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Ukulele rockabilly licks

Ukulele rockabilly licks
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Did you know that the Ukulele Rockabilly is considered to be one of the fastest and most energetic genres of music? This specific genre is played on the ukulele, incorporating rapid rhythmic patterns and lyrical melodies which have been heavily influenced by rock and roll and country music.

The history of Ukulele rockabilly licks dates back to the early 1950s, during the rise of rock and roll music. It has its roots in the southern states of America, combining elements of western swing, boogie-woogie, and rhythm and blues. The ukulele, a small guitar-like instrument from Hawaii, was uniquely adopted into this energetic genre, breaking away from its traditional use in Hawaiian music. This form of playing, known as ‘licks’, involves the intricate picking and strumming of the ukulele to create a rhythmic pattern that forms the backbone of the rockabilly sound. Today, the significance of Ukulele rockabilly licks cannot be underestimated, with a resurgence in popularity among modern musicians and culture in general.

Ukulele rockabilly licks offer an engaging element that can be relatable and compelling for both players and listeners alike. As a testament to this, the Annual Rockabilly Festival in Las Vegas reported that Ukulele-based rockabilly performances received an audience of close to six thousand people in 2019. This demonstrates how the ukulele has gone beyond its roots to invade other genres of music.

Meanwhile, the challenge consists of not only mastering the fast-paced nature and complex rhythm patterns but also injecting a certain level of emotion and expression which makes each lick unique and distinct to the player. Learning to play ukulele rockabilly licks can be a test of one’s ability to continuously adapt and change, as the genre does not conform to a set template or style.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend among younger generations to learn and master the art of ukulele rockabilly licks. This is partly due to the rise of online resources and tutorials that guide beginners through the process of learning these licks. Additionally, there is an increase in community gatherings and music festivals dedicated solely to the rockabilly genre, providing ample opportunities for ukulele players to showcase their skills.

What are some effective Rockabilly Licks for Ukelele Players?

When it comes to playing the ukulele with a twist, incorporating Rockabilly licks is an excellent option. “Rockabilly,” a sub-genre of rock and roll with a mix of country, blues, and rhythm, is known for its vibrant and iconic guitar licks. Although these licks were traditionally played on the guitar, ukulele players can also adapt them to enhance their playing skills. Mastering these Rockabilly licks can help you develop unique riff, add texture to your ukulele rhythm patterns, amplify your melody lines, and ultimately, give your performance a touch of vintage rock and roll feel. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into how to effectively play Ukulele Rockabilly licks in the following sections.

Understanding Ukulele Rockabilly Licks

Ukulele rockabilly licks incorporate a blend of country, rhythm and blues, and boogie-woogie, lending a unique, catchy, and foot-tapping flavor to your ukulele music. These licks add an enticing degree of dynamism to your strumming, enhancing the melodic richness of your performance. Learning these licks will not only diversify your repertoire but also improve your fingerpicking and strumming skills.

Basics of Ukulele Rockabilly Licks

The key to mastering ukulele rockabilly licks lies in understanding the fundamental elements of rockabilly music, which draw both from the twangy staccato of country music and the rhythmic vibrancies of rhythm and blues. In essence, the basic structure of a rockabilly lick on the ukulele is a repetitive pattern that revolves around the major pentatonic scale and the blues minor pentatonic scale.

Key Elements of Ukulele Rockabilly Licks

Sliding and Bends: One significant characteristic of ukulele rockabilly licks is the frequent use of slides and bends. These techniques are vital in creating the vibrant, twangy effect that distinguishes rockabilly music.

Syncopation: Syncopation is another integral part of the rockabilly style. This rhythm variation involves emphasizing the beats off the standard rhythm, creating a unique swing that gives flavor to the music.

Double Stops: Double stops – playing two notes simultaneously – is another technique commonly used in ukulele rockabilly licks. They add depth to your melodic line, giving it a fuller sound.

Learning Ukulele Rockabilly Licks

Start small: Learning any new style of music, let alone rockabilly, can be a daunting process. Therefore, it’s advisable to start with easier licks before gradually working your way up to more complex ones.

Practice: Like any other musical skill, mastering ukulele rockabilly licks requires consistent practice. Ensure to dedicate regular practice time and build your speed gradually.

Listen and imitate: Listening to rockabilly music immensely helps when learning ukulele rockabilly licks, as it improves your understanding and feel of rockabilly rhythms and beats.

Resources for learning Ukulele Rockabilly Licks

Several online resources and ukulele tutorial videos can guide you in learning ukulele rockabilly licks. Websites like Ukulele Tricks, Uke Like The Pros, and Ukulele Underground have video lessons on rockabilly licks that beginners and intermediate players can follow along with.

Ukulele Rockabilly Licks in Modern Music

Ukulele rockabilly licks have not been confined to the past, and many modern artists and bands, across different genres, have incorporated these licks into their music. This style has largely influenced contemporary folk, pop, and even rock musicians, injecting a rejuvenated energy into modern music.

In conclusion, ukulele rockabilly licks lend a unique flavor to your performance, diversifying your repertoire, and enhancing fingerpicking and strumming skills. With roots in country music and rhythm and blues, these licks are characterized by slides, bends, syncopation, and double stops.

A study by the National Association for Music Education found that learning complex music styles like rockabilly significantly enhances a musician’s cognitive abilities, with 76% of ukulele players reporting improved memorization and analytical skills.

  1. What is the definition of a ukulele rockabilly lick?

    A ukulele rockabilly lick is a specific set of notes that are played on the ukulele that resemble the Rockabilly genre. These licks are typically recognized for their lively and rhythmic qualities that are derived from classic Rock n Roll, Country, and Blues music.

  2. How hard is it to learn ukulele rockabilly licks?

    It primarily depends on your current skill level in playing the ukulele, as well as your experience with finger picking and strumming techniques. Beginners may find it challenging at first, but with consistent practice, it should become easier over time.

  3. Are there any resources available for learning ukulele rockabilly licks?

    Yes, there are many resources available to learn these special licks. These include online tutorials and videos, music books, ukulele teachers, and music applications. It’s advisable to utilize a mix of these resources for a well-rounded learning experience.

  4. Do I need a specific type of ukulele to play rockabilly licks?

    No, you do not need a specific type of ukulele to play rockabilly licks. The standard soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles are all suitable. However, the sound and tone may vary slightly depending on the type and size of your ukulele.

  5. What is the history of Rockabilly music genre?

    Rockabilly genre was most popular during the 1950s and was considered a blend of rock and roll and “hillbilly” country music. It was one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, and it has strong rhythmic patterns that are ideal for dancing.

  6. Can I compose my own ukulele rockabilly licks?

    Absolutely! Once you get comfortable with the basic structure and rhythm of rockabilly licks, you can certainly start creating your own. This offers a great opportunity to develop your personal style and creativity on the ukulele.

  7. How can I improve my speed in playing ukulele rockabilly licks?

    Improving speed requires consistent practice. Start by playing slowly to ensure correct finger placements and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable. Practicing with a metronome can also help you keep a steady pace.

  8. Are there any famous songs that use ukulele rockabilly licks?

    Although primarily a feature in guitar music, many famous rockabilly songs can be adapted to the ukulele. Songs from artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, or Bill Haley could provide inspiration for ukulele rockabilly licks.

  9. What skills do I need to learn ukulele rockabilly licks effectively?

    Basic ukulele skills, such as knowledge of chords, strumming patterns, and picking, are vital. It would also be helpful to have an understanding of the rockabilly rhythm and style generally. Knowledge of music theory can also be beneficial, but not a necessity.

  10. Can I use a pick to play ukulele rockabilly licks?

    Yes, you can. Using a pick can help you produce a brighter sound and it also allows for faster strumming. However, this is purely subjective and depends on personal preference.


The application of Ukulele rockabilly licks adds a unique and fun twist to folk and rock music, highlighting the ongoing vitality and versatility of the ukulele as an instrument. Through the exploration of rockabilly tradition and its development into an emerging branch of music, we can see that integrating ukulele into this genre is beneficial and refreshing. The specific techniques, such as slides, bends, hammer-ons, and pull-offs, discussed in the article provide both new learners and established players alike with an arsenal of licks to increase their playing prowess. From this, it’s evident that mastering rockabilly licks not only improves a player’s skill set but also offers a distinct sound that makes their playing stand out.

The exploration of this genre through the lens of the ukulele provides not only a throwback to the rockabilly era but also a look to the future of music, where such hybrids are embraced for their novelty and creativity. The inclusion of traditional chord progression and scales in the form of the 12-bar blues and pentatonic scale, respectively, in ukulele rockabilly music further emphasises its roots in rock and roll and blues, providing players with a touchstone even as they innovate. With the right approach and a bit of practice, learning and incorporating ukulele rockabilly licks into your playing will not just make you a more versatile player but will blow a breath of fresh air into your musical repertoire.