Dating back to the early 50s, Rockabilly blended country, hillbilly, jump blues and western swing to form one of the earliest styles of rock music. Rockabilly launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly with its raunchy blues riffs, uptown Western swing licks, and foot-tapping boogie patterns, all of which you’ll get plenty of here in this Rock, Billy & Boogie Guidebook from Walter Broes. Band leader, singer/songwriter and guitarist in the Belgium’s most popular roots rock band, The Seatsniffers, Walter recorded seven albums and toured all over Europe for 15+ years with the band. A self-professed guitar geek, Walter has a deep love for American Roots music styles and is a passionate educator. We’re thrilled to welcome Walter to the family with his first TrueFire course.
”We're going to take an in depth look at some of my favorite guitar players from the 50's who shaped this exciting style, including my all-time favorite Grady Martin. We'll also stray off the beaten path a little and dig into some lesser famous studio pickers, like Scotty Moore, who turned country thumbpicking into exciting rock and roll riffs.”
Walter organized the course into two sections. In the first section, you’ll work through the key concepts and techniques that are requisite Rockabilly skills: Travis Picking: History, Travis Picking: Use, Travis Picking: Technique, Chords, Lead Playing, Echo: History and Echo: Use
In the second section, you’ll put all of the key concepts and techniques to work as you play your way through 16 Performance Studies designed to give you a versatile Rockabilly vocabulary inspired by many of the greatest Rockabilly guitarists in history.
Walter demonstrates all of the Performance Studies over rhythm tracks and then breaks them down by stepping you through the key concepts, techniques and creative approaches that he used in each study.
Scotty Moore's Train - ”The guitar parts and licks that Presley’s guitar player, Scotty Moore, came up with are some of the most influential and imitated in rockabilly guitar. Mystery Train is a great tune to learn, as it'll introduces you to a finger picked alternating bass pattern and schools you in the aesthetics of rockabilly guitar.”
Single Note Scotty - ”When Elvis moved from Sun Records to RCA records, his style changed a little. A lot of recordings featured a larger band than the stripped down acoustic guitar/electric guitar/double bass combo you hear on the Sun-era recordings. This freed up Scotty Moore to play more single note guitar parts than he played before, and he was as brilliant at playing exciting single note leads as he was at playing Travis-inspired finger picked parts.”
Travis Lead - ”In a lot of cases, you'll hear Travis-picked parts used for rhythm and backup. Playing finger picked leads doesn’t have to be a lot more complicated though; simple variations of your rhythm pattern will get your there, or chord shapes/inversions played higher up on the fingerboard. The triplet lick in the second part of this example is a classic, and though its origin isn’t in rockabilly music, it’s a lick that pops up often and isn't that hard to play. Very flashy and effective, and a great panic button.”
Clever With Chords - ”A good way to stop jumping around the fretboard all the time in big intervals is to figure out different inversions of the chords you know or usually play. Trying to stick to the position of your I chord when figuring out your IV and V chord positions is a great place to start, and playing the different chords with as many notes in common as possible can really make or break a part and make it more effective and musical.”
Walking The Strings - ”This move is a staple in the Merle Travis repertoire, and can also be heard in Scotty Moore’s playing. It’s not too difficult once you have the basic move down, and can really add excitement and direction to backup or lead parts.”
Rockin' Hybrid Rhythm - ”Using a hybrid grip where you play with a flatpick and your fingers can be a great way to spice up your rhythm playing. There’s more going on than you can typically do with just a flatpick, and having the flatpick ready to go at any time leaves you the possibility of throwing in a lead fill or faster eighth-note or triplets.”
Boom Chick - ”This style of playing is all over hardcore honky tonk country, and it's one of the main influences on rockabilly. Listening to it, it can seem almost too easy to pay attention to, but try playing along to your favorite records in different spots on the fretboard and you'll see it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Having this style of backup in your bag of tricks is almost essential, so practicing it in different positions, closed as well as open, is a good idea.”
One Bar Boogie Pattern - ”If you're the only electric guitarist in a rockabilly setting, boogie patterns on guitar are something you'll be playing a lot of. Make sure to listen to some boogie-woogie piano for some inspiration! Blues and R&B players are another great source of inspiration, as well as country and honky tonk players. From Lightnin’ Hopkins to Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, there are too many examples to list, and listening to them will give you ideas for improvising your own boogie lines fairly quickly.”
Two Bar Boogie Pattern - ”Two-bar boogie patterns are a little harder than the one-bar kind, so having them organized in your head before jumping head-first into a tune is a good idea. Two-bar boogie lines give an entirely different feel to an arrangement and really fill out the sound. Remember to lay back and don't rush: these patterns work best if you're a little bit behind the beat, emphasizing beat two and four, making the band swing a little harder.”
Harmonized Boogie - ”Harmonized boogie lines and leads are almost impossible to come up with on the spot if you've never figured out how they work. They can seem a little daunting in a “what the heck is going on here?” kind of way, but once you realize you're really only playing chord or scale tones, you'll find harmonized lines are really not all that far-fetched, and they can really add a lot of flavor to an arrangement.”
Boogie: Bass & Chromatic - ”Here we're really looking over the bass player’s shoulder for inspiration. Walking bass lines and chromatic connecting notes between chord and scale tones can make boogie patterns a lot less generic, and sound a little busier to add excitement to a tune. This, again, can be a little more involved than it sounds, so take it slow and take your time to figure this type of thing out.”
Straight Eights Or Not - ”The “swing against straight eights” is the thing that separates “rock and roll” from “rock." For some great examples, listen to the rhythm guitar on Chuck Berry’s Almost Grown, on which he plays straight eights against the drummer’s triplet swing feel on the high-hat and cymbals. Little Richard’s music on the Specialty label is another killer example of this phenomenon at work; he'll play straight eights on his piano against drummer Earl Palmer’s swing beat.”
G For Grady - ”Grady Martin was a Nashville A-list session player in the 50’s and 60’s, playing on an incredible number of records in many different styles. He’s probably one of the only session players to play on rockabilly records who gets some credit, as he really put his stamp on the style. Look for recordings by the Johnny Burnette Rock and Roll Trio, Johnny Carroll, Brenda Lee, Don Woody, Johnny Horton, Gene Maltais, and Wayne Walker for examples of him playing rock and roll and rockabilly.”
Grady A - ”In this example we'll look at some typical Grady Martin-isms in the key of A. Note the clever use of double and triple stops, and his fairly unique use of open strings. It’s rumored Martin didn't think much of the rock and roll sessions he played and was surprised when people asked him about them.”
Grady Leads in E - ”Grady Martin had his own unique approach to open strings, and doesn't just start licks on them but uses them almost as a drone when moving little riffs around. Twangy open string riffs on the low strings are something he had in common with Duane Eddy, it’s almost impossible to say today who influenced who, or if there was just some synchronicity in the air and licks like these were going to materialize no matter what!”
No Big Blues Bends - ”This is not a rule as much as it is a general pointer: As with anything, there are big exceptions to the “no big blues bends” idea in rockabilly music. What I'm getting at in this example is that a lot of us fall into the habit of playing typical bends when playing the minor pentatonic scale in a I - IV - V setting, and that it’s worth re-evaluating when you’re tackling rockabilly. There are a lot of very cool riffs and licks involving the minor pentatonic scale where you don't bend any strings, or only use half-step ones.”