Deconstructing Jimmy Page’s Riff to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”

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PHOTO: Brian Rasic | Getty Images

“Kashmir” is one of the best-known songs in Led Zeppelin’s catalog. The track first appeared on their sixth album, 1975’s Physical Graffiti, and became a staple of the group’s concerts.

Jimmy Page wrote the song’s droning riff with his guitar in DADGAD tuning. The part is evocative of Middle Eastern music and is built from an ascending chromatic motif that’s played against a droning bass note.

“I had a sitar for some time and I was interested in modal tunings and Arabic stuff,” Page has said of “Kashmir” and its origins. “It started off with a riff and then employed Eastern lines underneath.”

Played in cycles of 3/8 time, the riff is performed against a 4/4 + 2/4 drum pattern, resulting in a polymeter that adds rhythmic interest. The result is one of Led Zeppelin’s finest songs. Lead singer Robert Plant referred to “Kashmir” as “the pride of Led Zeppelin,” and Page has called it one of the group’s best compositions.

In this Riff Deconstruction video, Sean Daniel digs into Page’s “Kashmir” guitar riff to explore its underlying structure. He uses it as an example of how to use the chromatic scale and polymeters and create atmosphere in songwriting.

Sean’s previous Riff Deconstructions include John Frusciante’s guitar motif in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Scar Tissue” and Brian Jones’ marimba part in the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” Sean’s Riff Deconstructions are a great way to not only learn these parts but also get an understanding of their underlying structure and theory.

Have a look, and be sure to visit Sean’s YouTube channel for more of his videos.