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Link Wray's Rumble Guitar Lesson

I feel lucky to have a live-work loft now here in Vancouver so I can crank up the volume on the guitar amps, especially to get some rumble from natural tube distortion, which just isn't possible at low volumes.

Link Wray electric guitar pioneer

Link Wray was a man who understood that. Some say he invented the power chord. That seems a bit hard to believe to me, a chord that is so ridiculously simple it wasn't introduced until the 1950s? I don't think so.

Regardless, the man had an awesome sound and his 1958 instrumental hit, "Rumble," still amazes us today. I've introduced this song to many of my students in guitar lessons, and we listen to the whole thing every time just because it's so cool.

There are several tabs online for this song already, but none as accurate as mine. So here it is below. But first, a little analysis of the song so that we can learn from Link Wray.

Rumble Analysis

Bars of 2/4

The first thing I did not notice about the song was the odd structure. Really I didn't notice this until I tried writing it out. There are bars of 2/4. The song flows so well it never occurred to me that there were shorter measures inserted in parts of the song.

Some advice on playing these parts: If you're struggling to get it right, you can count it as you play until you get it. But I believe it's important to be able to perform any song without counting in the end. I find that if we are counting, the music just doesn't come out as natural as it could.

You can also try singing the song out loud if you're struggling with the short bars. If you can sing it, you can play it!

The D5/A Chord

I am pretty sure he plays an open D chord that does not include the highest pitch (F#) that we would normally play. The F# would sound too bright in that chord, and I'm not hearing it myself. But I'm pretty sure he plays that open A string at the bottom.

This makes it a D5/A chord, which would be: X0023X.

For those of you not yet in-the-know, the "slash-A" just means that it's a D major chord but with A as the lowest pitch. Thus we have a D chord that includes the open A string ringing below. This lower pitch gives us some of the "Rumble" we need.

It's called a D5 chord in this case because we are not including the F# in the chord. Therefore, all we really have are the notes: A, D, A, D in that order. That's just the root (D) and the fifth (A) of the chord.

It's just a power chord but with two of each note. It's a powerful, strong chord. No messin' about.

E Minor Pentatonic Lick

At the end of each verse comes the famous lick and I still think it's cool that it's just E minor pentatonic in open position. It's just descending a scale -- the first scale that most of us learn when we take guitar lessons. Can we even call this a "lick?" I don' know but it sure sounds cool.

Tremolo strumming

The part that's about two thirds of the way through in which he wildly strums a chord up the neck isn't as hard as it sounds. First off, it an E chord played at the 12th fret.

The shape is this: x-x-x-13-12-12

I believe it's a sextuplet, and if I'm right then it's just twice what a triplet would be. You will certainly have to strum down and up to get it that fast and be careful not to hit any of the other strings that are not included in the chord. Whenever I have to strum a really fast part like that, or do any tremolo picking, I remind myself to keep my strumming arm relaxed. It's natural for us to tense up, thinking that we need to put all our effort in to get the speed up. But if we flex all our muscles we'll just get tired. As soon as I relax my wrist I can keep the speed up for quite some time.

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