How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar – Jamming

How To Play Rock And Roll On GuitarIt’s been a long time since a rock ‘n roll,” Robert Plant sang on Led Zeppelin IV, and it truly has been a long time.

Rock ‘n roll is a danceable mix of blues, jazz, boogie-woogie, country, and R&B that was found in the USA. It was the soundtrack of the ’50s and had a huge cultural impact on teenagers after World War II.

The influence of rock ‘n roll with artists like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and the Everly Brothers on the second half of the 20th century is undeniable. It shaped pop, hip-hop, soul, rock, metal, disco, etc.

Pretty much all modern music can be traced back to rock ‘n roll, which is why I think it’s important to have at least an understanding of how to play it.

Luckily it’s an incredibly fun genre to play, so this lesson will be a lot of fun.

Let’s go!

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

  • Step 1. Power Chords
  • Step 2. Rock & Roll Riff
  • Step 3. Chord Progression
  • Step 4. Adding A Rhythm

Step 1. Power Chords

It’s impossible to play rock ‘n roll without power chords. We’re going to do some interesting stuff with those power chords, but need to get those power chords down first.

I did a lesson on power chords a few weeks ago. You can find it here: What’s A Power Chord?

Here’s a quick recap:

A power chord is a chord that exists of two notes: a root and a fifth.

The root is the interval that defines the name of the chord.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

The fifth can be found one string higher, two frets up.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

It’s possible to add an octave on the fifth fret of the D string, but that’s not necessary for this lesson. If you want to learn more about power chords, there’s a lot of information about them in the post I linked to above.

So there you have it, two fingers, two notes. All of the other strings are not supposed to make a sound. Power chords are easy, that’s why it’s so much fun to play them, especially for beginning guitarists.

Step 2. Rock & Roll Riff

Let’s take F5 (F power chord) as our starting point.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

The next step is to take our little finger and put it on the fifth fret of the A string.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

I suggest leaving your ring finger where it was because you will have to come back to it.

Going from the first picture to the second is a stretch, especially at first. But exercising this motion will strengthen your fingers.

Try going back and forth between the two chords. It should sound something like this:


This sound, accompanied with a danceable drum beat and the right chord progression, is what rock ‘n roll is all about.

Practice this for a while, because we’ll be doing a lot of this in this lesson. Don’t push on your thumb too much, and remember to place it correctly.

Don’t place it like this:

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

But place it like this:

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

Step 3. Chord Progression

The chord progressions that are often used in rock ‘n roll, are really close to the chord progressions we use in blues. Blues is something we already talked about. Here’s a link to the lesson I did on blues chords: Blues Chords. 

Most of rock ‘n roll is played on three major chords. The I, IV and V.

Below you can find a chart of all I, IV and V chords in the most popular keys.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

So if the I chord is F, the IV and V chords are Bb and C.

We already know where and how to play F5. Let’s see what Bb5 looks like.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

We place both our fingers one string higher. This is a relatively easy transition. Be aware that the low E string is now to be muted.

On Bb5, we’re going to do exactly the same as we did with the F5 chord. We’re going to add our little finger.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

C5 can be found here:

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

Apologies for the small font. I hope it’s not too small. The index finger is placed on the third fret of the A string and the ring finger is placed on the fifth fret of the D string.

And here again, we make the same motion with our little finger:

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

Now it’s a matter of putting these chords in a good-sounding order.

A common chord progression in rock ‘n roll is:







In F this becomes:







Now let’s add a rhythm, and we can start jamming.

Step 4. Adding A Rhythm

Rhythm in rock ‘n roll is not to be overlooked. It’s quite possibly one of the most important elements of the genre.

I mentioned above that rock ‘n roll was inspired by boogie-woogie. Boogie-woogie is largely associated with dancing. The rhythm is just so contagious it’s almost impossible not to at least tap your feet along to the beat.

“It’s got a backbeat, you can’t lose it,” is one of the lyrics in Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music”. This backbeat is essential in rock ‘n roll.

A backbeat is an accentuation of the even beats in a 4/4 time signature. The even beats being “two” and “four”. These beats are usually accentuated with a snare drum.

Listen to what I mean in this clip:


If this is complicated to you, this lesson on time signatures might be useful to you: What’s A Time Signature?

How To Play Rock And Roll On GuitarLet’s see what this sounds like when we add guitar.

We start on a regular F5 (the I chord of our progression). We’re playing eighth notes. This means we’re going to hit the strings on the beat, but also on the &’s in between the beats.

We stroke down on the beats (one, two, three and four), and we stroke up on the &’s in between the beats. Your right hand should be going down and up continuously.

We’re going to accentuate the backbeat by adding our little finger when the snare drum is played.

This should sound like this:


Be aware that we play the little finger-chord only one eighth note. The &’s after “two” and “four” are regular F5 chords.

When you know how to play this, you can do the same with Bb5 and C5, the IV and V chords. Same concept:

  • We start on the power chord
  • We’re playing eighth notes
  • Our right hand is going down and up (down on beat, up on &)
  • We add our little finger on the backbeat (two and four) for one eighth note.

The clip I played was 100 bpm. Practice with an online metronome if this tempo is too fast for you or if you want to practice faster. Rock ‘n roll is generally played fast, so slowly add two or three bpm every time you feel like you’ve got the tempo down.

How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar

So how do we play rock ‘n roll on guitar?

We’ve got our power chords, we’ve got the rock ‘n roll riff with our little finger. We’ve got a standard rock ‘n roll chord progression and we’ve got a groovy rhythm.

Put it all together, add some other instruments and this is what you get:


This is the chord progression:







Use this backing track as much as you want to practice. It’s free for you to use. It’s okay if this is too fast for you right now. Practice with a metronome until you feel like you’re ready. This is 150 bpm.


This lesson was a lot of fun for me. I hope it was helpful to you. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. I will be here to answer them.

Happy strumming,


2 thoughts on “How To Play Rock And Roll On Guitar – Jamming

  1. Wow! You really went out of your way, to do a thorough job of teaching how to play the rock and roll with guitar. 

    it’s good to appreciate foundation by learning how it’s done. Like you rightly pointed out, rock and roll is the root of most modern genres, so it’s wise to honor it’s memory by trying to learn it. 

    I love that you added audio to aid in tin learning process. Thanks for this much needed guitar tutorial on how to play rock and roll. 

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