IN THE WOODSHED
Step back in time and work on your rock and roll arpeggio rakes with this month’s trip down to the woodshed. Charlie Griffiths gets hep!
Charlie Griffiths helps you hone your skills. This month he moves on from Dorian mode to pulling out #4 licks from the Lydian.
This instalment we will look at ’50s and ’60s rock and roll arpeggio rakes. This technique is a hybrid of rhythm and lead guitar approaches and can be heard on many classic doo-wop songs, such as Bobby Darin’s Dream Lover, Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World, Crying In The Rain by The Everly Brothers and Diana by Paul Anka. Perhaps the most famous use of the raked arpeggio is by The Animals’s guitarist Hilton Valentine on their 1964 version of the folk-blues classic, House Of The Rising Sun.
The approach utilises barre chords held with the fretting hand which are arpeggiated using the pick. The picked notes are played in specific rhythms, using a mixture eighth notes and 16th notes, so some practice is required to develop the pick control required.
Example 1 is an introduction to the ascending and descending pick strokes we need to master. This uses a C barre chord, but you can apply it to any chord on four adjacent strings. First practise the three ascending notes, played with three downstrokes. For economy of motion try to think of these three downstrokes as one smooth movement across three strings. Allow the pick to glide from string to string in a smooth motion while letting the tip hit the strings on its journey. For the three descending notes use the pick to play three upstrokes in the same smooth fashion. This technique can be referred to as ‘raking’, but also ‘sweep picking’ as the pick ‘sweeps’ back and forth across the strings. For the final touch you can rest your palm gently on the strings at the bridge in order to lightly mute them. This gives the notes a percussive tone and also keeps them separated.
In Example 2, we use the same chord and the same technique, but this time the rhythm is different. Rather than the even, continuous eighth notes, we have quicker 16th notes mixed in. The focus here is to keep the tone, feel and tempo the same when switching between these subdivisions.
In Example 3 we start applying the picking pattern to a chord change. Here you can get used to moving the picking pattern from one set of strings to another.
Example 4 uses the classic ’50s or doo-wop chord progression, which is I-VI-IV-V. You will recognise this from songs like Duke Of Earl by Gene Chandler, Ben E King’s Stand By Me, A Teenager In Love by Bobby Vee, Crocodile Rock by Elton John, and Earth Angel by The Penguins (or for any Back To The Future fans, by Marvin Berry And The Starlighters, featuring Marty Mc Fly).
The fifth and final example is reminiscent of House Of The Rising Sun and is played in a ‘let ring’ style, rather than palm-muted.
Play through each example slowly and accurately, making sure that the picking movements are clean and precise before gradually speeding up. Jive, anyone?
THIS TECHNIQUE IS A HYBRID OF RHYTHM AND LEAD APPROACHES AND CAN BE FOUND ON MANY CLASSIC DOO-WOP SONGS
NEXT MONTH Charlie looks at the less common technique of bending the lower strings
Rakes can be played either downwards or upwards