With it’s distinct style and signature sound, many guitarists want to learn to play country music. Here, Katy, TX guitar instructor Zachary A. shares the five country guitar licks you need to know…
Whether you’re trying to emulate you favorite country guitarist or you just enjoy the twang of country songs, these five guitar licks will help you establish a solid foundation. The majority of country music licks are derived from blues and major pentatonic scales. In this article, I will provide the sheet music and the tablature layout of the five essential country licks you need to know. These country licks will help you build speed and efficiency in your country solos.
These country guitar licks have been used by all the country music legends like Albert Lee, Ricky Skaggs, Ry Cooder, Brent Mason, and many, many more. When you practice, you don’t have to play everything super fast. Personally, I think it’s the melodic, moderate tempo licks that really bring home the country vibe. Remember to learn the scale first, and then work on perfecting it. When you’re learning these licks, or any scale or solo, I recommend using a metronome. A metronome can help you gain speed and develop your sense of time.
In my opinion, there’s no one who personifies country guitar quite like Albert Lee. He is a true virtuoso on the guitar. Lee recorded “Country Boy” in 1979, and it became an instant hit. Here is a lick from “Country Boy.” This lick may seem intimidating at first glance, but it’s not too overwhelming when you break it up into two-bar sections.
This country guitar lick is from a Danny Gatton solo. Gatton was an unbelievably fast guitar player, and he would frequently cover several American music genres in one wicked solo. In this lick, he starts with a bend from the 5th of the chord, then moves to bend the 2nd of the chord up to the 3rd. After that, he surrounds the low 3rd of the chord, and finally resolves everything by moving up to the open G.
The licks in figures 1 and 2 are both in the chromatic scale, in the key of G7. The chromatic scale is very straightforward; it’s all 12 notes that we use in Western music. When you play chromatic scales, you can really build up your speed. These scales use chromatic filler tones, which makes these licks seem almost never ending.
You can hear these two licks in numerous Albert Lee and Brent Mason tunes. Lee and Mason are both virtuosos on the guitar, and they both have a strong command of the chromatic scale.
Figure 2, is a chromatic lick in the key of G.
Remember, you can treat these licks as templates for new country guitar licks. It’s always fun to take a simple lick and add to it. Take these ideas, add to them, or invert them. You can also take part of the lick, and then go in a different direction; it’s up to you as the musician. Looking for more great country songs to play? Try these easy-to-learn classic country songs.
Looking for a great guitar instructor in your area? Search here for guitar teachers near you!
Zachary A. is a guitar instructor in Katy, TX specializing in beginning and intermediate students. He is currently earning a degree in music theory. Learn more about Zachary here!
Photo by David Masters