Rock Guitar Lesson Topics

Rock music is a style in which the sonic possibilities of the guitar--particularly the electric guitar--are readily apparent. Rock offers the guitarist so many opportunities to do so many different things, that there's really no way to learn it all in one lifetime. It's an exciting style for beginners and advanced students alike.

Rock is such a massive and varied genre that it would be easy to get lost if you just say "I want to be a rock guitarist." Instead, you might try starting with your favorite bands and guitarists. Are you into Metallica? Learn a Metallica song! Hendrix? The Black Keys? Learn their riffs and solos. As with any style, it is important (and fun!) to try and get a tone that is pleasing to your ear. If you can, try many combinations of guitars, amps, and pedals and see what works best for you.

As mentioned there's a lot to learn, but you're going to love it. As your level of ability progresses, you'll likely touch on the following topics:

Beginner

  • Pentatonic scales
    • Construction
    • 5 basic fingerings
  • Importance of pentatonic scales to the language of rock guitarists
  • Alternate picking
  • Study of 12 bar blues
  • Blues scale/pentatonic scale relationship
  • Blues licks and phrasing
  • Fundamental rock guitar techniques
    • String bending
    • Vibrato
    • Hammer-ons
    • Pull-offs
    • Slides
  • Major scale and Major scale diatonic harmony (triads and 7th chords)
  • Importance/function of I, IV, and V chords and study of chord shapes
  • Open position chord voicings
  • Power chords
  • Barre chords

Intermediate

  • Study of early blues solos and their relationships with rock guitar solos (comparing a solo of Muddy Waters to Jimi Hendrix, for example)
  • Importance of Dominant 7th chords in rock music
  • Analysis, learning of favorite rock songs:
    • Chords progressions and solos
  • Modes of the major scale and related chords
  • Uses/applications of different modes in rock songs
  • Two-handed tapping
  • Whammy bar techniques
  • The rock guitar sonic palatte:
    • Use of distortion, reverb, delay, etc.
  • Historical development of rock guitar style/significant guitarists:
    • Blues Guitarists: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, etc.
    • Rock guitarists: Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton
    • Chuck Berry (one of the first
    • Roots in blues
    • Rhythm playing/lead playing analysis
  • Importance/influence of 12 bar blues and blues music on
  • Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Pete Townsend, Keith Richards
  • Birth of Heavy Metal guitar styles from music of the 70s (Van Halen, Led Zeppelin)
  • Influence of the vocal qualities of blues singers/guitar players on rock guitarists
  • Heavy metal guitar styles: drop/lowered tunings
  • Metallica's guitar styles: Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield

Advanced

  • Functional analysis of rock chord progressions
  • Investigation of song forms (Intros, Verses, Chorus, Bridge, etc.)
  • Position playing and learning scales in all positions/alternate fingerings in positions
  • Major, Minor, Diminished, Augmented triads and chord functions
  • Harmonics, artificial harmonics, pinch harmonics
  • Sweep/economy picking
  • Rock guitar styles of the 70s, emergence of Van Halen and his technical/sonic contributions to the instrument
  • Influence of Van Halen's guitar style on major rock guitarists of the 80s: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, etc.
  • Minor scales/related chords and uses in rock guitar: Aeolian, Harmonic, Melodic, Dorian -7th chords and chord functions
  • Arpeggios: three note (triads), four note (7th chords)

Rock Guitar Heros to Check-out

A list of great rock guitarists to check out would probably stretch 4 or 5 miles. Which players you check out depends on your tastes, and the kind of rock you like. That being said, here's a list of players that every aspiring rock guitarist should be aware of:

  • Chuck Berry
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Angus Young
  • Slash
  • Eric Clapton
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • The Edge
  • Jimmy Page
  • Johnny Ramone

If we've whetted your appetite and you're now feeling hungry for more rock guitar goodness, here's a small sample of what the internet has to offer: