How to play rockabilly?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Turi, Jan 15, 2015.

  1. Turi

    Turi Member

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    Hi guiz.

    I'm on a huge rockabilly kick lately and really think it's something I'd love to do - always been a bit of a fan of the older stuff my Mum used to listen to like Elvis etc.. but I've recently came across the Stray Cats and Reverend Horton Heat from looking up bands that use Gretschs (already love The Living End!!).. and yeah, I'm totally digging it and can totally see myself playing this stuff.

    I think that in my area there's incredible potential for gigs playing it too.

    I've just started trying to learn to play it though and I mean, I'm a bit lost - I get that it's basically all three-chord blues progression stuff, just about, but there's LOADS of chord inversions and stuff going on, it all seems so busy on the guitar too.. no bloody clue how to get into the lead stuff.

    Ideally I'd like to front a trio - I can already sing the stuff.

    I've just started learning to Travis pick which seems to be a good base to start from, but asides from that - where do I go for lead stuff?

    Any good guitar lessons I can download somewhere? I'm open to paying for them if they're worth it.

    I've watched Setzers tutorial and don't get me wrong, I love the dude but he basically just says "hey play this" and tears you a new one. Lol.
    His whole tutorial is basically "play whatever you want".

    So yeah. I'd love to play like him and The Rev. I think the Rev's stuff probably gets me more excited to be honest, but yeah, love it all.

    What are the quintessential rockabilly songs I should learn?
    Both for rhythm and lead. I understand that as a three-piece I'm going to be doing mostly rhythm.
    What other techniques should I be mastering asides from Travis picking?

    I prefer to play without a pick - is a pick necessary for this stuff (kinda sounds like it might be).

    Yeah. Pretty lost. Would love some direction, I'm sure there's some rockabilly folk on here that can point me the right way..

    Cheers fellas.
     
  2. Marcfordsfuzz513

    Marcfordsfuzz513 Member

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    I'm in the same boat..

    Early Sun records is the best place to start... Cash, Presley...

    Even Johnny Burnette Trio.. Eddie Cochran, Robert Gordon, Buddy Holly..

    You gotta listen to what Brian Setzer grew up on.... Once you get it down, get creative and make your own style... For me, I prefer a pick, it makes the sound sharper.... But its doable without one... Do whatever sounds and feels right. But you gotta learn the basics..
     
  3. Noah

    Noah Supporting Member

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    Jason Loughlin's Truefire course on rockabilly is really good. I like Paul Pigat's dvd as well. I tried a few other DVDs by other people and wasn't as happy with the material. I'm not a Rockabilly guy at all, but I love some of the music and wanted to learn that style just for my own pleasure.

    p.s. If you haven't heard it, Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot (tribute to Sun Records) record is awesome.
     
  4. JonR

    JonR Member

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    I agree: check out the originals. Johnny Burnette trio in particular, also (as well as the above) Billy Lee Riley, Gene Vincent's Blue Caps (Cliff Gallup guitar).

    In terms of technique and notes, it's all based on dom7 and 6th chords, on major pentatonic with blue 3rds. The One Scale To Rule Them All is the "mixo-blues" scale:
    1 2 b3 3 4 (b5) 5 6 b7. (Combine minor blues scale with parallel major pent.)
    Pretty much every note except b2, b6 and maj7! - and you might find those used as passing notes sometimes. But always working off the chords.
    i.e., a dom7 chord is 1-3-5-b7. Add approach notes, b3, b5 (the blue notes) and the 6. 2 and 4 make suitable additional passing notes. If you know your chords well enough, you can do all this from any chord shape, no need to know note or scale names.

    Oh, and don't forget that slap-back delay... ;)

    Let us bow down before the Originators:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3gEE3fR28I

    wrong film for the track, but plenty of guitar stuff worth learning:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv1xvMjxqcQ

    Classic rockabilly solo here (Brian Setzer's ripped this off, as has every other rockabilly guitarist)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CTso1tx4Bs

    Recommended transcription software:
    http://www.seventhstring.com/
     
  5. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Member

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    Danny Gatton aka The Humbler

    with Robert Gordon...


    Doing an Elvis medley, explaining a little bit about his technique beforehand...


    And speaking of Elvis, don't forget Scotty Moore and James Burton!

    There was an instructional book/cd I have called something like "Guitars of Elvis" that did a good breakdown of the different styles his guitarists used. I found that kind of helpful.

    Another hint, keep songs short unless you have amazing improv ability like Gatton. Otherwise, you run out of licks and wear yourself out very quick.
     
  6. Turi

    Turi Member

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    Cheers mate. Yeah, already got the Elvis Sunrise or Sun Sessions or whatever it's called - great stuff but a whole heap of it isn't what I'm wanting to play.
    The slower stuff on it isn't what I'm after, but stuff like That's Alright Mama is good - that's actually one of the songs I'm learning at the moment because it popped up when I was trying to find out what Travis picking was.
    Seems like a good starting point.

    Need to check out some more Johnny Burnette Trio - already familiar with some of the other dudes you mentioned but not well enough to play them (obviously).

    Sweet, I'll check out the Truefire one and Paul Pigats too, awesome, cheers mate.
    I do already have that Brian Setzer album and love it.. I'm pretty up to date on Setzers stuff.. always seems so busy on the guitar that I just am instantly lost.. feel like I need to understand the basics before trying to learn any actual songs in particular..
    Great album for sure. I'm amazed at how good his voice still is, lol.

    Another Johnny Burnette Trio suggestion already haha.. definitely need to get on to them - not familiar with their stuff.

    Thanks for the theory help and the clips - didn't realise the rockabilly scale was basically every note, haha.. here I am camping out in the minor pentatonic scale wondering why it sounds bluesy and not rockabilly..
     
  7. Turi

    Turi Member

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    Cheers mate, will definitely check those clips out as soon as I can - haven't ever listened to Danny Gatto to be honest. Only heard of him very recently.

    I've also seen someone else mention that book when I was googling this rockabilly stuff the other day, might need to hunt it down somehow.

    Makes sense to keep the songs short - they're so fast paced that once I'm up to speed I could definitely imagine burning through my entire lick repetoire in like 2 minutes flat, haha.
     
  8. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Ya gotta get the hair right.
     
  9. Marcfordsfuzz513

    Marcfordsfuzz513 Member

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    Another thing I've found out is you gotta keep your picking hand relaxed. I'm far from being even half decent at rockabilly, but i've found that when my hand is relaxed, i can pick better, and you gotta keep it palm muted a little. I'm sure i'm just stating the obvious, but its what works for me.


    They asked Luther Perkins about why his guitar playing is so simple or something to that extent and I don't know his exact words but he said something along the lines of " All the other guitarists ar still looking for "it", and I found "it"".
     
  10. msnes335

    msnes335 Supporting Member

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    This series of Danny Gatton vids on youtube is one of the best instructional videos I've ever seen. The way they shoot it, or the way he explains everything, something. He's so good he can play his examples at about 1/4th the speed with complete accuracy. There seem to be 9 parts. He explains things well, as I said, but I still find it difficult to play anywhere close to what he's doing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRnDMPbtUSM
     
  11. Turi

    Turi Member

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    Awesome cheers fellas.

    Just found some Steve trovola rockabilly lesson thing to check out too.

    Cool..
     
  12. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Yes, that's an old musician joke.

    The way I heard it, it was about a veteran master sitar player in India at a raga school. All the young whizz kid students were showing off their chops while he sat in silence. Eventually he just started playing one note, over and over. The students were baffled, thought his mind had gone, and finally one asked him to explain.
    "They are still looking for their note. I have found mine."
     
  13. Turi

    Turi Member

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    I'm working my way through this Steve Trovola thing I found.. and man, it's just so hard.

    I skipped ahead and learnt some of the lead stuff - easy peasy, I can do this I think.. I'm already quick enough to do all the hammer ons and pull offs that rockabilly requires.
    I think I can pick the lead stuff up easily enough.

    But the rhythm. Holy ****.

    I can't do the stretchs with my pinky for that basic rockabilly rhythm pattern where you do the walking bassline and hit that anchored note.
    It's just so hard to do on the V chord.

    Even on I and IV chords, it's just so damn hard to do. Hurts my hand hard.
    My middle finger is also burning or something.. never hybrid picked before..

    Really hard to play and this is like the uber basic rhythm where talking about here, lol.

    I can do a one-note walking bass line easy as, but add that anchored note that you hit in between each note, and it's nuts.
     
  14. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Member

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    I have trouble with that as well since I have stubby fingers.

    My solution to be able to play this stuff are short scale guitars like the Duosonic or Jaguar. I've been looking around for a short scale hollow (semi or full) body but I haven't found anything I can really afford right now (need new tires, some home improvement work, etc, etc first).
     
  15. cameron

    cameron Member

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    If you remove the 2 and 4 from that scale, you get a 7 note pattern that consists of a dom7 chord, with a dim7 chord with the same root superimposed on it. That scale is known in some circles as the Josh Homme scale. (Another way to think of it is as a half-whole symmetric scale, with the b2 omitted.)

    Of course, Josh Homme doesn't play anything that anyone would consider rockabilly (though I'm sure he could if he put his mind to it). The difference is that he doesn't generally treat the b3 and b5 as lead ins to the 3 and 5, he gives them equal weight, often separating the b3 and the 3 by an octave in the patterns he plays.

    I bring this up just to point out that you can ever so slightly twist the emphases of the rockabilly scale and come up with something cool and different.

    Oh, and to get a more authentic rockabilly sound, put flat-wound strings on your Gretsch or Tele.
     
  16. cameron

    cameron Member

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    Turi likes this.
  17. Billion81

    Billion81 It'd be a whole lot cooler if you did. Gold Supporting Member

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    Danny Gattom had esskay sausage fingers.
     
  18. dhdfoster

    dhdfoster Silver Supporting Member

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    Good Travis picking is NOT easy, but once you get it, it feels natural.
     
  19. slackandsteel

    slackandsteel Member

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    Never heard of Steve Trovola and am unable to find anything on the net. Can you provide a link please?
     
  20. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Trovata
    REH publishing
     

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