The roots of instrumental rock and surf music sprang from this immortal 1960 cut from the Ventures. This is one of those recordings that changed history, and the way a guitar sounded and was played. It marked the end of the 50s, and anticipated the larger role for rock guitar in the 60s and beyond. In the tradition of countless groundbreaking rock records made since, it’s a true hybrid combining some pretty unlikely sources. Back then, jazz, country, and rock ‘n’ roll didn’t have much in common. Not much, that is, until the Ventures tackled Walk Don’t Run. Written by virtuoso jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, it came to guitarists Bob Bogle and Don Wilson by way of Chet Atkins, who did a simplified version on his Hi Fi In Focus album. Bob, a heavy Atkins fan, and Wilson simplified the chords and arrangement even more, added a rock drum beat, and presto – a classic was born!
The first instrumental hit by a real instrumental rock band, Walk Don’t Run is essential guitar listening and essential guitar playing – just ask Joe Walsh; it’s high on his all-time list. The number of guitar players influenced by this track is endless, and it grows to this day. Including it in your repertoire is a vital part of becoming a complete modern guitarist.
Tune all strings up a quarter step to match the record. Probably the result of a fast tape machine, an out-of-tune piano for reference at the session, or just tuning to each other without a fixed reference point.
The intro rhythm guitar part, played by Gtr. 1, is made of parallel barre chords. These are based on the open E shape. Finger an open E major chord with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers. Slide that shape up one fret, and then barre at the first fret with your index finger to form an F major barre chord [Fig. 1]. Name that chord from the note on the 6th string which is its root. That form is now movable and can be played in any position on the fretboard. This is exactly what happens in the song’s main rhythm guitar part. Throughout the head and bridge, open chords, in common fingering forms, are also used. These are C, Am, G, and E.
Gtr. 2 plays the melody of Walk Don’t Run which has a very distinctive clean vin-tage Fender sound (Bogle used a Jazzmaster and Wilson played a Strat). The melody is a perfect example of making music with a simple open-position scale. Most of the lines are single-note passages with an occasional dyad (two-note chord) added for texture. These are found in the form of parallel thirds in the head, and a fourth and thirds in the bridge. In the bridge, the melody makes use of arpeggios. Here, the F and E chords are played out in single-note form [Fig. 2].
Walk Don’t Run was one of the first rock guitar tunes to make conspicuous use of the vibrato bar in phrasing a melody. The Ventures no doubt got the idea from listening to Chet Atkins, who used a Bigsby vibrato bar, often in the same way. Of course, the Fender tremolo bars allowed more pitch change and range than the Bigsbys, and so what we get is what always happens in rock – a new, more radical version of a previously accepted technique. For those not familiar with vibrato bar use, this is an excellent introduction. Learn the entire melody first, then gradually bring in the bar technique to add a subtle vibrato to the notes and chords in the song. The final chord gets a true pitch-change treatment. Fret the C chord and dive the bar down one half step, as if you’re sliding from the fret below. For those already familiar and fluent with the bar, just play it and appreciate how all that we have today came from these humble beginnings.
It’s a part of The Ventures Walk Don’t Run guitar tab and sheet.
Through the link below you can download a full transcription of
Walk Don’t Run with backing track