’The Bends Can Go a Little Sharp’: Nita Strauss Explains What Modern Guitarists Don’t Get About Jimmy Page

Modern shred guitar legend Nita Strauss reflected on the works of Jimmy Page and pointed out how his musicianship was different compared to what we expect to hear today.

For a long time, it wasn’t unusual to hear about Page being a “sloppy” guitar player. But according to what Nita said in her recent interview with Guitar World, things aren’t that simple.

“The first thing I think of when I hear that name is ‘innovator,'” said Nita about Jimmy Page. “On guitar, there are so many things that one person did first, and a lot of the time that person is Jimmy Page.”

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Strauss also pointed out how it was Page who “pioneered being different,” both with his approach to playing and writing. But another thing that she also addressed was how incredibly unconventional Jimmy’s lead parts would sound in modern context. In many ways, it would feel “wrong” because it’s not within the perfect polished “grid” that we’re so used to today.

“I almost think if a modern player delivered a Jimmy Page solo, they’d get crucified,” she said while discussing Page’s style. “People would be saying the bends are out of key or this note doesn’t fit in or blah, blah, blah. But whatever he comes out with, Jimmy always makes it work.”

And it’s exactly these imperfections that, according to Nita, make Jimmy Page’s works so great. Even that imperfect bending that’s just slightly out of tune has its place if it’s within the right context. And it takes guts to go out there and use it in your music, even if it’s “wrong.” Nita continued:

“He’s showed us what we play doesn’t always have to be perfectly time-coded or on the grid, the bends can go a little sharp, the vibrato can be a little erratic and that can work even better that perfectly executed and punched-in stuff. He’s organic and real… there’s all that feel in what he comes out with because he plays from the heart not the head.”

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But there’s more to Page’s playing other than these “sloppy” imperfections. One thing that the interviewer pointed out was Led Zeppelin guitarist’s use of a modal approach to lead parts. Occasionally, you’d hear Mixolydian or Dorian in the mix.

“A lot of the time, I get the impression he was learning the rules so he could break them,” Nita said after being reminded of this. “He’d have the theoretic arsenal to know what songs called for.”

“But he also went beyond that,” she added. “He didn’t feel like he could only use certain scales depending on the key. He had a modal sensibility that he’d explore in the right sections, and he also knew when not to lean on it too much and stick to the blues.”

And finally, there’s also the composition and arrangement aspect. Instead of putting himself in the center of a musical piece, Page preferred to distance himself from guitar playing and focus on making a song work. Nita offered:

“It’s not out of the normal for guitar players to think, ‘How can I make this song more about me?!’ and turn everything they play into a solo project. Jimmy Page is all about the song.”

In a last year’s interview, Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil also discussed Page’s music and how “perfectionist guitar nerds” may not fully understand what his music was about.

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“I’d like to remind all the perfectionist guitar nerds reading this to listen to Jimmy Page’s solo on ‘In the Evening.’ It sounds like the guitar is falling down the stairs… It’s brilliant.”

“I remember people writing about it in the late ’70s asking, ‘Did he mean to f*** up there?’ And I’d be thinking, ‘It’s just cool!'”

Discussing the matter further, Kim also shared Jimi Hendrix as another example of an often misunderstood guitar player.

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“The same goes for Jimi Hendrix with all that feedback,” Thayil added. “He was always pushing himself and making people ask, ‘Why did he choose to go there?!'”

“He wouldn’t play things the same way every time because it came from his heart, not the chart or some textbook. He was living it, thinking it, and feeling it. Feedback was all over the place. It was part of the passion and intensity… And a lot of that fed into what I was trying to do!”

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And even Joe Bonamassa had something to say on the matter. Last year, he addressed all the naysayers accusing the Led Zeppelin legend of being sloppy, explaining:

“The thing about Jimmy Page that most people don’t realize is he was a very in-demand session guy before the Yardbirds and Zeppelin. He did boatloads of amazing things before he even was in those bands… Call him sloppy, but he was a once-in-a-generation talent.”

Photos: Frank Schwichtenberg (Nita Strauss – Wacken Open Air 2017 36), Jim Summaria (Jimmy Page)

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.