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Artist Spotlight: Nat Martin

In this blog post, we will be talking about my friend and mentor, Nat Martin. Nat was one of my tutors at university, and has possibly one of the best guitar tones in the business, complimented it perfectly with seemingly faultless execution.

When describing himself, something that is tricky to do properly, he says that he is a  “session musician in that I play for a range of different artists / bands and also take on different recording jobs”. This is alongside teaching in higher education for the past 20 years - this is the true definition of a modern guitarist, yet he still retains his own unique style.


It all started at nine years of age with an interest in the blues, learning songs and riffs and embellishing them in a rudimentary fashion with the help of his guitar teachers. However, at the age of 16, something changed and he became obsessed! Perhaps it was the process of maturing as a person that then enabled him to mature as a musician.

“My love for Blues naturally extended into an exploration of Jazz, and side by side with this I fell in love with Funk and Soul”

The rest of his career spanned from this moment, inevitably joining bands, playing for various artists, journeying down the path of teaching and running his own solo projects.

What Kind of Music Do You Not Like?

I have witnessed and learned many great things about the guitar and music in general from this world-class player. Jazz and blues has always been at the forefront of this, but with the potential applications to other styles being made clear throughout.

“I've also found that a strong grounding Blues music has facilitated the movement into playing a number of other styles… after all the Blues is the roots, the rest is the fruits!”

Nat is also an extremely nice guy, and I do not think I could prise any negative comments out of him even if I tried. However, experience and the other blog posts tell me that he will always be looking to take something from whatever he is listening to.

Working as a Musician

It is a sure sign of being a successful teacher when you have been teaching in higher education, the Academy of Contemporary Music in this case, for 20 years. This is slightly different from ordinary guitar teaching, in that the lessons are taught to a class and not to individuals - frequently they are more of a lecture than a lesson. 

“I have taught many different music related subjects (as well as some less related music subjects!) during my time at the ACM”

These different subjects could be relatively similar, like live performance workshops and guitar technique focused sessions, to theory lessons and modules on music business. All of which are extremely important! I recall a series of lectures when we learned to operate as self-employed individuals and paying tax as a musician - you do not learn about that at school!

 Playing in various live formats and performing private clinics is all in a day’s work, and having the ability to seamlessly move in between blues, jazz, soul and funk outfits is part of the key to his success. This is another point shared by every guitarist I have spoken to, being versatile is extremely important!

“I'm very comfortable playing in a range of styles as I've listened to a wide range of music but also have a decent set of ears to pick things out.”

This comment is further proof that I am not alone in how I feel regarding the importance of listening, and developing your ears. To be able to pick things out is to learn and play effectively and independently. 


Nat has some very nice guitars, some of which are more expensive than others. I most frequently recall him playing either a HSS configured Suhr Classic S (not too dissimilar to mine, basically a Stratocaster on steroids!) or a hollow-bodied Epiphone. Two vastly different price points and yet the resulting tone always sounded like him. See my blog post on expensive guitars here. There are many other guitars in his collection, though!

In terms of amplification, Nat uses a Mesa Boogie Mark V head with a vertical 2x12 cabinet from Victory Amps or a Two Notes Captor X (a load box designed to take the amp signal straight into the PA system without using a cabinet or microphones). However, recently he has been using a Line 6 Helix system to cover all bases, especially since his PRS guitars are fitted with a piezo system - using a special IR (impulse response) from the Helix, he can get a convincing acoustic guitar sound easily. I imagine it was the need to switch quickly between acoustic and electric sounds, all whilst keeping equipment to a minimum, that prompted him to make the switch. 

Once again, versatility is the number one deciding factor, as it has been with most of the artists I have interviewed, however, the Mark V amp from Mesa Boogie still remains on top for him I am sure!

Has Your Playing Ever Been Judged Prematurely?

Whilst Nat was not directly able to tell me of a time when he is aware of his playing having been judged prematurely, he does go on to explain how appearance, and the way one presents themselves, does not really give any real indication to their abilities as a musician. I think we can 

“I've met some of the quietest, most humble people on my travels as a musician; they can be shy and unassuming… Once they pick up an instrument they turn into an absolute monster and scare the pants of everyone!”

I also know from experience that, despite Nat seeming like a quiet blues deity, he is just as capable of melting your face off as the shredders you see on Instagram and YouTube. 

Advice for Beginners

The first response I got regarding this particular question is a sentiment shared by all - play whatever makes you happy!  As long as you can find some enjoyment in what you are doing, then you are doing something right. I am sure that there are players in the world who are completely miserable, try not to be one of them - otherwise, what is the point?!

The best piece of advice here, and something I am going to cover in another blog post soon, is ensuring your guitar is comfortable to play. This could mean finding the right guitar for you, but also being aware of how it is set-up and your personal preferences in that regard. 

“Also make sure you have your instrument set up so that the action is fairly low - this will make your instrument much easier to play initially and will encourage you to keep going!”

A quick point about action, is that many players, myself included, like to have a low action - this is how big the distance is between the top of the fret and the bottom of the string. Nat is correct that it is also slightly easier to play and it will inspire you to continue, but players such as BB King or Stevie Ray Vaughan were renowned for having an action so high you could park a bus under the strings - something you might wish to experiment with further along your journey. 

Remember, if you are not confident you know what to do with setting your guitar up, take it to a reputable luthier or technician near you.

What is New?

Nat is currently preparing for another tour with music legends Robert Fripp, of King Crimson fame, and Toyah Wilcox. This tour will take him to all manner of festival stages like the famous Isle of Wight and Glastonbury festivals. 

Something that many students will have a connection with is Nat’s affiliation with RSL. He is currently recording the new electric guitar syllabus for Rockschool, as he has done in the past, so the chances are you have probably heard him play before!

Here are a few links to some great performances of his that I have watched countless times:

Redtenbacher’s Funkestra - House of the Rising Sun

A true masterclass in tasteful lead playing, masterful rhythm work and an acute awareness for what else is going on musically.

Jo Harman - Papa Was A Rolling Stone

Check out that solo at 10:17 - tone for days!

Toyah & Robert Fripp - Rebel Yell

This one just goes to show you that he is no slouch when it comes to the rock stuff either! 


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