Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Orange Guitar: Freddie Green Rhythm

I’ve employed this chord sequence as a musical and versatile approach to embellishing the potentially mundane sound of a one-chord vamp.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Understand the basic elements of playing in the style of Freddie Green.
• Learn how to play three-note major and dominant chord voicings.
• Apply these shapes to different styles such as Gypsy jazz and rockabilly.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation and MP3 examples.

This is my first offering in my lesson series called Orange Guitar. I thought I’d demonstrate an idea that is easy, but sounds evolved. My favorite! I’ve used these chord shapes in every musical style imaginable, and they continue to be the staple of rhythmic swing-based playing. Let’s call it the “Freddie Green Walk-Up.” I’ve employed this chord sequence as a musical and versatile approach to embellishing the potentially mundane sound of a one-chord vamp. Best of all, it’s easy and I think it sounds great.

First, let’s learn the first two starting chords shown in Fig. 1, G7 and G6. One important thing—make sure your fingers approach the chord at an angle or a slant. This will mute all the open strings without any effort or thought. If angling your hand is uncomfortable then make sure the guitar is not parallel with your body. The guitar neck should be pointing out a bit from your body. The plus side is your fretting arm has more room to move and is more relaxed. The minus might be losing some visual access to the fretboard. But give it a try, as this allows for a relaxed strumming technique you might not attain holding the back of the guitar firmly against your chest. Now that we are comfortable with G7 and G6, let’s learn the walk-up. You can start with either G6 or G7, depending on genre and mood. For a more "bluesy" feel use G7; for a more major sound, use G6.



You can see in Fig. 2 how the walk-up works over two measures of G7. We take the shape that appears on beat 2 of the first measure and move it up chromatically. Now, let’s transpose the walk-up from G6 to C6, and then D7 as shown in Fig. 3. Again, it helps to angle your fretting hand so it naturally and easily mutes all the unwanted open strings. 



Remember, you can create many tonal variations through the placement of your picking hand. Notice that when you pick in the center of the guitar (above the soundhole on a standard acoustic), you create a rounder, mellower sound than if you pick by the bridge, where the sound becomes thinner and more metallic. Repositioning your picking hand is a technique that can be used to create dynamics and drastic changes in tone.

Next, here are some approaches for the walk-up that allow for genre hopping. The first is a Django-style swing feel using G6, C6, and D7 walk-ups. The strumming hand moves from your collarbone to your belt—it’s a large strum that might feel ostentatious or unnecessary. But it is necessary. Using a big motion, you can get a strong rhythmic punch that can drive a groove like a drummer.

Incidentally, this kind of rhythm style is based in the 4-string plectrum banjo, and it’s precedent comes from jazz-guitar pioneers like Eddie Lang and Carl Kress. For an overview of this era, I recommend the album Pioneers of Jazz Guitar, which features guitar greats Eddie Lang, Carl Kress, Lonnie Johnson, and more. This wonderfully satisfying era is where amplification and recording methods allowed players to put down their banjos and play the more dynamic 6-string guitar. In my opinion, this is a “must have” CD that anyone can enjoy.

Last but not least, let’s take an extreme genre hop and use the Freddie Green walk-up in Fig. 4—which might be how the great Merle Travis might have played it. Be sure you start slow and build up to a rapid-fire machine gun of peace-loving music. Attack the 6th string with a flatpick, the 3rd string with the middle finger, then the 4th string with the pick, and finish by striking the 3rd string with the middle finger.


You can use this when playing solo guitar or as a Scotty Moore-style rockabilly pattern. Again, start slow and adhere to the specific picking pattern I’ve suggested. If you take the extra five minutes to play it correctly, you’ll play it great the rest of your life!


Billboard calls Jim Campilongo “an American treasure." He spins a musical web that ranges from gorgeous to sinister, and in 2011 the Fender Custom Shop released his signature model Telecaster. His band with Norah Jones, the Little Willies, released For the Good Times in early 2012 on Blue Note. For more info and downloadable lessons that cover blues, country, jazz, and more, visit jimcampilongo.com/lessons.

This 1968 Epiphone Al Caiola Standard came stocked with P-90s and a 5-switch Tone Expressor system.

Photo courtesy of Guitar Point (guitarpoint.de)

Photo courtesy of Guitar Point (guitarpoint.de)

The session ace’s signature model offers a wide range of tones at the flip of a switch … or five.

Hello and welcome back to Mod Garage. Not long ago, I came home late from a band rehearsal, still overly excited about the new songs we played. I got myself a coffee (I know, it's a crazy procedure to calm down) and turned on the TV. I ended up with an old Bonanza episode from the ’60s, the mother of all Western TV series. Hearing the theme after a long time instantly reminded me of the great Al Caiola, who is the prolific session guitarist who plays on the song. With him in mind, I looked up the ’60s Epiphone “Al Caiola” model and decided I want to talk about the Epiphone/Gibson Tone Expressor system that was used in this guitar.

Read MoreShow less

Mdou Moctar has led his Tuareg crew around the world, but their hometown performances in Agadez, Niger, last year were their most treasured.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

On the Tuareg band’s Funeral for Justice, they light a fiery, mournful pyre of razor-sharp desert-blues riffs and political calls to arms.

Mdou Moctar, the performing moniker of Tuareg guitar icon Mahamadou “Mdou” Souleymane, has played some pretty big gigs. Alongside guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, and bassist Mikey Coltun, Moctar has led his band’s kinetic blend of rock, psych, and Tuareg cultural traditions like assouf and takamba to Newport Folk Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival, and, just this past April, to the luxe fields of Indio, California, for Coachella. Off-kilter indie-rock darlings Parquet Courts brought them across the United States in 2022, after which they hit Europe for a run of headline dates.

Read MoreShow less

How do you capture what is so special about Bill Frisell’s guitar playing in one episode? Is it his melodies, his unique chord voicings, his rhythmic concept, his revolutionary approach to pedals and sounds…? It’s all of that and much more.

Read MoreShow less

U.S.-made electronics and PRS’s most unique body profile make this all-American S2 a feast of tones at a great price.

Many sonic surprises. Great versatility. Excellent build quality

The pickup selector switch might be in a slightly awkward position for some players.

$2,029

PRS S2 Vela
prsguitars.com

4.5
5
5
4.5

Since its introduction in 2013, PRS’s S2 range has worked to bridge the gap between the company’s most affordable and most expensive guitars. PRS’s cost-savings strategy for the S2 was simple. The company fitted U.S.-made bodies and necks, built using the more streamlined manufacturing processes of PRS’s Stevensville 2 facility, with Asia-made electronics from the SE line.

Read MoreShow less