Southern California is a breeding ground for all sorts of fantastic music and artists. In the early 1990s, it was home to a thriving punk rock movement. The bands coming out of California had a different take on the angst-ridden genre.
California is known for its beaches, sunshine, and good times. Combine this surfer lifestyle with the speed of punk rock, and Pop Punk was born. Groups such as Green Day, Blink 182 and The Offspring gave way to a global music movement that would capture the airwaves.
In this lesson, we are going to look at a few tips to get you playing guitar like your So Cal Punk heroes!
While you may think punk rock doesn’t need any musical theory, all the riffs in this lesson are constructed using the A Dorian Mode. The Dorian Mode is a minor feeling mode using the following notes:
Using this mode, you can effectively craft chord progressions and melodies.
Before we get too deep into this lesson, we must talk about an essential punk rock technique. Palm muting.
Palm muting is when you rest the palm of your picking hand on the bridge at the point the string hits the saddle. This allows you to get the “chug” punk rock sound that you hear on countless records.
This short exercise will help you get to grips with that technique. Each bar contains a quarter note power chord played without the palm muting, before three beats of eighth notes, which are all palm muted. You should still hear the pitch of the note, but the overall tone should be snappier when palm-muted and the notes should not ring out after.
Here is an example of constructing a punk style chord part. This uses moving power chords and palm-muted notes. The first bar and the third bars match the same rhythm we used in Example 1, with a quarter note power chord followed by three beats of eighth note palm-muted notes.
The bars in between start with three beats of eighth notes. The first note of the first beat and the “&” of the third beat are both played as power chords which are not palm muted. You are only palm muting the four hits in between these. The fourth beat is another power chord with an eighth note rest. This silent gap creates an impact on the next bar.
Count each two-bar phrase here as:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Pop punk guitar is full of melody. This melody is notes taken from the scale to create an upbeat melodic phrase that could be a great intro or verse part. The fourth fret of the D string is our F# note that the scale shows on the A string but it’s been moved for convenience.
Although each bar looks like there is a lot of movement, the rhythm here is straight. This is played as eighth notes all the way through except for the note that lands on the “&” of the second beat which is a quarter note. You can count this as:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Octaves are a great way of adding a melodic under current to a chord part or a chorus. This melodic octave pattern is straight sixteenth notes on a moving octave chord. The octave notes are all from the scale, and we are using D, E, F# and G. Think of each group of four as one beat.
Any notes from the scale can be laid out across the fretboard as octaves and used in the same way. They can double chords or create these melodic movements that compliment chord groupings.
This final example is a more frantic strummed, power chord pattern. This uses rests and hung notes for suspense and impact. The first beat is an eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes.
Beats two and three are straight sixteenths and beat four is a pair of sixteenths followed by a short, eighth note rest before crashing into the next bar.
The initial note that is sustained for an eighth note creates an accent before the faster groupings kick in. This frames the chord changes nicely. This with a few chord variations from the scale notes.