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For our second rhythm pattern (Fig. 3), we’re going to explore Gatton’s country/rockabilly sound with a straight-ahead idea in E. This snappy style had a big influence on his music, especially later in the Elektra phase of his career.
We’re again giving both the pick and fingers a workout, playing the notes on the 6th and 5th strings with the flatpick and plucking the notes on the 3rd string with the middle finger. To make this pop a little more, try palm-muting the notes on the low string. This will really help emphasize the melodic quality of the sixths (played on strings 5 and 3).
Here’s a nice little twist: add the open 4th string to the double-stops (Fig. 4). This creates a thicker, more complex sound, which works well over an E7 chord (D is the b7). This ups the game with our hybrid picking, so take it slowly and gradually build up your speed.
As with our previous example, I’ll take this through a full 12-bar progression to give you an idea of how you could use this when jamming on a blues (Fig. 5). After playing the idea in E, move over a string and play a similar passage on the 5th string. While you can certainly play notes a sixth apart, I find that for rhythm guitar they work better in lower registers.
Again I’ve added an effect to pad this idea out a little. If you want to get this sound, you’ll need a “slapback” echo. If you have a delay pedal, set the repeats to 1 with the delay volume at about 70 percent. Keep the delay real short, so after you pluck the note it’s instantly thrown back at you. This is a big part of the iconic rockabilly sound.
Obviously we’re only scratching the surface of Gatton’s incredible style here, and next month we’ll delve into his fantastic lead guitar with some blues solos.
In the meantime, I’d recommend checking out some of his records and the endless collection of bootleg footage available on YouTube, because as fantastic as he was in the studio, this man was all about playing live.