** As featured in issue 26 **
Objective: Learn a Rockabilly finger style rhythm.
A solid authentic rockabilly rhythm is essential to every guitarist’s arsenal. This lesson is in the Key of E and is a 24 bar Blues. This type of rhythm guitar was popularised by guitarist Scotty Moore in the 1950s. He played and recorded with Elvis Presley on many of his songs. Scotty Moore created a unique rhythm guitar hook for Elvis’ hit song Mystery Train that introduced this style into mainstream popular music. The song was heard by millions. Until then, this guitar style was primarily played by Country guitarists. To hear this style of guitar in its early stages listen to Merle Travis’ Cannon Ball Rag on YouTube. This style is named after Merle Travis and has become known as Travis picking. Travis picking is a fingerstyle technique where a simple melody is played over an alternating ostinato bass line. It creates the illusion of two guitars playing simultaneously!
The muted ostinato bass line is played with the thumb and the melody is played using the middle and ring fingers on the higher strings. The style became known as Rockabilly. Guitarist Brian Setzer is one of the well-known artists that continue to keep the Rockabilly tradition alive. Example 1: To set up the first rhythmic phrase, fret and E7 chord in the open position. Using hybrid picking, use your pick on the lower three strings and your middle and ring fingers on strings 2 and 3.
Your pick will alternate between strings 4 and 6. To begin, on beat one, play a low open E note with your thumb. Then on beat two play the fourth, third and second strings simultaneously. Playing string 4 with your pick and strings 2 and 3 (already fretted) with your middle and ring fingers respectively. On the downbeat of beat 3 play the open Low E string. On the upbeat of beat 3 three play the A and C# notes on strings 2 and 3 by flattening your middle finger to bar strings 2 and 3.
On beat 4 play the E on the fourth string again. Play this E chord phrase for 8 measures then move to the A chord. It is played in the 5th position using a barre chord. The pattern is still the same alternating bass notes on strings 6 and 4 while playing the double stops on strings 3 and 2. Play the A chord phrase for 4 measures and then move back to the E chord for 4 measures. The B chord is played at the 7th fret for two measures. The walk down are descending arpeggios using B, A, G# minor and F# minor chords played using hybrid picking. Finally back to E and B in the open position for the turnaround.
Notice the bass note walkups moving from chord to chord. Have fun!