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Learn the fiery playing style of Nita Strauss

Nita Strauss
(Image credit: Per Ole Hagen / Getty)

‘Hurricane’ Nita Strauss stakes a convincing claim as one of the premier guitarists in the heavy rock world. She was the first female guitarist to receive the honour of a signature guitar from Ibanez, and has been one of the guitarists in Alice Cooper’s band since 2014, when she replaced Orianthi during a tour. 

Additionally, Nita has done numerous guitar clinic and workshop tours around the world (including performing at Future Publishing’s own UK Guitar Show in 2019), and previously played in tribute group The Iron Maidens. She has also acted as house guitarist for the LA Kiss football team (owned by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmonds of the band Kiss).

Nita’s playing is fiery and aggressive, incorporating fast alternate picking, sweep picking and legato phrasing

Strauss quit school early to concentrate on music, and used a Kickstarter campaign to fund her first album, Controlled Chaos, on which she played all the guitars and bass guitar. The album was a considerable success, hitting many of the US charts including topping Billboard’s Top New Artist list.

Nita’s playing is fiery and aggressive, and she makes use of a typical high-gain rock sound. Her rhythm work is tight and precise, and her solos incorporate fast alternate picking, sweep picking and legato phrasing.

The track this month is challenging, and features many of the above techniques. It will require precision in both the picking and fretting hands. In the track the rhythm guitars are double-tracked and panned left and right, which allows space for the lead guitar to sit in the centre of the stereo field.

Although we are in the key of D Minor (D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C), the A Major chord in the arrangement nods towards A Phrygian Dominant mode (A-Bb-C#-D-E-F-G), which is the fifth mode of the D Harmonic Minor (D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C#). It’s this that gives us the A Major arpeggio in the solo, even though on this occasion it’s actually an A Major 7 arpeggio, which includes a G# note.

The piece should provide some challenges in terms of both rhythm and lead playing. Why not learn the parts as written, then have a go at coming up with some ideas of your own, over the backing track.

Get the tone

Amp Settings: Gain 8, Bass 5, Middle 6, Treble 7, Reverb 3

We are looking for tight rhythm and lead sounds with plenty of preamp gain. Use your guitar’s bridge pickup and ensure there’s not too much bass as this will help to stop the rhythm tracks, in particular, from sounding muddy. 

As far as guitar amp tones are concerned, it’s high-gain Marshall or Mesa Boogie type rock we’re aiming for. Add a splash of reverb.

Example 1. Rhythm

The picking in the rhythm part will be a challenge. Use either all downstrokes for the main riff in bars 3-10, alternate pick the notes, or use a blend of the two styles as was done on the recording, which was two downstrokes on the D note at the start of each phase, followed by alternate picking for the rest of each phrase.

Example 2. Solo

This solo will pose challenges in bars 11-18, so it will be worth experimenting with your fretting-hand fingering for the arpeggios. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to use your fourth finger to play the highest note in each phrase. It’s best to use alternate picking for bar 26. The last line of music is the second harmony guitar.

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