The second half of the ’50’s was a very special time for music. Chicago Blues was at its peak, Rock & Roll was in its infancy, and Rockabilly and Surf music were right around the bend. Of course, all of these new and exciting styles of music were powered by the electric guitar. These 6 free guitar lessons from BJ Baartmans’ Slapback, Billy & Twang Guitar Guidebook will take you on a learning journey back to the heydays of Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, and Surf instrumentals.

Whammy Bar & Vibrato

Another way to change pitch was using a whammy bar – a Bigsby unit like most Gretsch guitars were outfitted with or the oddly named tremolo handle on a Fender stratocaster. Using it while picking means changing your way of picking a bit. Or, you can do what a lot of players did: just use it at the end of a solo or a song to shake up the final chord.

One of the things that make guitar players recognizable is the way they vibrate strings. The way they create a specific tone adding finger vibrato. It really comes out in clean recordings. But if that’s not so clearly audible or plain hard to do, it comes down to different things to recognize a player. Timing and choice of notes become all the more important. So, that’s also a good way of making yourself noticeable. Play where the others are not, just a bit before or after the beat and stay in a not so crowded melodic range. Like always, the devil’s in the details..

Chromatic Runs

Chromatic runs are a feature of many gypsy jazz solos. In rockabilly, they’ve also become a staple.

House Cats – Performance

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this rockabilly guitar lesson on TrueFire.

House Cats – Breakdown

A free take on “Hit the Road Jack” and “Stray Cat Strut”. I was completely knocked out and still am hearing Brian Setzer’s “Stray Cat Strut” in the early 80’s. The tone of the big Gretsch guitar, the minor swing riffs, the whole vibe of the song. I spent hours trying to figure out what he was playing. By the time I sort of got it, I realized that I needed to dig deeper to truly understand what it was all about. Little did I know at the time of jazz guitar, big band chords, or tape echo. I’ve recorded this tune in the key of F minor. Not the easiest one, but it gives you some very cool harmonic open string options.

Rumble Jets – Performance

Download the tab, notation and jam track for this rockabilly guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Rumble Jets – Breakdown

Brian Setzer and The Stray Cats were a direct link back to the future for me. Setzer opened a lot of doors. I tell myself, this little tune could be one of theirs. Playing this kind of music live is great fun. I love the energy. People dance to it. Playing fast riffs is just cool here.

Dig these free guitar lessons? Check out the full course here: Slapback, Billy & Twang Guitar Guidebook