There exist far too many variations of Jimmy Page’s 12-bar intro figure from
Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” to single
out just one wrong way to play it. And
that’s understandable, considering how
many live versions are in circulation, and
that the original studio version featured
multiple overdubs. But if you want the real
deal (referenced from The Song Remains the
Same) for one-man playability, here ’tis.
First, you’ve gotta come in at the right
time, so understanding John Bonham’s
deceptive, “where’s one?” drum intro—
which, like Jimi’s “All Along the Watchtower,”
still throws me every time I hear
it—is crucial. Legend has it that the song
was conceived during a short, spontaneous
jam after Bonham began playing the intro
from Little Richard’s “Keep A-Knockin’.”
Bonham accents his first hit so strongly
that we are faked out into hearing it as beat
one, when in actuality, he’s playing a 3/8
pickup starting on the and of beat three.
(Aha!) Ex. 1 reveals the opening count, the
pickup, and how Bonham accents a steady
stream of eighth-notes over the course of
four measures. Bars 1 and 2 are identical,
with accents falling on the one and the
and of beat three (just like the pickup).
In bar 2, Bonham nails the downbeat, but
shifts the next pair of accents to beat three
and the and of beat four, and then crosses
into bar 4 with two consecutive eighthnote
upbeats, followed by four accented
eighths that serve as a lead-in for Page’s
guitar figure, which commences on the following
To complete the 12-bar figure, repeat
Ex. 2, but drop Ex. 3a into bar 4, and then
shift the entire figure to the fourth and third
strings to cover the IV chord (D) in bars 5 and
6. Use the tritones from Ex. 2 to transition
back to A for bars 7 and 8, but replace them
with the ones shown in Ex. 3b to cover the
change to E, the V chord, where we transpose
Ex. 2 to the sixth and fifth strings for
bars 9 and 10. Similarly, use the tritones in
Ex. 3c to get back to the final I-chord round
in bars 11 and 12. Well done!
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