3 Guitar Lessons from Nick Cave

A few weeks ago we ranted here about one of our main picks for an all-time guitar inspiration hall of fame, namely Jimmy Page and his amazing solos. Today we will talk to you about another amazing guitarist we admire, along with probably every other aspiring guitar player on the face of the planet: the one and only Nick Cave. In addition to being a guitar legend, the 56 year-old Australian musician is also a brilliant songwriter and composer (which maybe isn’t that uncommon), as well as a vocal singer that can totally hypnotize you with his voice alone. While there are a few awesome guitarists that double as composers or song-writers within the bands in which they activate, we should all acknowledge that most of them don’t also have the vocal skills Nick Cave seems to magically possess.

Nick Cave 1986

Nick Cave 1986

Indeed, we can think of no one else who has both of these sides equally developed to astounding technique and grace. Usually, one skill (either guitar or voice) overpowers the other and takes a bit of its thunder away; no one can be that good, right? Well, yes, no one except Nick Cave that is. He’s the only guitar artist that can sing with Kylie Minogue and still be taken seriously as a blues guitarist. But in order to finish ranting about how awesome he is, let’s have a look at what valuable guitar lessons we can derive from his work (especially from his complex work with The Bad Seeds).

The deceivingly simple guitar chords of “O’ Children”

As we were saying above about his collaboration with Kylie Minogue, this song is yet another example of how Nick Cave is able to be featured into something as mainstream as a Harry Potter movie and still maintain amazing artistry. The thing you can learn from listening to this song really carefully is that a powerful guitar chord, even if it seems simple enough at first and just repetitive, can be the ideal vehicle for ground-shattering emotional depth. You don’t need to rush into a super-complex performance from his discography right away. Take it easy with this song for starters and you’ll see why his ballads can bring us all to our knees.

And  if by the end you feel ready to delve deeper into Nick Cave’s dark and twisty emotional world and also be amazed of how versatile his music can be, try practicing his duet with PJ Harvey, “Young Hunting”, a cover for the famous Scottish folk song “Henry Lee”. A more complex variant of the song, guitar-wise, is sung by Nick Cave with The Bad Seeds, so make sure you tap into that one too afterwards.

His Grinderman project

Another addition to the realm of amazing multiple skills, this project of his proves yet again how much of a one man show Nick Cave can be. Listening to some of these songs and trying to play their chords can be useful to any aspiring guitar player looking to play in a team or a band because it can teach you how to bend you guitar sound to complement the other team members better. This may sound a bit counter-intuitive, like you want to be the star of the show and there’s no point in learning to play along, but trust us: Nick Cave demonstrates here how wonderfully his guitar and piano can sound together, and he’s definitely not less central to the show for it.

The whole soundtrack for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”

All the music in that movie, composed by Nick Cave (together with Warren Ellis from The Bad Seeds). All of it. That’s all we’ll say.

In spite of our undying admiration for the man, we don’t want to make it sound as if he’s perfect and a plausible role model for young musicians. Numerous interviews and public appearances have proven that Nick Cave can be a difficult person to work with, and his problems with heroin addiction didn’t help much with it, obviously. But this doesn’t make him any less of a genius, and we’d rather have him show up and sing “In my arms” to a birthday party than anyone else in the history of music, alive or dead.

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