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Blues Guitar Lessons: Rock and Roll

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Rock And Roll, Part 1, Rhythm.
Now, as we explore the styles that
ares sort of in the blues universe,
related to blues,
often very closely related,
a good place to start is rock and roll.
There's really a very fine line.
There is no line.
There's a sort of bleed over
between blues and rock and roll.
And the transition point
was in the late 1940s,
early 1950s when jump blues,
which was that aggressive,
high energy dance music that
was extremely popular, and
New Orleans rhythm and
blues kind of intersected.
And New Orleans, we're gonna look
at New Orleans music in a little
bit more detail later on, but you had a
very hard edge drum sound, [SOUND] right.
Even more so than jump blues,
so heavy back beat,
you had that swinging rhythm section.
Other than that, rock and roll in its
early days was really blues just with
youth oriented lyrics,
I guess you would say.
Talk about a song that is often
credited as the first rock and
roll song, as if there was such a thing,
which is, that's just an invention, but
it was called Rocket 88.
It was Ike Turner and
his Delta Kings, Kings of Rhythm.
And it was about a car,
the Delta 88, very cool car.
Jump in my car,
we're gonna ride around town, you know.
And the riff,
Had electric guitar, laying out that
riff there through the whole song and
yeah, you'd say,
that's rock and roll, you know?
Chuck Berry,
obviously we call that rock and roll.
Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis,
that's all rock and roll.
And so those guys and
Chuck Berry in particular
was really playing a form
of music that was a blend
between jump blues,
even what we now think of as country
music or country and western.
There were certainly elements of that, and
his own invention of writing songs
about life as a teenage kid.
Even though he was a little bit older
himself, he had an ear and a feel for
what it was like to be young, and you're
driving your car for the first time, and
you're going out on a date, you know?
These were not themes that
were common to blues.
But musically,
they're very similar to each other, so.
One thing that you notice when
you listen to the early rock and
roll period is that it sounds like
there are two things going on at once.
One is that the band is swinging,
which they were.
They were playing essentially
jump blues in many cases.
And then over top of that,
like in Chuck Berry's case,
the guitar is playing
a straight boogie pattern.
In other words,
as opposed to one, and
two, and three, and four.
So it's the straight groove and the swing
groove coexisting at the same time.
You think, how was that possible?
They gotta fight with each other, but
no, it actually sounds really cool.
And after a while,
the rhythm section straightened out and
then you had everybody playing
straight eighth notes.
But at the beginning, it was really a kind
of exciting combination of the two that
had a magic quality to it.
Now rhythmically,
if I'm gonna play over a rock and
roll groove with that jump
blues kind of vibe to it,
I'll play the same rhythm patterns that
I was playing over the boogie shuffle.
I'm gonna play them with
a straight eighth note groove.
Now add a tempo that's that
fast right there.
I have to use alternate picking.
So instead of downstrokes, I'm gonna
and I'm gonna accent the second and
fourth beats so
that I'm synchronized with the drummer.
And then with my fretting hand,
I release the pressure.
After the accent to give the groove
a little bit of room there so it doesn't
overwhelm the rest of the rhythm section,
but it's that straight groove and
just a driving,
driving groove [SOUND] that I
can play down on the bottom end.
And then you'll typically hear accents.
That's a different interpretation
of the groove that we saw
when we studied jump blues.
Or you've got
all right?
You've got the little two note
accents up on top, again,
a rhythm style that we studied
when we looked at jump blues.
Or you could play also,
if you wanna get real big and full,
that boogie pattern where you're playing
[SOUND] a more piano style rhythm,
the fingers lay over,
combining bass pattern.
that's the whole
band right there.
It's probably more than I
would play with a band,
because the other guys would say well,
I'm out of here, take my job right?
But that's the principal of it there
is that you've got the whole orchestra
happening and as the guitar rhythm player,
you're picking and choosing.
Let's play with the rhythm section,
this is gonna be the same rhythm
section that we used for jump blues.
It's in the key of B flat,
which by the way,
rock and roll,
Chuck Berry in particular, flat keys.
You don't hear Chuck Berry songs in A,
in E.
He didn't writes songs in those keys.
He played in the flat keys cuz
he played with sax players.
So, Johnny B Goode,
that's in B flat, so get used to it.
All right, let's give it a whack here,
see what it sounds like.
It's over before it started.
That was crazy, right?
[SOUND] Now, first time around,
[SOUND] I'm just laying in there,
straight eighth notes,
accenting two and four and
locking with the drummer, but
not the swing, [SOUND] with the back beat.
So I'm playing with the back beat and with
the bass, which is on the quarter notes.
So if you took those cymbals out of it,
we'd all be playing [SOUND], but
when you put the cymbals in it,
you get [SOUND] in the rhythmic section
versus the [SOUND] in the guitar.
That's where the coolness is, right?
Now up on top,
I just played a typical pattern there.
[SOUND] Two notes on the high string and
then as a fill, every couple of bars,
just to give it a little bit of a shape,
used double stops.
[SOUND] Third finger,
[SOUND] first finger,
hammer on there, and back again.
So on the one hand,
a sparse, syncopated rhythm.
On the other hand,
a steady driving rhythm timekeeping, so
we got the timekeeping in color.
And then we got everything in between.
And [COUGH] as a guitar
player playing in a rock and
roll rhythm section,
you wanna be aware of the space.
Don't just fill everything up and
turn up and
sort of cover everybody else up.
You want it to swing.
It still swings.
When rock and roll is played well,
in my humble opinion, it swings.
And that doesn't mean that it
all has a triplet feel to it.
But it means that everybody's
meshed together and
there's an awareness of the dynamics
in the parts from the drummer on up
that has everybody on the same
page feeling it the same.
And that's what we think of
as swing in the larger sense.
So in terms of new information,
there really isn't much there,
if you go back and
study the jump blues stuff,
you'll see pretty much everything
that I just talked about.
And the only difference is how you apply
it with that straight eighth note feel.
All right, mess around with that rhythm
track and then we'll come back and
talk about sort of stylistic
soloing in rock and roll.
In our last lesson we talked about
the rhythm patterns that were typical
of 50s rock and roll, as we see it today.
And shared much in common with Jump Blues.
There are lots of other corners and
sub genres of rock n' roll that
we're not getting into specifically,
but that right down the middle mainstream
sound is what we're talking about.
And Chuck Berry kinda represents
the role model for that style.
And the same is true of the soloing.
You think of the song Johnny
be Good which is today,
it's been so
long since that song was recorded.
I don't know if people today often
are familiar with the original recording.
Everybody is aware of the song and
you probably all heard versions of it.
But it's well worth your while to go back
and listen to the original recording.
Which was cut by Chuck Berry, playing it
at the Chess Records studios in Chicago.
Now Chess Records was really
known as a blues label.
Muddy Waters.
Howlin' Wolf.
Sonny Boy Williamson.
And here comes this kid from St.
Louis with his greased back hair and
his flashy suits.
And he's playing these songs that he wrote
that are all about kids and cars and
dates and milkshakes you know.
And a bunch of guys in the studio
there are hardcore blues musicians,
I mean high art of blues.
And they get called in to play
behind this kid over here
whose playing these kind
of flashy jump blue songs.
Interesting cultural mix,
but what Chuck brought
as a guitar player was not just the
That straight eighth note kind of quality,
which introduced a different form
of energy into the Jump Blues.
And eventually the whole thing flipped
over and Swing as a fundamental,
commercial feel,
that people danced to, disappeared.
After the 50s, early 60s it was
pretty much over for Swing and
it became straight eighth notes,
sixteenth note as it is today.
Still, even now.
What Chuck brought,
from his guitar playing, was the rhythm,
but it was also a soloing style that fit
perfectly with that aggressive sound.
Now, Chuck did his homework, and
evolved a style that used elements
of some of his predecessors.
And he talked about the people he studied,
he was not secretive about
where he got stuff from.
One of his main sources was T-Bone Walker.
Our old pal T-Bone, and
T-Bone was known for
having a fairly,
by today's standard restrained style.
He had sort of a jazzy tone in a sense.
And he played lines that had
a distinct swing to them.
So they kind of flowed
like saxophone lines and
lots of melodic color and so forth.
Well Chuck didn't take all that stuff,
he respected it and
he borrowed bits and pieces of it.
But mainly he went for
the core of T-Bones uptempo sound.
Which we looked at in the context of John
Paddleplay Jump Blues solos that have that
aggressive quality.
One of those elements was
the diminished chord.
Now Chuck stripped it down to two notes.
So you have the same essential
quality in the key of B flat,
ninth fret, eighth fret.
Its the diminished fifth,
the devil's interval,
But as a two note chord its
a little bit easier to maneuver.
He also took that
bending the string rhythmically,
creating a little phrase.
And he just kind of worked with that idea
and morphed it into different
versions of the same sound.
So within Chuck's core style,
you hear the diminished chord sound and
you hear that bent string sound.
Now what Chuck also did was he
used a lot of double stops in
the home position, using one finger.
It's sort of like intuitive, like I
want to sound aggressive and strong and
I know the blues scale, but if I play
it doesn't sound strong enough.
How about if I go
That's more like it.
That might've been
inspired by piano players.
The poor piano players in the 50s man,
when everybody got amps and
started playing loud, poor piano players
over there just got to deal with it pal.
So they're banging on their keys,
super aggressive and
always playing two notes at a time,
three notes at a time to be heard.
So Chuck used that kind of approach
in his guitar playing as well,
always playing two notes at a time.
Very rarely do you hear Chuck Berry
play a single note solo.
So we've got diminish
We've got the
Bent strings, we got the one finger
One finger shapes, they're really just
shapes in the home position there.
And then another element that we've
also looked at in the past, and
that's third intervals.
Another form of double-stops,
but more melodic.
Now Chuck was influenced by a guitar
player who was quite famous.
He was in many people's opinions,
and I would agree,
he was the best all-around
guitar player in America
throughout most of the 1920's and
the 1930's.
And his name was Lonnie Johnson.
No relation to Robert Johnson or
any other Johnson.
Lonnie Johnson, and Lonnie Johnson
played in the acoustic era and
his career was revived
years later in the 40's.
He had a huge hit record
called Tomorrow Night.
Electric guitar, and
he lived until 1970 and
performed almost right up until the end.
But he didn't really have the recognition
that a lot of his contemporaries
received later on.
Nonetheless, what Lonnie Johnson did
was on his acoustic guitar in 1925, 26.
You can hear,
you know
He had a very sweet style.
You gotta hear it to really get it.
But those are third intervals,
played melodically.
Now, third intervals have deep roots.
You hear third intervals in Spanish music,
of course, in Mexican ballads,
we're very familiar with the sound.
So, applying it to blues and to rock and
roll, we learn how to play the double
stops, how to adjust for
the four chord and the five chord.
And Chuck just
took that sort of
Lonny Johnson melodic
style and
He glued it all together and
played elements of the melodic third
interval approach,
combined with the T-bone diminished sound.
And then bending the strings and
generally just hammering the guitar and
making everything sound super bright and
super powerful.
So I'll play you some Chuck Berry
style phrasing over that rock and
roll rhythm section sound that we've got.
And then we can talk about details.
But that's the gist of it right there.
Okay, so check this out.
I'm exhausted.
Man, that takes some
energy to play that stuff.
Hammering the guitar.
Now I started off with
sort of a classic phrase.
That should sound
familiar for two reasons.
One, I showed you that riff basically
as a rhythm pattern in the last lesson.
Where we're going
So now I'm featuring it and
I'm digging in harder.
Also remember riff chords.
That's exactly what I'm playing here.
And just phrasing it with
a different kind of an energy there but
double stop.
Hammering on the third,
back to the top.
And I'm using the hybrid picking.
There's the third chord in the three
note riff pattern.
Now as I get going playing faster,
I'll abandon the hybrid thing.
Because it's a little, requires too much
physical effort to get from note to note,
so I'll go back to the pic and
just dig in harder.
So there's that
basic idea
There's my diminished chord or
the stripped down version
of the diminished chord.
Same lick
played again and
And messing around with those
double stops in that one position.
String band's obviously in
the T-Bone Walker style.
Then I went up and
played more of a melody.
It's almost
pretty you know?
If the background wasn't so
aggressive, you'd say,
yeah, that's a nice melody, you know?
But now,
it's just kinda hammering away at it.
So, I'm playing the third intervals,
third and fifth of the B flat cord.
Now I'm thinking very consciously about
the cord changes here.
So I know I want a B flat for
four bars so I'm gonna build my melody.
Staying within the scale,
following the scale in two places and
now I can use the half steps just to
help fill in the gaps in the melody.
Here comes the four chord, now there's
that Lonnie Johnson thing, right.
And now I want E flat.
There's B flat, there's E flat.
Meaning the top note is G,
which is a strong chord tone of E flat,
so when I hit that note on top,
it identifies the chord.
then I just reached up to add that high
E flat on top cuz I rung it on the neck,
so I couldn't move
the whole shape up there.
Very Chuck Berry-ish type approach there.
my five chord.
Back to the one.
And I can just slide my fingers around.
It's very free form.
You listen to the original
Chuck Berry records from the 50s and
he plays with such energy and passion.
But not always with great
technical finesse, and who cares?
That's not really what it's about.
So, he would record parts that
captured the energy of the song,
and if it slipped and slid a little
bit over one fret this way or that.
Nobody really cared.
That was sort of the Chess Records
philosophy, too, is listen to those
records carefully, there are mistakes,
quote unquote, all over the place, but
the overall feel is so cool,
you just can't wait to hear it again.
And that's the idea with rock and
roll, is keep it in the moment.
Stay focused, stay passionate.
Keep that right hand moving and
get the maximum pizzazz out
of each one of those phrases.
Now you can play rock and
roll any way you want.
This is just a snapshot of
a typical way in which Chuck Berry,
for one example, took the Jump Blues
tradition that preceded him.
And borrowed elements from it and
put them together to create
a style that was appropriate for
this different form of rhythm.
So it was out of all those elements
that they created a new sound,
then it became a huge success obviously.
And then influenced
subsequent generations.
So it all started with that blues thing.
All right?
Mess around with that and send me
a recording of yourself playing rock and
roll with the rhythm, with the soloing and
let me see what you're thinking and
I can help give you some ideas.
We're just scratching the surface
here with this stuff.
All right have a ball.