Sunday, December 6, 2009

How To Play Nadine Like Chuck Berry

Ah well, you can't.  But for earnest beginners, here's a good trick that took me about 37 years to learn. 

Most of you probably know this.  But I am slow. I’ve been trying to learn various Chuck Berry licks ever since I first started learning to play the guitar at age 16. Or sort of anyway. I never put enough effort into it. Once I could play a few I think I satisfied myself by mixing and matching and filling the rest with generic blues.

I’m telling this trick to one of my readers who 1) loves “Nadine” and 2) wants to learn to play the guitar.  I figure it might jump start him towards his bliss.

"Nadine" always gave me trouble because of it's unique bass line.  I could never figure out a decent way to play the rhythm. Then one day I saw the attached clip of Chuck Berry playing “You Never Can Tell” (very delightfully) and Eureka!  A whole new world opened up.

The first thing is to learn to make this sort of chord.

Or at least part of it. I do the three notes on the third, fourth and fifth strings with my wedding ring finger. Mine doesn’t bend backwards. It would help if it did. Anyway, I’m suggesting you learn to play this chord and start the song in whatever key feels comfortable for you to sing in. “E flat” actually works for me—and the frets are tight enough there that it’s not too difficult to do the next part, which is the difficult part.
I’ve always know that Chuck Berry plays a lot of his songs starting with this “A” style barre chord—especially songs that he’s doing in a key like “E flat” or even “C” that would be way up the fret board in the primary position.

But when I was watching “You Never Can Tell” I saw the key to playing “Nadine.” While playing this type of chord you need to reach your little finger over to the first, fat string. Hit it when you sing “Bus” and “Seat.” 

Go back and watch Chuck.  He's doing this in the video of "You Never Can Tell."

If you’re into Chuck Berry your little finger’s going to be strong and limber anyway. Work on this a few days and it’ll be even tougher. And you’ll start getting that sound from Nadine.

(And if you really get down in dumps—I think he does it on “Ding-a-Ling,” too.)

Years after writing the above I found this very cool video.  He does a lot better job than me, and gets to the second part, too!

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