretboard and then adds in notes to try and do something interesting on the fly.
In terms of contour, Nick makes some interesting points about building the solo. He starts off using lots of space in a lower register and the emphasis is always on making sure everything is rhythmically interesting. In addition to A Natural Minor and D Lydian he uses a mixture of the Minor Pentatonic scale,
Eb arpeggios and chromatic notes. Due to the tuning, the tab is exactly where he puts his fingers if you watch the video, but remember you will need to tune down a semitone for it to work this way when you play along.
Nick signs off with some great points about listening to as much improvised music as possible. This listening will supercharge your progress and benefit your style in many ways.
Hopefully, there will be a new technique, lick or phrase in here somewhere for you to perfect. If you find one you like, then memorise it and use it in the future, especially if the semi-quaver or sextuplet feel is what’s required. Once you have mastered some of the concepts in Nick’s solo, why not try a solo of your own over the backing track. Check out the chord chart and our scale fingerings.
Have fun and see you next time.
I Listen to a lot of different styles of music and a lot of that rubs off on me In the weirdest ways sometimes Nick Johnston
NEXT MONTH Paul Bielatowics demonstrates the mystical art of chord tapping.
Nick Johnston with another brilliant video masterclass
Biscuit In The Basket is a Canadian hockey term for putting the puck (Biscuit) in the net (Basket)