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Bo Diddley: Introduction


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Bo Diddley

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What's up people! Today we're going to learn how to play a classic among classics in the song "Bo Diddley" as made famous by the man himself, Bo Diddley.

We'll be looking at just 1 guitar today but it is an essential guitar part that has influenced countless of songs and is still being incorporated into modern day music. What we're going to focus on is the Bo Diddley beat. And the Bo Diddley beat is a rhythm phrase played over 1 chord for 2 bars. Basically the whole song is just on a G major chord played with the Bo Diddley beat. So it's all up to the rhythm to create the excitement in the arrangement.

Bo's guitar playing was not about leads or blistering solos, it's all rhythm and groove. Even the lead parts we're going to look into for the song are just other rhythm parts.

But make no mistake this song is not an easy task to pull off just because it doesn't have any single string lead playing. The Bo Diddley beat is no joke and is quite often misinterpreted. Once you find the right place in the pocket, it is a great groove to be in!

Another thing that we're going to look into that is very much a part of what makes Bo Diddley's guitar sound the way it does is a couple of tricks. To make the Bo Diddley beat sound the way it does, he would have both a nice big reverb and a slap delay as well as a pretty intense tremolo. All these extra little bits combined with the rhythm of the Bo Diddley beat creates a really interesting sound that has a lot of texture and extra rhythmic flavor. Another thing that will add a bit of texture is the fact that we'll be using a capo on the 3rd fret of the guitar. So we'll be playing what looks like an open E but is really a G barre chord. And this is a very interesting approach because you can play the song without the capo, but what Bo Liked to do is let the open strings ring out with the reverb and tremolo while he did the lead playing.

So there are a lot of things going on here to make it sound the way Bo Diddley used to.

For the arrangement of the song itself we're going to start right out of the box with the Bo Diddley beat on our nice big G chord and play through the first verse. After the first verse we're going to vamp on the G chord but then go into some lead playing, but in true Bo Diddley fashion we're not going to go for a crazy blues solo but instead we're going to look into some chord voicings and double stops that Bo is moving around in the key of to create some really tasty harmonic tension.

So the basic arrangement of the song is going to be vamping over the G chord into the verses, drop down to some lead playing, back into another verse and continue that same way. The song is very much a jam and the form is very free, so another lesson to pick up on here is to listen to the singer. Because the singer is going to dictate what happens next in the song.

We'll be counting the song in 4/4 time signature but we'll be playing it in cut time meaning that we'll actually play in bars of 2 at a fast tempo. This will make more sense when we start talking about the rhythmic phrasing of The Bo Diddley beat. And the tempo mapped out for our backing track today is 105 BPM.