Scott Holiday Rival Sons guitar string. © Antje Naumann AllSystemsRed

Rival Sons: Pressure and Time Guitar Lesson

This week we get to grips with Rival Sons' Pressure and Time guitar parts. Rival Sons is a blues hard rock band from Long Beach California that started around 2009. Their 2011 hit “Pressure and Time” is not just catchy and riff laden, but also a perfect song to play for someone learning how to play guitar. It has a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced techniques and it follows a common blues rock structure. Here is a quick song lesson on the Rival Sons song “Pressure and Time.”

It is filled with many of the basics of blues guitar rock so once you learn this tune other songs by bands in this genre will be easier!

Overtime besides learning to play this song you will also have a good idea of how to create your own blues style tunes

Song Background

Besides being a hit on the charts the song has been featured in video games, the creators of Trailer Park Boys used it, and it still appears in car commercials! The simple but main riff has a very hook like nature and is a standard hard rocking blues tune. The solo will by far be the hardest part that you will need to work on.

It is easiest to play in F minor so remember when you are trying to flesh out the solo notes to keep them in that range. There are hammer-ons, power chords, barre chords, bends, and tied notes or double stops. You could consider this tune to be in the category of easy guitar songs, which means how you play it will be important, not just the chords themselves. It is filled with many of the basics of blues guitar rock so once you learn this tune other songs by bands in this genre will be easier!

To properly play this song we need to tune the guitar down a half step, so grab a guitar tuner and tune to Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb. It can be played in standard tuning but it will be a half step higher, just try not to confuse the shapes below with the actual tuning. Remember that each normal power chord or note will be lower in your half step tuning.

How to Play Pressure and Time

As a blues rock song the first section is the standard 12 bars and has a very easy guitar riff. On the low E String you play the 2nd fret and then hammer-on the 5tth followed by the 4th fret on the A string and then 4th fret on the D string. This riff repeats the whole time with a couple added power chords. That riff is made up of the notes F-Ab-C-F which fits the chord and key of F minor.

Even though the song is blues you kind of play the riff with a bit of a flamenco rhythm, both genres mix when you play the riff right. After a few measures of this we play a B5 and then A5, but remember they are a step lower so the real guitar chords are Bb5 and Ab5. This repeats the whole 12 measures and then we move into an 8-measure chorus.

B5 chord diagram for guitar
A5 chord diagram for guitar

For further voicings, check out this guitar chord chart

We then play the F#5 power chord of and then an A5 again back to the F# and then a B5. You can then arpeggiate these B triad notes and riff on them until it moves to the same F#5 to A5 to B and back into the main riff. These chords are basically the entire song. The extra licks in between vary between live and album versions but they all contain notes from the Fm scale. It may help to have a tuner out as you play to check notes of that scale to add into your playing.

F#5 chord diagram for guitar
A5 chord diagram for guitar
F#5 chord diagram for guitar
B5 chord diagram for guitar

Two extra chords are played before the solo and that is the D5 and up to an E5 and then we move into the far more difficult solo. The lick leading into the solo is the 4th fret of the D string a few times and pull-off onto the second fret. Finally end on the 4th fret of the A string. These are all similar frets as the chords before just played faster.

D5 chord diagram for guitar

A simplified solo starts with unison bends on XXX42X and then bend XXX2XX and back and forth on those notes with an added 4th fret of the D string. Bend that last note before playing it so it gives it the right sound. There are a lot of bends, hammer-ons, and pull-offs in the solo that will take some time to get the right feel. We then jump to the 12th fret of the B string and do a bend. Move back to the 10th fret and then hit the 12th again before ending on the 11th fret bend of the G string.

The solo continues up the fretboard to the 17th fret of the high E, back to the 14th fret on the same string. And then move to the 14th fret on the B and then 16th fret on the G. And finally the 14th back on the B again and then the 14th on the G string. We then move to the 16th fret of the A string and go back to the 14th fret. This once again goes back to the B string with a bend on the 17th fret back to the 14th. We move back up to the 16th fret of the A and move down from 15 to 14 to 12 before going back into the chorus again. Confusing… not at all! Maybe a little for beginner guitar players.

Obviously solo guitar tabs will help you flesh out the exact notes of the solo, but it is important to notice the notes you are playing in the simplified version above. They all fit in the Fm guitar scale so if you bend and hammer those notes of the scale you will get a workable solo. It is more important to understand the notes you are playing as opposed to perfectly playing it like Rival Sons. Breaking your solo down helps you improvise later.

Scott Holiday Rival Sons Rotosound Fuzz Pedal
Scott Holiday with his Rotosound Fuzz pedal

What Amp Settings and Effects Help

There are some standard amp settings or pedals you can use to achieve the Rival Sons vibe. Scott Holiday often plays amps like Orange for an extra high gain sound. He also uses a little heavier (Rotosound) fuzz distortion than most blues rock songs, however it isn’t too distorted as we need to hear the notes clearly in his solos. If you are only using amp settings or even software settings just attempt a mix of harmonizers that add a lower octave and some fuzz to keep the tone heavy.

Keep the Fm scale in mind, your guitar tuned down a half step, and use the power chords and notes above when playing the song “Pressure and Time” by Rival Sons. Play along with the song and see how well you do by ear before slowing down any problem parts. Overtime besides learning to play this song you will also have a good idea of how to create your own blues style tunes or at least attempt your own solo version for the song!

By Shawn Leonhardt for

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