Chet Atkins Yakety Axe

Jon Bishop tran­scribes a rip­ping ver­sion of Yakety Axe by coun­try gui­tar vir­tu­oso Chet Atkins. This tune is fa­mous for be­ing used in The Benny Hill Show and is both chal­leng­ing and fun to play.

Guitar Techniques - - PLAY: COUNTRY -

YaketY axe was recorded in 1965 by Chet atkins, and is a cover of the clas­sic 1963 sax­o­phone frenzy en­ti­tled Yakety sax. the orig­i­nal was per­formed by Homer ‘Boots’ Ran­dolph. It was used for the Benny Hill show on tV, thus ce­ment­ing it in the minds of the view­ers for ever.

For the Chet atkins ver­sion (which ap­pro­pri­ately sub­sti­tutes the word sax with axe!), the sax­o­phone melody is re­worked to fit onto the gui­tar. The first stage of this re­work­ing was to change the key to the coun­try gui­tar favourite of G ma­jor. G ma­jor al­lows var­i­ous open strings to be utilised, and also has the ad­van­tage of pro­duc­ing full sound­ing acous­tic rhythm fin­ger­ings.

From a har­monic per­spec­tive there are only two sec­tions to mem­o­rise, and we have la­belled th­ese the cho­rus and the bridge. the cho­rus fea­tures the main melodic theme com­plete with comedic glis­san­dos, while the bridge sec­tion is the pro­gres­sion over which the gui­tar and har­mon­ica so­los are played.

the song changes key to C for th­ese bridge sec­tions and then back to G for the fi­nal two cho­ruses. the melody lines from the orig­i­nal sax­o­phone ver­sion are de­liv­ered with a clas­sic coun­try style gui­tar tone, and aug­mented with other coun­try and rock­a­billy style vo­cab­u­lary.

the in­stru­men­ta­tion for the back­ing band on the record con­sists of, drums, bass and acous­tic gui­tar. there is also a brief har­mon­ica solo to pro­vide a dif­fer­ent flavour. the drum track has a coun­try ‘train’ style feel with a 4/4 time sig­na­ture and a speedy tempo. From a struc­tural point of view Yakety axe uses a sim­ple 16-bar form for both sec­tions.

One of the se­crets to per­form­ing this track the way Chet does, is the ad­di­tion and use of the thumb pick. the thumb pick adds ex­tra def­i­ni­tion to the sound while main­tain­ing the full fin­ger­style fa­cil­ity of the pick­ing hand. (see tech­nique Fo­cus for more de­tails).

For the Gt recorded ver­sion we have recre­ated the har­mon­ica solo so you can take a quick rest be­fore the fi­nal two cho­ruses. there is no need for a count-in on the back­ing track as the piece opens with three bars of the band, so when you hit play brace your­self for a

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