South­ern Rock Rhythm, riffs & so­los!

Turn the clock back to the 1970s as Richard Bar­rett takes in­spi­ra­tion from 10 of south­ern rock’s big­gest bands, each with a fully tran­scribed riff, solo and be­spoke back­ing track!

Guitar Techniques - - PLAY SOUTHERN ROCK -

Like all gen­res, it’s all too easy to hear one or two songs and pre­sume we know more about it than we ac­tu­ally do. In the case of south­ern rock, many will im­me­di­ately con­jure up the im­age of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, or Sweet Home Alabama. While this would be ab­so­lutely cor­rect, it would also be overly sim­plis­tic; a bit like think­ing we know all about heavy metal af­ter hear­ing Mo­tor­head’s Ace Of Spades. Along with these un­de­ni­able clas­sics there are dif­fer­ent takes on sim­i­lar ideas and dif­fer­ent in­flu­ences.

The most ob­vi­ous in south­ern rock is coun­try – the soar­ing slide gui­tar on Free Bird ful­fils a sim­i­lar role to the pedal steel on many a coun­try clas­sic – but en­com­pass­ing a more raunchy blues feel. Bernie Leadon’s Tele­caster play­ing on the Ea­gle’s ear­lier ma­te­rial takes its in­flu­ences from a sim­i­lar place, but with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent re­sult, also aided and abet­ted by the band’s flaw­less pro­duc­tion even on those early al­bums. The term ‘melt­ing pot’ is well on the way to be­com­ing a cliché, but it’s prob­a­bly the best way of de­scrib­ing the de­vel­op­ment of this style. Lit­tle Feat – fea­tur­ing the ex­pert slide gui­tar of Low­ell Ge­orge – took a funky ap­proach, pos­si­bly ab­sorbed from the funk and soul mu­sic they no doubt heard hap­pen­ing around them. Black Oak Arkansas syn­the­sised a mix­ture of blues, soul, coun­try and gospel (with singer Jim Dandy also man­ag­ing to be a ma­jor in­flu­ence on Dave Lee Roth). Us­ing care­fully ar­ranged multi-lay­ered guitars both live and in the stu­dio, the sound was not a de­lib­er­ately con­trived mix – it was a nat­u­ral prod­uct of the ab­sorp­tion of mul­ti­ple in­flu­ences, al­lowed to breathe and de­velop over hun­dreds of gigs.

The at­ten­tion to de­tail in the har­mony lines of the All­man Broth­ers and Ea­gles re­mains a source of won­der to all those who study it, even to­day. At the other end of the scale, Canned Heat take a much more blues-based ap­proach, with a sim­pler sound, of­ten us­ing har­mon­ica as a solo in­stru­ment rather than the gui­tar. Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter Re­vival also put a lit­tle less em­pha­sis on their in­stru­men­tal prow­ess, though it would be a par­tic­u­larly cold soul who didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate their earthy ap­peal. John Fogerty’s con­fi­dent gui­tar play­ing and soul­ful vo­cals sound great, even 40 years on.

Per­haps the ‘wild card’ of the bunch is Dixie Dregs, fea­tur­ing the pre­cise, mea­sured play­ing of Steve Morse. If you lis­ten care­fully, you’ll hear the coun­try in­flu­ence, though rock and jazz are present in equal mea­sure. It we’re go­ing to gen­er­alise about this, we should de­scribe south­ern rock as a very broad genre, en­com­pass­ing rock, jazz, blues, coun­try, soul and gospel – though there is un­doubt­edly more go­ing on, even than that.

The 10 ex­am­ples are for­mat­ted as fol­lows; first, a rhythm gui­tar, ac­com­pa­ni­ment, riff sec­tion. This then leads to a solo sec­tion over the same (or sim­i­lar) back­ing. The two sec­tions are tran­scribed sep­a­rately for your con­ve­nience. The back­ing tracks all run through a 16-bar cy­cle of rhythm, lead etc, so you can ei­ther switch be­tween the dif­fer­ent parts, or use the solo sec­tions to brush up on your dou­ble-track­ing skills: very good for the time­keep­ing. Hope you en­joy these ex­am­ples and see you soon.


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