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Joe Perry Rhythm Lesson

April 21, 2014

Although Joe Perry is famous for being a gunslinging lead guitarist, it’s his sense of rhythm that truly sets him apart. In this lesson we’ll examine some of his killer chord work. Aerosmith fans know, though, that the band’s rhythm sound is the product of both Perry and co-conspirator Brad Whitford and their interlocking parts. To really dissect Aerosmith’s twin-guitar assault is beyond the scope of this lesson—and most of us just play one guitar at a time anyway. So some of these riffs represent an amalgamation of parts that were originally played by the two guitarists together, and some are standard tuning approximations of lines that Perry plays in altered tunings—but all of them are funky and bitchin’, so let’s get the lead out.

Ex. 1 is similar to Perry’s awesome line in “Combination” off Rocks. He does a slinky slide between the 3rd and 4th frets, but I find it easier to hammer both the G and G#, hit the open A with the pick, and tag the open D with my middle finger. Obviously, do whatever makes it groove the hardest. Then play the same thing starting on A, which is also the verse riff.


Ex. 2 recalls the song’s pre-chorus riff, with power chords in place of Perry’s octaves. This moves around a lot, so make sure you think one step ahead at all times. Get this one up to speed and, like the song says, you’ll be walkin’ on Gucci wearin’ Yves Saint Laurent!



Ex. 3 is an approximation of the two chorus guitars. Keep the single notes greasy and hit the chords hard. You want a ’70s-era classic rock workout? Here ya go.



From the sound of it, Perry plays his dynamic “No More, No More” riff in a some open-E tuning (E, B, E, B, B, E maybe?), which definitely makes it easier. I’m too lazy to retune, so Ex. 4 is close enough.

The open tuning also enables Perry to play the riff in Ex. 5 with one-finger power chords. We’ll just fret ’em, but make sure you leave out the major 3rd. Also, resist the temptation to play E/G# on the and of beat four in lieu of the G# that’s written. Some classic Aerosmith progressions (most notably this one and “Sick As a Dog”) rely on the parallel motion of straight power chords to work their mojo. Think of Ex. 5 as the second ending to Ex. 4. The second time through Ex. 4, instead of playing the Badd4, go right to the A.



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