Louie Louie

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We’ve all got our little tricks that we’ve learned as we travel the road from raw beginner to master craftsman on our musical instruments. I thought I’d share one with you, particularly if you are just starting out, and are finding the challenge of playing a stringed instrument a little overwhelming.
I call this the Louie Louie method.

This comes from the old Kingsman song
Duh duh duh
Duh duh
Duh duh duh
Duh duh
Duh duh duh

I think this song is the fundamental structure that underpins about ninety percent of all the music ever written, whether it be bluegrass, or Beethoven, Hank Williams. Or Harry Bellefonte. If you doubt me on this, play, (or have someone play for you) Louie Louie, then play Beethovens Joyful Joyful, or the contemporary gospel song “Lord I lift your name on high”or the old Mexican folk tune “la bamba” or the rock and roll classic “twist and shout” You don’t have to change a thing. The chords are the same. The beat is the same. The fundamentals are the same.

How can all these genres of music be so similar?

Because they are all built on three basic chords.

I’m gonna let you in on a secret. Music is not nearly as hard as your junior high teacher made you think it was. A person ought to be able to play a dobro, a banjo, an autoharp, or a bass well enough to play with a group of people after sitting down with somebody that knows the basics, for about fifteen minutes. I know that sounds impossible, but it ain’t.
It’s just Louie louie in different formations. I don’t mean to say that you’ll play like Bela fleck in fifteen minutes, but you ought to be able to play music well enough to have fun.

You might say, how can that be?

Well, the good lord gave most of us five fingers on each hand and he put them there for a reason. I like to think the reason is so that we can use them to help us construct and understand chords. Here’s what I mean….
Music is made out of chords. Most songs are build around three chords. The musical alphabet runs from A to G then it starts over. Where ever that alphabet starts is the key to the song you are going to play.

Let’s say someone calls a song in the key of G.

Hold up the five fingers of one of your hands. The thumb is G. Since the alphabet starts over after G the index finger will be A the middle finger will be B the ring finger will be C and the Pinky finger will be D.
Now fold down the index finger and the middle finger. The three remaining fingers G, C, and D are the chords. This little trick works for all the most common bluegrass keys. The G is the One chord. The C is the Four Chord. The D is the 5 Chord.

One…..Four…..Five THESE ARE THE LOUIE LOUIE CHORDS!!!
Duh duh duh (1) G
Duh duh (4) C
Duh duh duh (5) D
Duh duh (4) C
Duh duh duh (1) G.

If you’re learning the dobro, Play all your strings without touching them.
That’s a (1) chord
Lay the steel bar across the fifth fret
That’s a (four chord
Lay the steel bar across the seventh fret
That’s a (5) chord
O.K…..Now Play Louie louie

Eighty percent of all bluegrass can be played with those three chords. We just put them in different places, at different times.

If you are learning to play the banjo, Play all your strings without touching them.
That’s a (1) chord
Put your first finger straight across the fifth fret.
That’s a (4) chord
Put your first finger straight across the seventh fret.
That’s a (5) chord
O.K…..Now Play Louie louie

Beginning auto harpists
Press the button that says G and strum 3 times
That’s a (1) chord
Press the button that says C and strum 2 times
That’s a (4) chord
Press the button that says D and strum 3 times
That’s a (5) chord
O.K…..Now Play Louie louie

This ain’t rocket science. The Kingsmen made a fortune on this and they didn’t play much better than you. Have some fun!!! Don’t make it all so complicated.

The prospective banjo and dobro players might ask, what do I do with my other hand?

Somebody who actually plays those instruments would probably tell you something different that this, but they ain’t the one writing this thing. I’d tell you to take your thumb and first two fingers and pluck them strings one two three. Thumb, first finger, second finger. It’s probably not the best way to do it, but it works good enough that it will make you smile.

That’s what this is all about isn’t it?




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