- by Kevin Deal
One of the main reasons why blues and country music is so popular is because it has that raw ability to evoke strong emotions. There are many other reasons for that, the singer could be singing about something you can relate to, the beat could be easy to follow encouraging foot stomping in time with the music or the bass guitar could be warbling off lines that affect you on a subconscious level. It could also be the manner in which the instruments converge and create a mish mash of sounds that you can easily relate to.
Or it could simply be the energetic guitar licks you are bound to hear all throughout the songs played by the band.
Out of all the instruments in a blues or country band, the guitar is usually out in the forefront. And this is where you get the majority of the emotion evoking energy produced by the entire ensemble.
We’re here today to learn more about Blues guitar licks and Country guitar licks.
Before you try this, make sure you’re already familiar with the basic Major Pentatonic and Minor Pentatonic Scale as well as the chromatic scale. Because it is going to be used heavily to perform these tricks. You’ll also need to have a fair amount of control over your instrument and have practical knowledge on Bending, String Skipping and Legato. Having a Mean Vibrato is also very important if you want to play this type of music.
The basic tools of the trade you’ll need for this type of music with is a Telecaster. Nothing else sounds like it especially with country and blues music. The snappy sound lends well to the licks we’re about to learn. And try using heavier gauges too to get that throaty rumble these guitars can manage to achieve.
A little overdrive or an amp that has those settings can also give you that desired guitar sound.
Enough talking let’s get your guitar out and start playing.
- The first lick is going to employ bending, vibrato and legato. Let’s start with this seemingly easy lick.
We call this the exciter. And the reason for that is because it is used often times by lead guitarists to start their solos with high energy.
What you basically need to do is place your ring finger right onto the 7th fret of your 3rd string. Now bend it a whole step up and then press the 8th fret on your 2nd string. The notes these two create are D and G. by bending up a full step for both, you’re going to get the A and E chord respectively.
This is a pretty easy lick to duplicate as it only really uses two notes on two chords. The bending sound is what gives it the “exciting quality”.TIP: reinforce your ring finger with your index and middle finger to help you bend the strings up to the desired pitch.
You can also play a simpler version of this by simply pressing the 9th and 10th fret on the G and B string respectively.
What you need to basically do is press or slide your finger up to the 9th fret (bend if you chose the 7th fret position). Pick it once and then move to the 10th fret on your second string to play the note twice. Next, go back to the root and back again.
- The second lick one based off of the Pentatonic Scale. But we’re going in reverse, this lick is great for connecting solos together. If you’ve created a solo, this one will do really well in any musical setting. It starts on the 12th fret on the third string, descend to 10th fret on the same string. Moving up to the 4th string, press the 12th fret again and this time the 9th instead of 10th fret. The final two notes are played in the same manner except they’re played on the second string.
- Last, we’re going to employ the pentatonic and chromatic scale combination. First well play the 8th fret on the second string followed with the 5th fret on the same string. Move up to the 3rd string and play the 7th and 5th in quick succession. Do the same thing on the 4th string. Skip to 5th string and do a chromatic run from 5th to 7th fret. Move down to the 4th string and repeat. Press the 5th fret on the 3rd string and complete the scale by pressing the 5th and seventh fret on the 2nd string. It’s a basic variation of the Pentatonic coupled with a chromatic run which is quite popular in blues and country!
If you’re dead serious about playing country and blues, try to learn from the masters. Some great examples are the Late Great B.B.King, Eric Clapton, John Mayer and Johhny Thunder. These guitarists use the licks mentioned above and have found a way to twist it in any shape and form they can, evoking a lot of emotions through their tools of the trade! On the far end of the scope, heavy metal guitar players DimeBag Darrell and Zakk Wylde have been known to play blues licks to embellish their lead guitar solos. And they work just fine proving a point that you can play any of these licks in any musical genre!
A lot of people may think blues and country music as old fashioned and irrelevant. However, anyone who gets to play this music, you’ll soon find out that there’s nothing easy about playing this type of music. It can at times prove quite challenging and as technically demanding as playing Progressive Rock or Jazz. And although the same musical concepts are employed with this type of music, the delivery is definitely unique to this genre.
Furthermore, you can use the licks here in other musical formats as long as you can find a way to insert it into the song seamlessly.