01 NITA STRAUSS
The no.1 guitarist in our poll talks to TG about her classical influences and the art of improvising
Nita Strauss is the very definition of a guitar hero in the modern age. In 2018, she joined the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani in having her own signature Ibanez model – an achievement that made her the first female musician ever in its history to have done so. Similar things can be said about the Pandemonium DiMarzio pickups that come fitted on her JIVA axe, a feat she also holds close to her heart having idolised many of the company’s virtuoso endorsees. None of this would have happened if it were not for her dizzying technique and hard work ethic. When we caught up with ‘Hurricane’ Nita, we asked for a tip on improvising...
BAROQUE ’N’ ROLL
“I grew up listening to classical music in the house; our dad instilled that into us – the importance of being aware of that lineage and, of course, living up to that! So we knew about [ancestor] Johann Strauss II even when we were little kids. I started out listening to Metallica or Maiden like everyone else, and then when I finally heard Yngwie playing harmonic minor I thought, ‘Wait a second, I know these passages!’ That was like a light bulb moment going off in my head, when it started to make sense. Before that point, I didn’t put two and two together or understand how metal and classical could be linked. No one can twist that scale like Yngwie – but to play in that style, I would recommend learning every sweep pattern within each chord of the scale and breaking them up into smaller chunks for your leads.”
“Put on a slow song, like a ballad – I use things like Alone by Heart or Bed Of Roses by Bon Jovi for improvisation. Anything with easy chords and not 200bpm shredding at full force. It’s important to understand the modes and the way the fretboard moves within itself.
“I’m a self-taught guitarist, but I still know the modes. I might struggle to remember G Mixolydian on command, but if I’m in minor, you better believe I know what scales to ascend or descend to. Whatever scales you use often, you should know them up and down. You can start working more notes in later.
“Use every weapon possible to make your playing as fluid as you can. Improvise slowly in that key and break each scale into bite-size chunks you can digest. Once you can do it slowly, then speed it up. If you try to hit lightning speed straightaway, it won’t work – no great guitar player will tell you it did for them!”
02 ERJA LYYTINEN
A top tip from the Finnish blues maestro who spoke to TG in our April edition
“I ’ve always loved Albert King’s overbends and experimenting with those sorts of sounds – like bending a whole step up, then come down slightly a microtone, go back up to the first note and repeat that a few times! It’s a great exercise and once you’ve mastered it, it can make the world of difference to your sound.”
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