How to Play Like...Chuck Berry

October 20, 2005

Berry is arguably the single most significant guitarist in rock history, and his style—a hot-rodded hybrid of Hank Williams’ country swing, T-Bone Walker’s jump blues, Muddy Waters’ Delta soul, and countless boogie woogie piano players’ dance-floor riffing—has influenced generations of rock musicians, from the Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols to the White Stripes.

Based on songs like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Carol,” and utilizing a 12-bar blues progression in Bb as its template, the lively example below is chock full of classic Berry-isms. The sliding piano-like double-stops in bars 1 and 3 spark one of the most insurgent rock riffs ever, so play them with attitude! Bars 5-6 feature a repeating three-against-four rhythmic figure that outlines an Eb7 chord, while bars 7-8 incorporate tasty single- and double-note bends on the tonic Bb7 chord. Begin bar 9 with some snappy sweep picking before tumbling through more double-stops. Eventually, in the last measure, you’ll land on the root of the V7 chord (F7) to set up the turnaround back to Bb and the beginning of the cycle.

Go Johnny, Go!

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