My First Music Hero

I remember when I was 13 years old I had to write a music project in school on a musician we liked and I chose to do mine on Buddy Holly.

I had grown up listening to the early rock and roll star as my mum and dad had all his original records and they were regularly played on the record player.

Buddy was a pioneer of rock and roll. Long before The Beatles had written a hit song Buddy was charting on the radio with great songs like ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘That’ll Be The Day’.

His sound was so simple. Jerry Allison on the drums. Joe.B.Mauldin on stand up bass and Buddy singing and playing his famous black and white Stratocaster.

Holly was from Lubbock, Texas and was born on the 7th September 1936. He soon learned to play the guitar and sang songs with his siblings.

By 1955 Holly had opened for Elvis three times and had a recording contract with Decca records. He called his band The Crickets and so with a unique hiccup vocal style the spectacle wearing Holly was a bona fide music star by the age of 20.

Many hit songs followed including the driving beat of ‘Rave On’ and my favourite ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’.

Tragically his fame was short lived. On a snowy night on the 3rd February 1959 Buddy was killed in a plane crash along with the 17 year old music star Ritchie Valens and the big bopper. A life cut tragically short but a music legend that made a huge impression on a 13 year old!

The King of Rock and Roll?

Many people regard Elvis Presley as the king of rock and roll but I must disagree. For me Chuck Berry is the true king. When I think of Chuck I think of him playing Johnny.B.Goode with his famous red 335 guitar and doing his duck walk.

Of course Chuck was far more than one song and a stage gimmick even if it was great to watch. In the words of John Lennon ”if rock and roll were to be given another name it would be called Chuck Berry”.

Chucks early influences are in the blues but it wasn’t till he combined his rhythm and blues with his country style guitar licks that his musical sound came together.

His famous intro to Johnny.B.Goode and a few of his other classic songs i.e.roll over Beethoven are played using a mix of the major and minor scale but it was the way he mixed them and his brilliant use of double stops [ two strings played together] that created the unique Chuck Berry sound.

If you listen to a slightly more obscure Berry track, Down Bound Train you get to hear the skill of his lyric writing as he tells a story of souls lost on a train with the devil at the wheel, a fantastic song and with Chuck playing some great guitar including his trademark double stops its one of my favourites.

Chuck mostly played a Gibson 335 guitar, which is a semi acoustic guitar. He played straight into all valve fender amps on full volume to give him his sweet tone.

Not only did chuck have great songs and invent a new sound he was a fantastic showman. He invented the duck walk and could do the splits while still playing a blistering solo!

Chucks best decades were the 50s and 60s but in the 70s and 80s his music became less fashionable and he resorted to picking up his bands from town to town. Great music never dies though and his music has stood the test of time. If you are a young budding guitarist learning some of Chucks licks is a must and great fun also!

Chuck playing Johnny.B.Goode duck walking across the stage with his 335 is an image that won’t soon be forgotten.


Jimi Hendrix still the best?

After all these years since Jimi died on September the 18th 1970 at the tender age of 27 he is still widely regarded as the best and one of the most influential guitarists of all time. Given that he has been gone for over 40 years its a testament to the man and his extraordinary playing that he is still held in such high regard.

I suppose to be regarded as one of the true greats in music you need to take music in a new direction, invent a new style as it were. Chuck berry with his country rock guitar playing on classic tracks Johnny B Goode and roll over Beethoven to name a few influenced countless guitarists.  Dylan did it fusing folk and rock, muddy waters in Chicago electrifying his blues with his fantastic band including the legend little Walter. One could argue that Jimmy Page should be included here by distorting his bluesy riffs with zeppelin and creating the early seeds of heavy metal.

Of course Jimi’s technique was flawless, his mastery of his instrument there for all to see. As with most great rock players Hendrix’s roots were deep in the blues. In Red House we hear Jimi’s control of his guitar with his bending, vibrato and tasteful blues licks.

But Hendrix was much more than a great blues player. It was his mix of psychedelic rock riffs fusing with the heavy blues he loved [check out machine gun ] where he  excelled and his genius really showed. From Purple Haze with its unique solo mixing the pentatonic and harmonic minor scales to the wah riff of voodoo child’ his sound was new and innovative. Using Marshall amplification and his white Fender Stratocaster Hendrix used a variety of pedals to create new sounds even using a Leslie speaker usually used for Hammond organs on his wonderful little wing.

Of course great playing is no good without the songs to match and Hendrix was a brilliant songwriter and lyricist often writing lyrics that were poetic and dreamlike.

We will certainly never see the like of Jimi Hendrix again. Check out his version of the star spangled banner live at Woodstock in 1969. with his famous white strat, his Marshall amps on full volume, foot on his wah pedal he creates sounds on the guitar we never knew existed. Hendrix still the greatest? You bet!

Guitar Lessons – Grade 2

About Ben

Ben is a nine year old lad, and a complete beginner when he started learning the guitar, and we are now working on Rock School Guitar Grade 2.

What Ben is now playing

Ben plays a strat like his hero John Fuschanti and has chosen to do two songs from the Hot Rocks (sister book of the Rock School grades); Fleetwood Mac’s, ‘Albatross’ and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, ‘Californication’.  Each song requires learning very different guitar techniques, with finger slide on Albatross and cord strumming and bends on Californication.  The Hot Rock books are a great addition to the Rock School Book series, especially for kids, who can play the guitar licks of their heroes.

The future for Ben

Ben will be taking his Grade 2 Rock School Exams after Christmas.


Rock School Grade Books – 2012 to 2018

Guitar lessons – Grade 4 Student

Ryan’s background – where his guitar lessons started

I have been teaching Ryan guitar for nearly four years now and he has improved greatly in that time. When Ryan first started his lessons he was a complete beginner.  Since his first guitar lesson Ryan has completed Debut, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, and is now on Grade 4 Rock School Grades.

What Guitar piece I’m currently teaching Ryan

Ryan loves his guitar lessons using the Rock School Grade books as he really enjoys the diversity of the pieces. We are currently working on Dirt Wizard from the Grade 4, a piece that has its roots firmly in 70s rock and a riff that would make Richie Blackmore take notice!  Ryan loves the riff and we are working on getting his speed up and playing the power chords in time. We are also writing the solo for the piece which instead of using the standard minor blues pentatonic scale we have thrown in some nice harmonic scales too which sound great.

What’s Next for Ryan and his guitar lessons?

Ryan hopes to take his Rock School guitar Grade 4 exam in the next few months!  Good luck Ryan!!!