“Experimentation is the beauty of being any kind of artist.”
– GQ magazine. Oct 2020.
The time has come in our series on players and their string choices to open up and uncover a one of a kind unique icon. The father of Funk, the king 👑 of cool and the humblest of gentlemen.
This multiple Grammy award winning artist is not only an exceptional musician, producer and composer but he’s known throughout the industry as a master collaborator. Highly decorated and respected for his immeasurable achievements and a true “Hitmaker”.
Above all this it’s his unique expressive and revolutionary delivery through his guitar playing and style that keeps his audience continually mesmerised.
Ladies & Gentlemen get your groove on it’s Mr Nile Rodgers.🎸
Chuck Da Funk And Get Down 🎼
New York the centre of the universe for arts & culture and especially music and essentially just about everything else.
The birthplace and roots of the foundation for Mr. Nile Rodgers, a true original New Yorker born on the lower east side on September 19th 1952 to mom Beverly Goodman, his biological father was a travelling Sax 🎷 player and wasn’t present often in Niles life, his influence and interesting job role reached deeper than his responsibilities as a father figure.
In 1959, Goodman married Bobby Glanzrock, whom Rodgers described in his 2011 autobiography as a “beatnik PhD, whose observations had angles that would make Miles Davis contemplate his cool. Glanzrock and Goodman soon became addicted to heroin, something very common back then on the scene.
Regardless of his challenging home life Nile was a continuously intrigued young individual. He picked up the guitar at 16 years of age but his musical journey and fascination started long before….
“The first time you realised you wanted to be a musician…
When I became self-aware, around five years old. My biological father was a terrific musician and music was always playing in our house; it was the soundtrack to our lives. My earliest heroes were musicians and composers, so I fancied myself as one of them. I played the flute from really young as it was the first instrument I was assigned, but my life’s dream when I was small was just to be part of a symphony orchestra.”
Nile Rodgers – GQ magazine interview 2020
Nile’s official website is really incredible as far as artists are concerned it’s a hub of information and discovery, the bio on his site really highlights his phenomenal career and staggering achievements.
“Among music legends, Nile Rodgers is truly exceptional. He amplifies his legacy as a multiple GRAMMY-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist by constantly traversing new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music. As the co-founder of CHIC and the newly elected Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping hits like “Le Freak,” (the biggest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records!) and sparked the advent of hip-hop with “Good Times”. Nile Rodgers transcends all styles of music across every generation with a body of work that’s garnered him inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (2017) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (2016).
Most recently, he was appointed as the first ever Chief Creative Advisor for the legendary Abbey Road Studios to cap off a year that has included “festival best” performances at both Glastonbury and Coachella that resulted in the BBC nominating the band for the BBC MusicAwards as “Best Live Performance Of 2017” and the LA Times stating “Nile Rodgers’ influence stretches all over Coachella, beaming the sound of a better future”.
His work in the CHIC Organization and his productions for artists like David Bowie, Diana Ross, and Madonna have sold over 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide while his innovative, trendsetting collaborations with Daft Punk, Avicii, Sigala, Disclosure, and Sam Smith reflect the vanguard of contemporary music. Nile Rodgers & CHIC recently released their first new studio album, “It’s About Time” in over 26 years to critical acclaim and a Top 10 position in the UK album charts.”
La Chic, Le Freak, La Funk
Nile picked up the guitar at 16 and where he went with it and what he saw in it was not your typical translation of a budding guitar god!
The signature style and tone he carries is so unique and so distinctive it’s pretty much revolutionary. At the height of an over-saturated and tired rock ‘n’ roll scene a new sound presented itself to popular music, through progressive development and natural collaboration “Disco” was born, some would say funky, dance or mildly psychedelic but I’ve always favoured the phrase “Funkadelic” 🕺 .
A background in church guitar playing soon lead Rodgers into new realms of discovery. As a teenager he began to play with African, Persian, Latin, jazz and Boogaloo bands, this experience really broadened his horizons.
1970 saw one of the most iconic meet ups in musical history, it was the year Nile Rodgers met Bernard Edwards and co-founded the group that would become “Chic” after numerous incarnations and identities.
It was here that Nile carved his legacy and cemented his signature guitar playing.
It really doesn’t get any cooler than Le Freak 🤘.
“Chuck” That Groove! 🎼
When we think of a commercially successful guitar hero we tend to stereotype the extravagance and flamboyance. We expect to see and hear big bends, fast runs, and generally some real form of technical ability that separates one standout player from the next.
This is where Nile Rodgers is the exception!
His identity as a guitar player is solely based around his chord work and more so his delivery of said chords. A style known as “Chucking” has been the driving force of dance & disco since it’s incarnation.
So what is “Chucking” and why is Nile Rodgers the god of chuck and in turn the father of funk. 😎
We thought this description via Wiki really broke down the legend of the chuck perfectly:
“In music, a chop chord is a “clipped backbeat“.
In 44: 1 2 3 4. It is a muted chord that marks the off-beats or upbeats. As a rhythm guitar and mandolin technique, it is accomplished through chucking, in which the chord is muted by lifting the fretting fingers immediately after strumming, producing a percussive effect.
The chop is analogous to a snare drum beat and keeps the rhythm together and moving. It’s one of the innovations bluegrass inventor Bill Monroe pioneered, and it gave the music a harder groove and separated it from old-time and mountain music.”
— Bruce Dix
The Hitmaker 🎸
Every true guitar hero has his signature and treasured axe, Nile is no different of course. His main guitar and loyal companion is actually deemed one of the most heard guitars in pop history.
This particular guitar has graced many legendary recordings and been featured at countless live occasions. A guitar Nile picked up for a few hundred bucks back when.
The advice came from wingman and co-writer Bernard Edwards; they just couldn’t get the sound they were after with the darker jazzier sound of the Gibson Nile had at the time of meeting Bernard.
This particular guitar is a real piece of magic and has lead the way to greatness and really earned its place in Rock ‘n’ Roll history.
The number of iconic recordings the guitar has featured on is astonishing! To highlight just a basic few below gives your the prospective.
Hitmakers’ greatest hits:
‘We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge
‘Like a Virgin’ by Madonna
‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk
‘Le Freak’ by Chic
‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie
‘I’m Coming Out’ by Diana Ross
‘Notorious’ by Duran Duran
The guitar is a 1960 Fender Stratocaster with a 1959 neck, it’s this slimmer rounded neck profile that really shaped Nile’s playing and prompted him into the world of chucking. 👌
Funkadelic Disco String
In conclusion we tie this icon together with his string choice of course.
Nile Rodgers champions the clean, snappy, rounded rhythmic tone, so what type of strings does he choose to achieve this legendary sound?
Nile has been a D’addario loyalist for some time now and sees no reason to experiment outside of what works for his guitar and rig setup. “I’ve been using D’Addario strings for decades, and they’ve never let me down. They have amazing sound and consistency, and I’ve never even considered using anything else.”
Nile keeps things simple and plays a straight 9-42 gauge and more recently has favoured the NYXL series.
As we understand it D’Addario strings give Nile that crispy clear sound he’s after with solid tuning stability and – most importantly – flawless intonation as his technique is based around bar chords and inversions so pinpoint intonation is a must.
Another really interesting and unexpected fact about Nile Rodgers is the fact he likes old strings. 🤔 We find this very surprising and odd for a man with such a distinctive bell like clean tone.
“And, just think, I haven’t had to put flat-wound strings on it: I’m still using the acoustic strings that came on the guitar. I haven’t changed them since I got it – some people laugh but old-school guitarists keep their strings on their guitars for a really long time. It’s just a thing… I don’t know if it’s an R&B thing or a blues thing or a black thing or whatever… but it’s just something that we do.
My guitar techs know that I’m gonna have an attitude if I say, ‘Did you change my strings last night?’ and they say ‘Er, yeah, man, we changed them before the last show… ’. It’s just a thing, man, and I can’t explain it but I like old guitar strings.”
We leave you with incredible clip, enjoy, learn and understand the genius of Mr Nile Rodgers
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