Chuck Berry Style Motif

This lesson is dedicated to the memory of Chuck Berry who gave Rock n Roll it’s style, attitude and many of it’s classic riffs. Many of Chuck’s ideas and basic riffs were derived from T-Bone Walker before him but Chuck adapted them to suit a more aggressive Rock n Roll attitude rather than a Jazz based Blues attitude.

Chuck Berry’s guitar riffs are often over simplified

Unfortunately even today many of Chucks basic riffs have been incorrectly transcribed and misunderstood or just over-simplified. Chuck was a more complex player than you actually think and his riffs are often misunderstood both rhythmically and ornamentally by many who have tabbed his music. In fact there is just not enough Chuck Berry sheet music and tab available and those that are available are not of the best quality nor accuracy.

As an example I am giving you one of Chuck’s more popular motifs. You can hear this in tracks like ‘Roll Over Beethoven‘ and ‘Down the Road Apiece’. This is an example of how one of Chucks’s more popular motifs is normally transcribed. Then after a short one bar break I give you my interpretation of this motif after listening to it on the recordings by Chuck. The changes are subtle but to my ears exist and the subtlety belies the fact that Chuck was a great player and there is actually a whole lot more going on in his guitar playing than you at first think.

You will notice from the tab that there is a great deal more ornament to the motif with the emphasis on slides and shifts rather than just the legato phrasing that most people have come to associate with this particular motif.  In fact Legato Phrasing is not something you see in Chuck’s guitar repertoire. Legato requires you to pick the first note then pull off to sound the next note and the next if there are 3 notes. What you tend to get is that the last note sounds much weaker than the first note and this is something that you do not hear in Chuck’s style which suggests that the final note is a picked note and not a pulled off note. In fact in the Motif the final note is the most emphasised note and held for longer than the other 2 preceding notes this would be difficult using legato phrasing and is the reason why it sounds wrong when you you try to play it like that. Then there is also a more complex rhythmic idea going on as well. Once you get to grips with this concept it allows and suggests a far greater creative potential  at Chuck’s disposal and that you can also adapt to use in your own playing style as well. The variation and the possibilities are endless. This is based on an interpretation of how Chuck would play it based on what I have heard on the recordings. You can change it around as well to suit yourself and what you hear on the recordings.

Follow this link for a printable pdf version

Berry’s Style for the Record pdf version

Here at 120 bpm


Here it is slowed down to approx 100 bpm

Hope you have some fun with this!

Here is an example of how Angus Young interpreted a similar Chuck Style Motif

This is an example of how Angus Young used a similar Chuck Berry Motif. Again notice the use of the slide in the triplet Motif.

Here it is slowed down.

Here is a link to the pdf for Angus Interprets Chuck

Chuck Berry suggested listening: Oh Baby Doll, 30 Days( Solo Section is just mind-blowing awesome), The Promised Land, Roll over Beethoven and Down the Road Apiece.

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