Bluffing Great Rock Guitar
How does Jimmy Page practice?
According to press reports he doesn’t, in the sense that he doesn’t formally practice scales. What he apparently does is just play around on the guitar looking for things he can use. Sounds more like fun than work. When I was in the Jimi Hexham Experience (what did they play, then?) I used to practice hard every day, believing that I was strengthening my fingers and muscles to make playing Hendrix easier; particularly string bends as on a Strat they’re sort of self-defeating; the more you bend the string the more the tremolo arm springs give way. As you sharpen the note the guitar is trying to flatten it.
Anyway, what I found was that I was actually just tiring my fingers out, and quite often, towards the end of a gig I would get cramp in my fingers and forearm and be unable to play at all for a few minutes. Not impressive.
When I asked my son about it, and he’s in a position to know as his job means he has to keep all of himself very fit, he told me that as far as sheer muscle fitness goes it’s best to rest between periods of exercise. Exercise itself encourages muscle development effectively by damaging the tissues so they repair themselves stronger.
So now I play seriously only every couple of days, and that seems to work just fine. I would possibly leave it even longer except that my finger ends go too brittle and are likely to start crumbling during a gig. So, every couple of days it is.
Besides, the real practice you want isn’t to do with your fingers. It’s not your fingers that are learning to play; it’s your brain. Your fingers do whatever you brain tells them to, so you actually want your brain to get faster.
Here’s a couple of things I’ve discovered. Firstly, your brain doesn’t need you to get on and learn things, it will improve your playing while you do something else. I notice that when I first try out a new run or riff, at first, the more I play it, the slower and more clumsy I get. But, when I come back to it the next day I can play it much faster and smoother. My brain has been working on it overnight.
Secondly, I don’t need a guitar to practice. My fingers might need a guitar but my brain doesn’t. Try playing a new riff “in the air” with your fingers (hearing it on your head of course) while you’re on a long motorway drive. You’ll almost certainly find you can play it a lot better when you next pick up a guitar.
PS don’t let go of the steering wheel while you’re doing it.
What is Nashville tuning?
It’s a wonderful sound half way between a guitar and a 12 string. Apparently every studio in Nashville has a guitar tuned like this. The essence of this tuning is to have the bottom three or four strings of the guitar tuned an octave higher than normal, using the octave strings only of a 12 string guitar. Apart from its appealing ringy tone, it makes you sound ever so clever as when you’re playing chords and doing stuff on what would normally be the bass strings, it sounds as if you’re playing really complicated things in the middle of the chords.
Anyway, this is my bluffing version. Forget all that 12 string stuff; just use ordinary guitar strings. Remove the bottom three strings. Replace them, from the lowest up, with a D, G and B string, tuned E, A and D, only an octave higher than normal. There’ll be a new video on this in a couple of days.
Play. Enjoy. Impress your friends with your new sound. And yourself. You didn’t know you were that good did you?