Jimmy Page Full style analysis
Phil Capone examines the guitar work of Mr James Patrick Page OBE, founding member, guitarist, songwriter and producer of Led Zeppelin, considered to be the ‘greatest rock band of all time’.
Afew years back I attended a live Jimmy Page interview with The Guardian’s music editor Michael Hann at the Cadogan Hall, London. Jimmy was there to talk about his new photographic autobiography, detailing his experiences during his time with Led Zeppelin. Even though I’d been a fan since the age of 14 (after sneaking off school with my friend to listen to his older brothers’ record collection), I was still amazed at the reverence towards him that the audience displayed. You could have heard a pin drop; there was no coughing, no shuffling, no mobile phone interruptions. Nobody even left their seat. I wondered who else could command similar levels of admiration and respect - certainly no politician that’s for sure!
What is most striking about the Zeppelin back catalogue is the breadth and range of styles the band embraced. Page’s early career as the go-to London session musician during his pre-Yardbirds days would certainly have broadened his musical influences, but there are two more compelling reasons for this diversity: first, the band was breaking new ground, so there were no established genres to pigeonhole and stifle their creativity; and secondly, the record companies weren’t yet in control. Managers and their bands were still
it would not be possibl e to creat e the Zepp elin sound with modern distort ion; pag e’s subtl eties would be lost in the mush
calling the shots, especially when you had the pitbull of a manager that was Peter Grant fighting your corner.
Page was a virtuoso soloist, but he also understood chords and how to use them. His guitar work is awash with a wide range of harmonic approaches, everything from the humble powerchord to dense jazzy voicings. What Is And What Should Never Be (from Led Zeppelin II) clearly demonstrates Page’s breadth of knowledge; jazzy verse chords are contrasted against a bombastic chorus riff. Can you name another rock song that contains a dominant 13th chord? Diminished, suspended, extended major, minor and dominant chords, they’re all part of the guitar tapestry that was the Zeppelin sound. And for which Jimmy was the primary architect.
Page was a master of multi-tracked guitar parts too, creating dense walls of sound by double tracking and layering his riffs. He was without question, the first player to intricately arrange his guitar parts in this way. It’s also worth noting that although Zeppelin was considered to be ‘heavy rock’ back in the early ‘70s, by today’s standards the guitar sounds would not be described as ‘heavy’. In fact it would not be possible to create the Led Zeppelin sound with modern day saturated distortion; the subtlety of Page’s voicings and his layered textures would be lost in the mush. Jimmy selected tones that, by themselves might have sounded ‘honky’ or a little odd, but which in his clever arrangements of parts, built the perfect rock wall of sound. Jimmy knew exactly what he wanted to create.
To represent the diversity of Page’s skills we’ve tried to include as many different techniques as possible. We’ll be looking at his early rock and roll influences, his slide work, use of open tunings, riffs, and his soloing style. Hopefully there’s something for everyone here. And don’t be put off by the re-tuning required for a couple of the tracks either; open tunings are a great way to shake off all those well-worn patterns, hopefully inspiring you to create new and exciting sounds just as Mr Page did 50 years ago.
These settings are a starting point. Use your guitar’s controls, pickup selector and your pick attack to create a wider palette of tones. Treble needs to be high on your amp to replicate Page’s biting soloing sound, especially on the bridge pickup. Reverb should be high when soloing but low for riffs and rhythm. Example 2 was recorded with a phaser; Page also used tape echo, which creates warm analogue delay sounds, while the preamp section adds extra warmth and drive.