Rolling Stone Magazine has named Jimmy Page the second greatest guitarist of all time. Being included on this highly contested list is no small feat. This got me thinking, how did Jimmy Page learn guitar?
Jimmy Page learned to play guitar by listening to records, slowing them down to 33 rpm, and learning each song note by note. Page also had the book Play in a Day where he learned different chord structures as well as practicing exercises.
Continue reading to learn more about how Jimmy Page become one of the most iconic rockers of the classic rock generation.
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When Did Jimmy Page Start Playing Guitar?
Jimmy Page started playing guitar at the age of 12 in 1956. He started playing after a previous house owner or relative left an acoustic guitar in the Page household.
It was an old acoustic guitar that was left and Jimmy was immediately hooked. After learning and spending hours with the acoustic, Jimmy’s father bought him a 1958 Resonet Grazioso Futurama. Jimmy’s guitar career started in 1963 after being asked to play on a session with John Carter.
How Did Jimmy Page Learn Guitar?
Jimmy Page learned guitar by listening to 45 rpm records, slowing them down to 33 rpm and working out the solos note for note. Records were the main way that Jimmy Page and many of his contemporaries learned guitar. He would listen to the early rock greats, especially Elvis, and dissect every note in each song by ear.
At that time, there were not many guitarists in the area surrounding Jimmy. Nobody was in a close proximity to Epsom. The only person was a boy he saw standing in the school field playing guitar. Jimmy introduced himself and the boy told him to come over. From there Jimmy was taught how to tune his guitar as well as a few basic chords to get started.
Find Out What Strings Jimmy Page Used Today!
Jimmy Page started out by strumming basic chords. He remarks how it was the instrument itself that really attracted him to so many different forms of music where the guitar was employed. Because of this attraction, Jimmy explored a variety of genres with guitar centric songs. This ranged from country blues to rockabilly. He then started developing his own style based on the combination of all the genres he listened to.
Jimmy practiced those chords incessantly before getting the book Play in a Day.
Play in a Day is a book created by Bert Weedon to simplify the guitar learning experience. Instead of taking lessons, Jimmy Page learned from this book. He learned different chords, how to write chord charts, how to properly hold the guitar, as well as different practice exercises to play. Many other guitar legends like Eric Clapton and George Harrison cite this book as being one of the building blocks to their guitar upbringing.
“You’ll find all the guitarists of that day had that book, because it did literally what it said. You could play in a day, or two, once you got the guitar in tune, and it was just a really useful thing.”Jimmy Page on Play in a Day
As Jimmy continued to learn through records and Play in a Day, it got to the point where he was headhunted as a studio musician to play on sessions. As a studio musician, if you continuously messed up or played inconsistently, then word would spread and you would not be called back. Because of Jimmy’s note for note meticulous learning, he was an extremely proficient and accurate studio guitarist making him a hot commodity in England. Furthermore, he used the time to learn from the sound engineers and eventually becoming a producer himself.
As he became more and more known for being a superb studio guitarist. Jimmy decided that he needed to learn how to read music. Jimmy Page was not schooled on how to read music, instead he taught himself. He places high value on the ability to read music. This is because it gives musicians / guitarists an added ability to write notation.
If you were not classically trained or did not have a guitar teacher, then this is the way you learned in that era and it is how Jimmy Page came to transform the guitar world with Led Zeppelin.
“I learnt from records and I learnt by being really sort of seduced by the music of Rock n’ Roll and the Rockabilly and it sort of moved into the Blues. It was more as things opened up and the playability of the music.”Jimmy Page, Berklee
Who Were Jimmy Page’s Biggest Influences?
Jimmy Page has gone on record multiple times saying how he was part of the generation who were seduced by Rock n’ Roll on their radios. Guitarists like Jimmy would fixate on the radio listening to a shuffled assortment of early rock until they were able to purchase the records and listen to them until exhaustion. Let’s dive into who the artists were that had the most impact on Jimmy Page.
As mentioned above, Jimmy Page was influenced by many different genres of music. From the big band side, he was influenced by Little Richard. From the Rockabilly side, it was Elvis Presley, Bill Black, and Scotty Moore.
His first influence was Lonnie Donegan with Skiffle. Page remarks how “with Skiffle, Lonnie Donegan made it look like it was possible to access the music. And I had a guitar sitting in the house untuned; nobody had ever played it.” His music journey then started.
His early influences truly steamed from the Rockabilly genre. Most notably it was James Burton and Scotty Moore. These were two Rockabilly guitarists that played with Elvis Presley. Page was obsessed with the rock trio and remarked how it was in a different zone than any other Rockabilly he has heard. Mentioning how the guitar playing was so abstract compared to any guitar playing he heard before.
Jimmy’s interest in Rockabilly eventually turned into the Blues. Blues guitarists like Muddy Waters, Albert King, Leadbelly, Peter Green and Robert Johnson were closely studied by Page. Robert Johnson’s influence is especially notable in early Led Zeppelin songs. Peter Green, the guitarist for Fleetwood Mac, was also a massive influence for Page. So much so that Jimmy described Peter Green as the best blues guitarist in England.
“Their tonality, their sound was individual to each and that intrigued me. That’s exactly how I learned; by hearing music from people that inspired me to want to learn to play.”Jimmy Page
How Many Hours a Day Did Jimmy Page Play Guitar?
Jimmy Page played 3 to 4 hours a day while he was still in school. He learned by listening to records and slowing them down, a time consuming process that requires meticulous ear training. Shortly after he became a studio session guitarist making him a full time guitarist. As a session guitarist, Page could spend a few hours in the studio or a whole day depending on the artist he is recording for.
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