Tutorial by Lawrence Katz

Ska Guitar 101

Begin Tutorial

This tutorial is for guitarists who have learned the fundamentals of rhythm guitar playing, chords, and inversions, and are ready to start applying the Ska style to their playing. Some of these concepts are for intermediate players, but even through mere imitation of the more complex musical examples, a less-experienced guitarist should learn some very valuable ideas about how to play Ska. This genre, with its roots deeply planted in 1950s Jamaica, has evolved through the decades, influencing and being influenced by reggae, punk, and rocksteady. But at the heart of ska music, there's always the ska guitar, an instrument that brings a unique flavor to the mix with its rhythmic chopping sound. The ska guitar is all about rhythm and groove. The classic sound of ska guitar is achieved through a technique called the "chop" or "skank," where you mute the strings with your fretting hand and strum offbeat ska chords. This creates that distinctive, punchy rhythm that makes ska so danceable. Another cool aspect of playing ska guitar is the freedom it gives you to experiment with tones and effects. While traditional ska tends to have a clean, crisp guitar sound, third-wave ska (think 90s bands like No Doubt or Reel Big Fish) often incorporates distorted tones and heavier effects. So, feel free to play around with your amp settings or pedals to find a sound that resonates with you. As you become more comfortable with the basic ska strumming pattern and ska chords, you can start to explore more complex rhythms and chord progressions. Ska music often features songs with interesting harmonic changes and vibrant horn sections, so there's plenty of room to get creative with your guitar playing. Finally, the best advice for any beginner ska guitarist is to listen to a lot of ska music. Immerse yourself in different ska styles—from the early Jamaican tunes of the Skatalites to the British 2 Tone movement and the American third-wave ska. Pay attention to how the ska instrument, especially the guitar, functions within these songs. Try to pick out the ska chords by ear and play along. It's a fun way to learn, and it'll give you a deeper appreciation for the genre. So, grab your guitar, dial in a clean, bright tone, and start chopping away at those offbeats. Welcome to the joyous, energetic world of ska guitar!

Tutorial Info
Instructor Lawrence Katz
World Music
6 Videos / 6 Score