How To Play Rockabilly Rhythm On A Guitar

Posted by Mike Schuck

When playing rhythm guitar, there are two main parts of the song that go hand in hand. These are the bass line and the kick drum. The bass line is typically one or more notes that stay within the range of an instrument’s lowest note. For example, if your bass guitar has a low E string then the bass line can be played using only this string.

The second part is the kick drum, which is usually just a short tone (usually a snare) or pattern. This pattern is repeated over and over during the bass line so it covers up some of the silence between the bass strings.

Both these pieces must be heard clearly for the music to make sense, so practicing them individually and together is important! Luckily, we have several tips here for you to learn how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar easily. Read on to find out more.

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Listen to the rhythm section closely

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

The first thing you need to do when playing rockabilly guitar is listen to the bass, the kick drum, and the snare very carefully! These three instruments make up what is called the rhythm section of your music.

The bass plays a steady beat that helps give structure to the song. It also adds flavor to the song by using different notes. A good bass player will use their tone and technique to add flavor to the song.

When playing along with a drummer, look at how they play each part of the rhythm. For example, if they hit the bass hard then it should be hit harder. If the treble pedal is used for the snare then use that same one for yourself.

Learn the chord patterns

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

The next part of learning how to play rhythm guitar is in learning your chords! There are many ways to learn this, but one of the easiest methods is just by learning some basic chord shapes.

By learning chord shapes you will be able to easily create all sorts of music! For instance, say you wanted to write a song about cars. You could use an Em shape for the first chord (listening to any number one song with that chord would make it clear), then add a C major chord, A minor chord, and G sharp major chord as sub-chords. These three chords together form the pre-chorus of most car songs!

Another way to learn chords quickly is just using the root note + fifth interval = dominant7. To practice this, take your first chord and either raise or lower the third degree (third note) by a half step. In the case of our example, we would go from an Em to a Amm by raising the second degree (second note) by a whole step.

Practice making the rhythm section play along

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

The next part of learning how to play rockabilly guitar is practicing your rhythm section. This includes figuring out when the downbeat in a song comes and what notes make up this downbeat.

In songs with a steady beat, like most music genres including blues, jazz, or classical, there is a downbeat that happens every four beats of music. This downbeat typically contains one note that has a strong tone and is repeated twice more as the rest of the verse.

This single note is called the kick drum and it gives you a stable feeling for the bass line. For example, if the song’s main melody was an octave higher than the bass, then the downbeat would be a one-chord pattern made up only of the lower pitched half of the chord (the root).

The other element in the rhythm section are the drums. There are many types of rhythms not related to a specific genre or style, but something all good rock musicians have at least some experience with is the backbeats.

Learn to sing along with the song

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

The second part of learning how to play rhythm guitar is being able to actually start playing songs! This is where it gets fun because you get to pick and choose which riffs, patterns, or rhythms you want to use in your songs.

Singalong can be tricky at first as most rock music has recurring chords that keep repeating themselves throughout the song. These types of chords are easy to learn, but may seem like they go on for too long before something new comes around.

That’s why the next step of rockabilly rhythm guitar technique is to recognize those chords quickly so that you don’t have to spend extra time changing them out. You also know what we referred to earlier as an up-beat (or kick) - this is when the music goes up in steps.

The hardest part about playing rhythm guitar is creating solid timing while using both the upbeat and the downbeats effectively.

Learn to play the guitar neck

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

The next part of your rhythm guitar playing journey is learning how to play the guitar neck! This section is very important as you will be learning how to combine chords with rythym.

The guitarist’s hands usually move up and down the strings while playing, but what if we wanted to add some new layers to our music? What if we wanted to use different types of positionings and patterns for our songs?

This article will go into more detail about this by breaking down each string of the guitar in depth! So, stay tuned and read on for more information.

Learn to use your fingers

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

The first thing you need to do is learn how to use your hands efficiently as guitarists! This article will go into more detail about this, but for a quick review, make sure you know what each finger of your hand is used for and how to cover all those positions while playing.

Your index finger is typically stuck in the middle position next to the second knuckle on the fret board. Your middle finger goes over or under the index finger depending on if the chord has a bass note or not.

Your ring finger covers the third string up one octave (A-D-G-C) and then moves down to the fifth string (E-B-F-#). Your pinky can be either crossed behind the other two fingers or extended forward to play additional notes when needed.

The thumb usually stays at the side of the hand, working with the index and little fingers to press down on the strings and produce lower frequencies.

Tone your guitar

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

When playing rock music, your tone is an integral part of your style. What kind of tone you use for chords, solo pieces, and riffs depends on what type of song you are trying to play.

For example, if you want to learn how to play hard rocking songs such as off Beat It!, then you should practice using heavy distortion. By doing this, you will be emphasizing strong bass notes and dropping out some higher frequencies that create the throbbing effect.

To play soft ballads, however, you would need to focus more on raising the volume of the instrument by dampening the harmonics. This removes parts of the sound that are weaker which makes it softer.

By having different tones, you can achieve many different effects and thus, diversify your musical expression.

Learn to use a pedal

how to play rockabilly rhythm guitar

A pedal is an electro-mechanical device that adds or changes an effect to an element of a sound.

A pedal is used to enhance, modify, or take away components of an audio signal. There are three main types of pedals: modulation, tone, and expression.

Modulation pedals work by altering the amplitude (loudness) or frequency (tone) of a source material such as an instrument or voice. For example, some bassists use a modulator pedal to lower the pitch of their bass slightly. This creates a cool, dreamy quality for the music.

Tone pedals alter the nature or characteristics of a source. For instance, some guitar players use a distortion pedal to add reverb to their sounds. The louder you turn up the distortion, the more echo this effect will have.

Expression pedals allow you to control how much energy certain parts of a song contain. Some songs feature large drum beats that can get repetitive and boring. An expression pedal allows you to cut off the middle of the beat, creating a flatter rhythm with less emphasis on per minute.

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