While Surf music may have had its heyday back in the 60’s thanks to artists like Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, the Ventures, and the Beach Boys -- it’s sound has not been frozen in time. In fact, Surf music and surf guitar have evolved over the years, into its own distinct array of colors and feeling.
In Jason Loughlin’s Surf Guitar edition of Essentials, you’ll explore a variety of Surf music styles, as well as some of the styles that orbit Surf music. Surf music doesn’t have a lot of improvisation in it, as it's primarily focused on melody and arrangement, which is what Jason focuses on throughout the course.
”We'll work through 10 instrumental studies that examine early Surf music, its influences, its offshoots, and how Surf music has evolved over the years. We’ll start off with a Ventures-inspired study, a Duane-Eddy-style study, and a study in the style of the Shadows. We’ll also play through studies that examine Exotica style Surf guitar parts, Surf band styles from the 80’s, the punk sounds of 90’s Surf rock, Hawaiian Surf music, Cuban-influenced Surf, and a study focused on a Misirlou-inspired surf guitar approach. I’ll first play each study for you, and then I’ll break it down note for note so that you can get it under your fingers.”
Jason’s 10 Performance studies cover the range of techniques, feels, and chord progressions that are most common in traditional and modern Surf music styles. For each study, Jason will demonstrate the performance and then break it down for you emphasizing key concepts and techniques.
Coral Blunder - ”The Ventures with Nokie Edwards' clean Jazzmaster tone and Mel Taylor's aggressive drumming have to be the quintessential surf band. This study is primarily in E major, though we do have a couple of shifts in keys. We have the classic surf beat underneath, Farfisa organ, bass and rhythm guitar. We have a call and response part of a low melody and a high arpeggiation in the first section. Then, we switch gears and arpeggiate our way into the key of A major. Then, we shift again this time to E minor. For this study, I start by establishing a call and response between a low melody and raking through an arpeggio in the upper register. Both phrases outline the arpeggios with very few passing notes. The progression we're playing over is E, C, and A.”
Rebel Twang - ”Duane Eddy's contribution to surf is as important as The Ventures, but the music is pretty different and walks the line between early rock 'n' roll and surf. He often uses the twist beat, but occasionally you hear train beats and two beats. Duane's guitar tone is a little twangier than The Ventures mostly due to the fact he used Gretsch guitars instead of Jazzmasters and Mosrites. For this study, we'll be modulating from E major to F major. This study is based on a simple I-IV-V progression. No harmonic surprises. The melody in the first key will be in the low register targeting chord tones. When we change keys, we'll be harmonizing that same melody with major triad inversions.”
King of Surf - ”Dick Dale brought two very important things to surf music: A punk energy and the use of exotic scales. Often known as the King of Surf Guitar, his ferocious tremolo picking was and is like no one else. This study is in E major. However, there are a couple of twists and turns though that blur the sound of E major. In our first break from the E chord, we have a descending progression of Am, G, F, and E. This is strange because it implies E minor with the first two chords, but then seems to be harmonizing the E Phrygian dominant with the last two. Technically, we’ll be using tremolo picking, palm muting, and rakes through chords.”
Sand Flea - ”Though improvisation isn't common in surf music, it does happen. This is an Aquarium Solarium tune I wrote that's inspired by the later Ventures records. Improvisation became more common in the later Ventures records when they were covering country, R&B, and other popular styles. It's also inspired by the guitarist Billy Strange's records. Here we have a twist beat and a bass ostinato similar to Ray Charles' "What I'd Say." We start in A minor with a vamp and then modulate C# major to start the head. The head is played over a 12 bar C# blues progression. After playing the head, we'll solo using the minor pentatonic, blues scale, double stops, and occasionally targeting chord tones.”
Showdown on the Silver Sands - ”British bands like The Shadows and pop producers like Jack Nietzsche's brand of surf is more elevated than their predecessors. Jack Nietzsche's record The Lonely Surfer featured baritone guitar and orchestration for a large ensemble including strings. Definitely a new take on surf music. For this study, we have a bolero rhythm throughout, something that The Shadows used often. The progression bounces back and forth between E major and F major, not a modulation but a shifting of the tonal center. The majority of this melody is built by playing only chord tones. The melody here is rather simple. You’ll be outlining arpeggios, using a natural minor scale and palm muting. I'm also adding some vibrato with the bar to add life to the notes.”
Sands of Waikiki - ”We have to take a look at Hawaiian music to start understanding the harmony and the mood that has influenced surf music. We'll be using a bVI to V and a II7-bII7 turnaround. The bII is a tritone substitution of the V chord. The rhythm track is traditionally Hawaiian with ukulele and an arch-top guitar in unison and a bass simply playing on beats one and three. Tempos for Hawaiian music tend to be mid-tempo or on the slow side. The melody is always the top note of each chord voicing. The star of Hawaiian music is the lap steel guitar. We can imitate this tuning by using major 6th chord voicings, glissandos, vibrato bar dips, and artificial harmonics.”
Forbidden Village - ”Martin Denny is known as the father of exotica and the soundtrack of Tiki Culture. Exotica has always been a sister genre to surf music. This study starts off with an E6/9 chord and then adds the major 7th. We'll walk this down to a Baug7 and back to E. We’ll be altering the IV chord by adding a dom7 and b5. Next, we’ll follow the melody with the major chord shape. The turnaround can be looked at a couple of ways. You can see it as Gaug7 to B7 or look at Gaug7 as an inversion of an altered B7. If we were to think of it relating to B7, it would be spelled from bottom to top: b5, Root, 3rd, and #5. The second section starts on an Eb major chord. This is the beginning of a chromatic progression to goes as follows: Eb, E6, Eb+, E6, F, E, Eb, D, and Emaj7. Everything with the exception of the last chord is a half step away from each other. The trick is finding a melody that helps connect them in a way that makes it less obvious.”
Surfer’s Mambo - ”For this study, we're going to move to the Atlantic Ocean and look at the contributions of legendary Cuban guitarist Manuel Galban. This study is the first minor-key surf tune we're looking at in this course. We'll play in G minor and use a Latin feel rather than a surf beat. The majority of the study goes back and forth between Gm and D7 or i and V7. It's common to add the b9 to the V7. We can use diminished arpeggios as an easy way to access the 3rd, 5th, b7, and b9. This study also incorporates chromatic runs with octaves and chord inversions. Think of chromaticism as an effect. Origin and destination are most important. How you use chromatic movement between them is just going to be heard as a tension. This study will also cover double stops, triad inversions, and palm muting.”
The Sea Generation - ”There are two surf bands in my opinion that standout in the 80's and they were both from the Bay Area. The Aqua Velvets defined their sound by using strings, horns, keyboards, and exotic instruments. The Mermen do an amazing job of marrying 80's alternative rock and surf. This study will focus on The Mermen's style of surf. For this study, our progression is pretty simple. The track is in C. In the first section, the progression is C to Am or I to vi. The second section is G to Am, or V to vi. The rhythm has a surf beat, but the bass is driving 8th notes more than traditional surf. You'll also notice a high chimey guitar playing 8ths. We'll be using a lot of open strings to fill out the sound and leaning a little heavier on the effects. I'm using chorus, delay, and spring reverb.”
Sci-Fi Surf - ”This study takes a look at the standout surf rock bands of the 90's. Bands like Man or Astro-man? and Hawaii Samurai took the 60's surf sound and combined it with a new wave punk sound of the 80's. Man or Astro-man? has to be my favorite of this sub-genre. This study loosely combines the style of Man or Astro-man? and the punk influence on surf. The study will take use of b5ths, b6ths, and b9ths both in the melodies and in the progressions. As you would imagine, because of the punk influence, the guitar sound is going to be more distorted than traditional surf. The key is to make sure the sound of the spring reverb is still present. When looking at genres like this, you begin to realize how important spring reverb is to help define the surf sound.”
All of the key examples and performance studies are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes. You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can play, loop and slow down the tab and notation as you work through the lessons. Plus, Jason includes all of the backing tracks for you to work with on your own.
Grab your guitar, brah, and let’s hang ten with Jason Loughlin!