Oct 252010

Originally posted April 4, 2007.

Pinky Rock is the style of rock that centers around the rhythm guitar playing that is most readily identified with Chuck Berry, the Godfather of Pinky Rock. Surely this style of guitar playing existed before the age of Rock ‘n Roll, but from Berry’s pinky one of the building blocks of the genre was born.

In the Pinky Rock style, the guitarist uses his or her pinky, in most cases, to hammer from the 5th note onto the 6th note of the Barre chords he or she is playing. Sometimes the pinky continues up to the 7th note. This guitar style sets up rock’s all-important backbeat. Other rhythm section instruments have been known to incorporate this hint of the 6th note and 7th notes, most notably the piano or organ (eg, Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”), but the style of Pinky Rock, per se, specifically requires use of the guitar…and, most likely, the pinky. (Played in open-chord style or using intervals, as Pete Townshend might do in his rare uses of this style [eg, “Long Live Rock”], the ring finger can be substituted.)

Along with Chuck Berry, the commonly acknowledged Masters of Pinky Rock include Dave Edmunds and Keith Richards. John Lennon and George Harrison were particularly strong Pinky Rock practitioners but not quite as groundbreaking as the aforementioned. Consider them along with Buddy Holly and Angus Young, the style’s top advocates. Billy Zoom of X performed some of Pinky Rock’s finest variations, but he never committed to the style the way Edmunds did on his cover of “I Hear You Knocking”.

Pinky Rock is sometimes confused with a style of Jangle Pop. It’s not. Although the techniques share similarities, their intent differs. Jangle Pop guitarists are typically looking for variations and colorings within the established rhythm of a song; Pink Rock guitarist are establishing the rhythm.


  13 Responses to “Pinky Rock”

  1. Here’s a rare “Monday Flashback,” in honor of a question a Townsman had yesterday. Feel free to use this space to identify other Masters of Pinky Rock.

  2. shawnkilroy

    Mick Ronson Spiders from Mars.
    Suffragette City
    Watch That Man
    Let’s Spend The Night Together
    Jean Genie
    lotta pinky!

  3. shawnkilroy

    Marc Bolan

  4. Certainly, shawnkilroy, “Bang a Gong” is featured in the Pinky Rock Handbook!

  5. misterioso

    Impressive. This is one of the geekiest things I’ve read here yet.

  6. Hollies: Long Cool Woman
    Georgia Satellites: Keep Your Hands To Yourself
    BTO: Takin’ Care Of Business
    JJ Cale / Skynyrd: Call Me The Breeze

    The Pinky Rock Handbook should be a coffee table book (I’d buy it)

  7. Black Crows

  8. pudman13

    I always thought pinky rock was a kind of lazy way to avoid writing hooks (and, also, note how rarely the 6th is used in traditional rock and roll in any other context), but that said:

    Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” has some very nimble pinky stuff going on.

    Unexpected use of it: The Damned’s “New Rose” and a song from somewhere in the middle of Sonic Youth’s DIRTY album. I forget which song…but it makes a rather inspiring contrast to the noise that comes before it.

  9. shawnkilroy

    sugarcane right?

  10. Playing in a 100% Pinky Rock band this week. Doing Early Stones, Chuck Berry, Dave Edmonds tunes. Hope the guitar player has some pinky asprin or a dixie cup full of ice!

  11. Awesome! Will you be calling yourselves Masters of Pinky Rock? I always wanted to be in a band with that name, or at least release an album entitled such.

  12. I think the working title is The Stoneberrys, since the main focus will be the songs that The Rolling Stones covered in their early years, especially the Chuck Berry ones. The ALBUM should be The Stoneberrys: Masters Of Pinky Rock!”

  13. The Stoneberrys Gig happened! 100% pinky-rock favorites. I’ll put out the set list soon and some video links

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