Jake Kiszka is a classic rock guitar powerhouse – learn how he crafts his no-holds-barred rhythm and lead parts

Jake Kiszka performs onstage with Greta Van Fleet
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Greta Van Fleet are an American band featuring three brothers: Josh Kiszka on vocals, guitar-playing sibling Jake, plus Sam on bass, alongside drummer Danny Wagner. 

After forming in 2012 and honing their songs and their craft, they signed with Lava Records in 2017. Their debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, topped the US rock charts upon its release that same year.

Their second EP, From The Fires, earned them a Grammy award and they have since released several full-length albums to critical acclaim and considerable commercial success, particularly in the USA.

Greta Van Fleet are heavily influenced by classic groups such as The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and The Who, and often draw favorable comparisons to Led Zep, including from Robert Plant himself. They also show influences of other legacy artists such as Rush, and their songs are often a blend of classic rock, prog rock, and blues. 

The Kiszka brothers also took influence in their formative years by folk artists; this is also evident in their songs and another reason they are often compared to Led Zeppelin. Additionally they have opened in the USA for Bob Seger and recorded some eclectic cover versions, including a great take on Adele’s Rolling In The Deep.

Greta Van Fleet have built a very solid following and their albums sell a significant number of units when released, which is no mean feat in these days of streaming.

Our track this month is not too difficult to play, but there are some syncopated (off beat) rhythms throughout the rhythm guitar track and the solo, and a lot of space in both the rhythm and lead parts. With this in mind, paying attention to timing is vital, as is accurate string bending and strong vibrato. 

We’re in A Minor (A-B-C-D-E-F-G), but the sound of the track draws from A Dorian mode (A-B-C-D-E-F#-G). You can think of this as being A Minor, but the 6th note is an F# rather than F natural. That’s also why the D chord is a D Major (D-F#-A) rather than a D Minor (D-F-A). 

The overall sound is still Minor but it’s a brighter Minor rather than a sad sounding Minor. The solo is almost entirely based around the A Minor Pentatonic (A-C-D-E-G) but there’s also a b5 (Eb) in the opening part, which creates the A Minor Blues scale (A-C-D-Eb-E-G).

The guitar serves the song as part of the arrangement, so think about how you interact with the bass, drums, and keys. 

Get the tone

Amp Settings: Gain 6, Bass 6, Middle 7, Treble 6, Reverb 3

It's classic rock territory, so not too much preamp gain, but a nice amount of power amp level will be good. Aim for a plexi style Marshall amp sound with humbuckers if possible. 

Most importantly, a big sound that isn’t too overdriven is what you want. There’s vintage spring reverb on the rhythm guitar and tape delay on the solo. Add both to taste.

Greta Van Fleet: Rhythm

On a lot of occasions, the parts start on the final 16th note of the bar, so thinking 4-e-&-a for the last beat and starting on ‘a’ is a good idea. In general, also counting or moving your picking hand in a 16th-note 1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a repeated down-up motion will also help your overall rhythm, particularly as there is a lot of space in the track. Listening to the drums is very important too. 

Greta Van Fleet: Solo

This Jake Kiszka-inspired solo is full of blues rock licks, string bends and slinky use of 16th note phrasing. Watch the intonation of string bends; the more in tune they are, the more professional you’ll sound. 

Many of the bends here are fast, tone-based (two frets worth) ones which are then sustained – if the bend is off, the destination note’s sustain will be suspect. As for the Blackmore-esque re-picked bent notes in bar 22; get the intonation right and maintain it so the re-picking adds fire to your sound.

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