Again a simple chord progression (I, IV, V) and scale choice (major pentatonic). The sound is more triad-ish than the blues; there’s limited dominant 7 chords here.

The classic guitar is a Tele type, and most of the time is quite clean; go for ‘twang’! Typical characteristics are fast, almost mechanical bending, use of open strings and hybrid picking.

Some important names are Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, James Burton, Albert Lee, Brent Mason and Brad Paisley.


Ex 1: This is a typical lick for a bluegrass player such as Doc Watson. The major pentatonic with the b3 (alternatively known as the ‘country blues scale’) and rapid picking are the main characteristics.

Ex 2: This lick is in the style of Albert Lee and uses hybrid picking (pick, middle and ring fingers). The idea is to play with the pick on one string and use the fingers to cross the strings. Albert often mixes the major pentatonic with the blues scale or mixolydian scale.

Ex 3: This lick echoes one of the biggest influences on the country guitarist: the pedal steel. Here we have double bends in the style of Jerry Donahue; the king of country bends! Keep the fingers together as one and use the wrist to bend the strings.

Ex 4: This one is in the style of the most recorded guitarist ever, Brent Mason, and it shows another big influence for the country guitarist: piano. Brent uses double stops built on the blues scale and mixolydian mode, which is a trademark of one of his heroes: Jerry Reed.

Ex 5: This lick is in the style of Brad Paisley and shows his totally new approach to country music. He often plays ‘weird’ notes such as the b3 and major 7. The second bar is a bit challenging, but it’s not as hard as it looks! Follow the fingerings carefully and you’ll be amazed at the results!


GT132 – 50 Licks To Go
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