Rock Around the Clock


So I recently picked up a new jazz box, an ES300.   When I was researching about the guitar as well as discovering that Django used the model on tour with Ellington in ’46, I also found out that it was the guitar that ‘Rock around the clock’ was cut on.  In a break in practice today, I thought I’d have some fun and have a go at playing the iconic solo. The guitar player on the record, Danny Cedrone was a session player and paid just $21 dollars for the session and died (aged 33) 2 months later after falling down some stairs. I also didn’t know that it was originally a B side and only found popularity due to being used in a film (Blackboard Jungle). The solo is also lifted off an early Bill Haley and his Comets tune from 1952, called ‘Rock the Joint’.  Danny never got to enjoy the popularity of this song or his solo, are the chromatic runs the influence of Django?

This tune is just a blues in A. For the A chord it uses an inversion with the major 3rd in the bass (A/C#). For the D chord it used a D9/F# and similar for the E it uses an E9/G#. If you listen carefully he often slides down the chord shape at the end of each rhythm phrase. For those attempting the solo, the first few bars (the crazy bit!) are all semiquavers/16th notes. I found it easiest just to keep the right hand going alternate picking. Try to avoid having a tense picking hand or too firm a grip on the plectrum. For the final chromatic run, for me it works best with fingers 1,2 and 3 instead of all 4. I think this comes from my Gyspy jazz playing, as this is often how chromatic runs are played.


Wes Montgomery: Mi Cosa


A student of mine put me onto this wonderful instrumental by Wes Montgomery, called Mi Cosa (My Thing in Spanish). Wes apparently recorded this in 1963 but it lay unused as an unaccompanied guitar piece for some time.

Guitar: 2015 D’angellico Exl1. The guitar is plugged into logic using the clean jazz setting. Didn’t fancy getting out the mics today…

E Funk/Rock blues backing track

My second foray into creating backing tracks resulted in this 12 bar E blues with a funk/rock feel. It has the following structure:

  • Twice round the changes (standard 12 bar blues)
  • Twice round the changes with stops on beat 1 of the first four bars
  • Once round the changes with a funkier feel
  • Twice round the changes where the rhythm parts have changed to a 16th note feel, creating the feeling of doubling the tempo
  • Once round the changes with stops on every bar
  • Once round the changes with a heavier feel
  • Coda (repeat last line 3 times)

I hope people find it useful for practice, the lead breaks hopefully break it up and make it more interesting than just the same feel all the way through. I am trying to create these to feel more like songs to play over than just a backing track. In terms of scales, there are a myriad of options. For me mixolydian works best due to the use of 9th chords instead of plain 7ths.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated or suggestions for future backing tracks as I am trying to do one every month or so.





Recent Gig rig


I have been playing some dates recently with Bristol based band Moscow Drug Club. Thought I’d share my rig from a recent show. Here I am using my John le Voi oval hole that is my main guitar for gigging. This is going through an AER via an audio technical AT31B clip on mic. Really pleased with the sound of this mic, really helps capture the sound of the instrument. At the odd gig I have ran into feedback problems, but 9/10 it works for me without having to resort to the bridge piezo pickup (bigtone). I have no love for the bigtone, it is pure functionality and offers a very bland sound (and this guitar sounds anything but bland!).

For a few electric numbers I used my ’59 330 reissue with factory fitted bigsby. This was going through the Fender Deluxe reverb ’65 reissue. For anyone considering a deluxe, it is far too much volume for home use, but for this particular gig it was perfect. People say Fender twins are heavy, but so is this to lug around! I find the vibrato a bit noisy when playing solo, but with a band the noise isn’t audible. It’s like a ticking noise as I presume the effect is applied even when you’re note playing. The amp has a wonderful clean tone and the combination of Gibson into a Fender amp always sounds good to my ears!

The Beatles: Something


I saw Paul McCartney last year and loved his arrangement of ‘Something’. He played the first half solo with his ukulele and then the band kicked in for the solo. I tried to go along those lines, didn’t turn out quite as I thought it would, bit of a clash of styles, but it was fun to do! The verse has one of my favourite chord sequences.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Bill Frisell lately, particularly his recordings of Beatles songs. So I guess his influence has rubbed off.  I initially checked out a Ted Greene arrangement, but ended up working out my own thing.

Excuse the one fingered bass playing, injured my middle finger 😦

The rhythm guitar is played with a capo at fret 3. Harrison originally wrote the song in A (check out the demo version) and then put a capo on for the album version, this gives you some of the open strings that you wouldn’t have with barre chords.  Harrison apparently told McCartney to play a simple bass line……message must have not registered!

Here is a great version from the Concert for George:

Hold Back the River


It’s great to hear guitar music in the charts and James Bay is certainly proving popular with my students. Hold Back the River is a great tune and a good introduction to pinching with right hand rather than using a pick.

Like me James, seems to favour red guitars and plays a cherry Epiphone Century from 1966! Here’s the tab of the main riff. Try to add vibrato at the end of each phrase to sustain each note. A good amount of reverb helps too.


James Bay Hold Back the river main riff

The final phrase of the song is most challenging. I prefer to use my thumb to play the note on the 8th fret low E string.


B minor atmospheric backing track


As a bit of New Year’s resolution I decided that given all of the backing tracks I use on YouTube it was about time I gave something back and put up some of my own. My first backing track is in the key of B minor. It contains the following chords:

  • B minor
  • G maj7
  • E7/G#
  • Aadd9
  • D maj7
  • F#7
  • Asus4

I suppose it’s an intermediate backing track as you can’t use the same scale throughout. The chords to watch out for are E7 and F#7 as these both contain notes outside of the key. Check the video description for further information.

The song structure is:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Bridge
  • Chorus
  • Interlude (same as intro)
  • Verse
  • Bridge
  • Chorus
  • Middle
  • Bridge
  • Chorus
  • Outro (same as intro)

I also thought that rather than having a static picture or chord chart it would be nice to have some images for you to look at whilst you improvise. These are pictures from my very amateur photography. They were taken in a small fishing village in Cornwall, England.

If you wish to use this backing track for anything other than practicing soloing, please email me

Please comment below if you have any feedback on the backing track or what sort of style I should go for next.