Want to Knock ’em Dead in Nashville? Learn these 3 Country Guitar Licks for beginners made by Jim Lill.
I put out a “10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners” video a while ago, so this is the next step for people wanting to get into playing stuff that is a little more interesting. Country guitar is really satisfying and the further you dive in the more fun it becomes.
There are 3 flavors of country electric guitar. There’s “Country” which is twangy. There’s “Southern Rock” which shows hints of twang but is mostly just overdriven and switching between major and minor. And there’s “Rock” because the country genre has for a long time embraced the rock-inspired art of the harmonically simple yet tonally pleasing. You mix elements of these three things in your playing to get the kind of sound you want. This first lick is roughly 33% of each.
Pentatonics/arpeggios = rock
b3 to 3 = southern rock
hybrid picked sixths = country
This lick starts with a little southern rock with the b3 to 3 minor to major motion. Then it does a little arpeggio inside of the pentatonic shape, and ends by ascending hybrid picked sixths for unmistakeable country flavor. For some reason when I pick up a guitar, a variation of this lick has been coming out of my hands quite often.
You need to know this lick. It takes many forms with different phrasings, but this is the easiest way to jump in. This lick sits comfortably in the hands of every great country guitarist, so you should work to make sure it sits comfortably in your hands, too.
It works as both major and minor because everything about it is pentatonic except for one note, and the one “out” note if you’re thinking in minor is a b5 sandwiched between a 5 and a 4 as a chromatic passing tone (totally legal) or if you’re thinking of it in major it’s a b3 sandwiched between a 3 and a 2 as a chromatic passing tone (also totally legal).
This lick is an idea that is, to me, the most bang-for-your-buck in terms of speed and sounding pro. It’s one picking pattern for your right hand, and your left hand just molds to whatever scale you’d like to be in. As long is the key of the song works with open strings, you can play this pattern wherever you’d like. The examples I included in the video and tab show how to play this idea over a G (starts minor, ends major), G minor, A7, and G major.
If you want country licks that are a little more simple, go here.
If you were bummed out by the lack of bends in this lesson, go here.
Now get out the metronome and practice!