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April 17, 2013
 

Chuck Berry Guitar Style

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Written by: Mike Abbott

When you hear a Chuck Berry song, it’s relentless, driving,
and almost hypnotic!

THAT IS ROCK AND ROLL (in case you wanted
a definition)!

Songs like "Maybelline", "Nadine", and "Roll
Over Beethoven" symbolize post-war America’s prosperity and
infatuation with Rhythm and Blues music!
In this Chuck Berry Guitar Lesson, we will delve inside of his song and riff-writing genius!

 

Country and Blues

Growing up, Chuck Berry was not only exposed to blues music, but
also country music. The fusion of these two musics, in Berry’s subconscious,
was magical to say the least!

The country-influence in Chucks’ songs can be heard in the beat,
the vocals, and the guitar. The drums play a swing beat in songs
like “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Roll Over Beethoven”. This was
a beat that Chuck undoubtedly heard in the country-swing songs of
artists such as Hank Williams or Bob Wills.

Hank William’s "Honky-Tonk Blues" or "Hey Good Lookin’"
are two great examples of the swing rhythm that Chuck loved. They
also contain “wandering” guitar intros..the kind of intros that
can be heard in "Johnny B. Goode" or “No Particular Place
To Go”.

The vocal style of Hank and other country singers found it’s way
into Chuck’s singing. Chuck’s pure, bright-tenor tone was in sharp
contrast to the rough baritones of blues artists like Muddy Waters
or Howlin’ Wolf!


 

Chuck Berry Rhythm Guitar Style

Chuck always played in standard tuning. Much of his rhythm guitar
style is based in the boogie blues rhythm. See our E
Blues Rhythm Lesson
. However, Chuck had a way of changing those
rhythms and making them unique. Take a look at Rhythm 1:

 

chuck berry guitar rhythm

  1. Bar your first finger over the 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings on the third fret.
    Keep that bar on for the entire rhythm.

  2. Use palm muting on this entire rhythm. If you’re unfamiliar
    with palm muting, take our palm
    muting lesson!

  3. Use all downstrums.

 

chuck berry guitar rhythm

This little comping riff is really sweet! Chuck plays it as a 2nd
guitar track on “Nadine”. Keith Richards took this type of riff
and made a career with it!

  1. Use lightning-quick strum motions on this one.

  2. This riff is used over a Bb blues progression. Try it next time
    you play the blues!


About the Author

Mike Abbott
Mike is a pro guitarist and music educator.  He has performed with such diverse acts as the Rolling Stones Horns, Sammy Davis Jr., and Burt Bacharach.   After spending much of his music career in New York City, He now is a very busy guitarist in the Denver area, performing and teaching extensively. Mike's latest work is a book, The Guitar and Amp Sourcebook, published by Harper Collins and released in December 2012.



 
 

 
 

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