How to start playing rockabilly guitar now

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An upbeat country or ‘hillbilly’ tinged form of rock ’n’ roll, rockabilly often follows 12-bar blues patterns with the guitar mirroring basslines with arpeggios on the low strings.

What you need to know

Tone: Use ‘slapback’-style delay for a rockabilly sound. Set your delay to repeat almost immediately and with just one or two repeats. Delay time is around 50-100 ms. 

Buying guide

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Best electric guitars

Gear: Dial in a mid-rich, warm valve amp tone and opt for a Gretsch or Gibson big-bodied hollo electric guitar, ideally equipped with a Bigsby vibrato.

Tip: Rockabilly soloing often uses doublestops, which means barring across two strings at a time with your fingers. Try a few blues scale ideas, too.

Three key players to hear

1. Cliff Gallup 

2. Eddie Cochran 

3. Brian Setzer 

Rockabilly riff lesson 

(Image credit: Future)

Rockabilly riffing has an upbeat and bouncy vibe, so keep your picking light and lively. Bring out a twangy tone by picking the strings nearer to the bridge than usual. Maintain momentum by keeping your picking hand moving down and up constantly for both the riff and the doublestop lick.

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