Country Guitar Lessons – 4 Essential Lessons

Wondering how to play country guitar? This article will take you through 4 essential things you need to know! 

country guitar lessons

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • How to use finger style technique in country guitar.
  • Awesome chicken pickin technique!
  • How to add roots and fifths to your normal chords to create killer basslines!
  • How you can make your guitar sound like a pedal steel!

30,000+ guitar learners get our world-class guitar tips & tutorials sent straight to their inbox: Click here to join them

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

  

Country guitar not only sounds great, it’s also lots of fun to play. We’re going to go through some essential techniques in these country guitar lessons.

There’s a lot of information here, so it may be worth bookmarking this page for future reference!

Country Guitar Lessons #1 – Finger Style Guitar

Finger picking is an essential technique if you want to learn country guitar.

It’s heard in music by Johnny Cash, Merle Travis and Chet Atkins.

What Is Finger Style Technique?

Fingerstyle technique is like the name suggests, a guitar technique which uses purely your fingers on your picking hand!

Most players use a pick to play the guitar, but another common technique is finger style technique.

It’s important for a well-rounded guitarist to learn to play both with a pick and with the fingers.

Now we understand a little about it, let’s learn some essential techniques for finger style guitar.

If you’ve never played finger style guitar before, it may be a good idea to check out this article.

Fingerstyle Guitar Lessons – 5 Easy Ways To Sound Amazing

Country Guitar Lessons – Using Your Thumb

To start with we’re just going to concentrate on using our thumb to alternate between the bass notes.

NB: You can use a thumbpick if you have one at hand. If not, you can manage with just your bare thumb.

This is heard frequently throughout country music so it’s essential we get this down!

For now we’re just going to use the E and A strings.

country guitar lessons

Country Guitar Lessons – Using Your Fingers

Once you have a grasp on how to alternate between your low E and A strings, the next step is to try and pluck your strings with the chord.

To do this we’re going to pluck

  • The D string with our first finger.
  • The G string with our second finger.
  • The B string with our third finger.

When we do this we’re going to pluck each string at the same time.

country guitar lessons

Country Guitar Lessons – Using Your Thumb And Fingers Together

Now we’ve had a look at how to use our thumb and our fingers, let’s start to bring the two exercises together into one.

This is where it’s gets a little tricky, so make sure you take it slow!

Our Thumb is going to be alternating between the E and A strings, whilst our first, second and third fingers will be plucking the D, G and B strings simultaneously.

To make this really sound good, we need a chord, so I used an E Major Chord.

 

E String Bass

 

Not sure how to play an E chord? Not a problem, go here!

4 Easy Ways To Play The E Chord On Guitar

Country Guitar Lessons #2 – Using Roots And Fifths To Create Country Chords

One awesome way to create country tones is to add root and fifths notes to our chords.

What’s a Root?

The root is the note that gives a chord its name, and is usually the first (and lowest) note we play when we strum the chord.

So for example in an A chord, the very first note you play is the A string.

Therefore the root note is an A.

country guitar lessons

Often on guitar, you find that there is more than one root note in a chord voicing.

For example in this A chord there is also a root note on –

  • The 2nd fret of the G string.

Does this chord look too hard? Go here!

3 Easy Ways To Play The A Chord On Guitar

What’s A Fifth?

In music, the fifth is simply the fifth note of the scale ie. 5 notes away from the root notes.

Are you familiar with do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do?

The fifth is the “so” note.

A chord is usually made up of  the root note, the third note and the fifth note of a scale.

That’s it! Nothing complicated. It can be tricky to find the fifth note but we’re going to show you a real simple way to work it out.

Firstly we’re going to have to know the musical alphabet.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 

A B D E F G

So in this case our root note is A as this is the first note (our open A string).

To find the 5th note here,we simple go across five notes.

This gets us to the note E.

So therefore the fifth of note of an A chord is an E (our open E string).

This means if we want to play root and fifth notes in our A chord, we’d have to play the open A string and the open E string.

Finding The Root And Fifth Notes

So we’re going to play our A chord, alternating between the root (our open A string) and the fifth (our open E string)

Our pattern looks something like this :

country guitar lessons

Now let’s take a look at applying this essential technique to some other chords.

 

Country Guitar Lessons – The D Chord

The D chord is a great chord and is heard frequently throughout country music!

country guitar lessons

If you’re not sure how to play this essential chord, go here!

3 Easy Ways to Play the D Chord on Guitar

Finding The Root And Fifth Notes

We can again use the same method we used before to find the root and fifth notes.

However this time, instead of starting on the A note, we’re going to start on the D instead.

So our musical alphabet will look like this.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

D E F G A B C

So this time, our first note is D (the open D string).

And our fifth note is A (the open A string).

country guitar lessons

 

Country Guitar Lessons – The C Chord

The final chord we’re going to look at is a C chord.

country guitar lessons

If you’re not sure how to play this chord, go here!

Easy Ways To Play The C Guitar Chord

Finding The Root And Fifth Notes

Here we can use the same method as before, however this time as we’re using the C chord.

We’re going to start our musical alphabet from the letter C.

So it will go like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

C D E F G A B

We know that the root note of a C chord is a C note, as it’s the first note.

Now let’s go up 5 notes. This takes us up to the G note.

This means:

  • The root note is a C.
  • The fifth note is a G.

Now let’s try and find these two notes in our chord.

In the normal C chord there is no low G note, however you can add this on to the original C chord.

Instead of having your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the A string, you move it to the 3rd on the low E string, and place your pinky on the 3rd fret of the A string.

 

country guitar lessons

So if we want to create an alternating bass line in our chord, we’re going to have play between the A string and E string, whilst playing the C chord.

  • On the 3rd fret of the A string you have a C note.
  • On the 3rd fret of the G string you have a G note.

Here’s a pattern you can use to practice it:

country guitar lessons

If you want to know a little bit more about chords in the key of C, this article may interest you!

Understanding the chords in the key of C

Country Guitar Lessons – Chicken Pickin’

One awesome aspect of country guitar is chicken pickin’, it has such a great snappy sound and is perfect for that country sound.

This is a technique used predominantly by players such as Johnny Hiland, Brent Mason and Albert Lee. It sounds great!

If you want to see some of the top country shred songs go here!

10 Essential Country Shred Guitar Songs |Guitar World

This technique is quite similar to finger style guitar, however instead of using our thumb, we’re going to be using our pick while still using our fingers!

This is also known as ‘hybrid picking’ because it’s a hybrid of playing with a pick and playing with the fingers.

This can be quite difficult to get down at first, so make sure you take it super slow.

To start with we’re going to look at some simple exercises to get into the groove of using our pick with our fingers.

Exercise 1

For this first example, we’re going to look at getting your picking hand moving.

Don’t worry if it isn’t doesn’t sound too “country” we’ll get to those classic licks soon!

 

country guitar lessons

When practicing this exercise you –

  • Use a downstroke on the A, D and G strings.
  • Use your 2nd and 3rd fingers on the B and E strings to grip the top half of the chord.
  • Make sure each note is as consistent as the other!

Exercise 2

This another exercise which is going to help get with the fluidity in your fingers. This time we’re splitting up each string though, this can be tricky so make sure you take your time with it.

country guitar lessons

When playing this exercise you –

  • Use a downstroke with your pick on the A, D and G strings.
  • In the previous exercise we used our fingers to pluck the B and E strings at the same time. This time, we’re going to pluck the B and E strings individually.

Now let’s take a look at some classic country licks which use chicken pickin’!

Country Guitar Lessons – Chicken Pickin’ – Lick 1

country guitar lessons

Check out this video lesson where I explain this lick further:

 

Country Guitar Lessons – Chicken Pickin’ – Lick 2

country guitar lessons

In this video I explain this lick in more detail:


 Country Guitar Lessons – Pedal Steel Bends

Pedal steel bends are a great way to get that country sound without learning a completely new instrument (the pedal steel).

This technique is very similar to actual bending, however there are subtle differences! Let’s get started..

We’re going to use the key of G in this example.

If you’re sure about the key of G, go here!

Chords in the key of G and tips for understanding keys

As we’re doing bending we’re going to need a scale to base our bends around, that scale is going to be the G major pentatonic.

country guitar lessons

Bending Technique

The idea behind pedal steel bends is that you bend a note, whilst simultaneously playing another. This creates a lovely texture and sounds great!

It’s vital that when we bend we reach the correct notes, if we’re not bending correctly and hitting the right note it won’t sound great.

To start with we’re going to focus on just bending up to the right note.

If you’ve never done bending before, it may be an idea to check out this video before you try to attempt it.

You may find this article helpful for some additional tips: How To Play Lead Guitar

We’re going to start with bending from the 15th fret, on this note we’ll bend up two notes.

country guitar lessons

I’d suggest using your third finger for this, and using your first and second finger as a support for the bend.

To help you hear how it sounds, i’d suggest you play the 17th fret before you bend, as that’s the note you’re trying to target!

Adding An Extra Note

Now the trick with pedal steel bending is to add an extra note, this gives it that classic country sound.

We’re going to add the 15th fret on the high E string.

When we actually bend the string, we bend the 15th fret on the B string, but keep the the 15th fret on the high E string exactly the same.

Don’t bend the high E string!

country guitar lessons

 

Country Guitar Lessons – Pedal Steel Bends – Lick 1

For this first lick we’re going to mix a few bends together using the G major pentatonic scale.

Watch out for those bends on the 14th fret of the G string! They can be tricky!

 

country guitar lessons

Country Guitar Lessons – Pedal Steel Bends – Lick 2

This one’s a little trickier as there’s a bend on the start of each phrase, if you find it difficult, try practicing each individual bend first.

  • 15th fret of the B string, whilst playing the 15th fret of the E string.
  • 14th fret of the G string, whilst playing the 15th fret of the B string.

If you can nail that, you’ll be rocking this lick in no time!
country guitar lessons

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

NGAEM

Popular Lessons

How To Learn Guitar: An 11-Step Programme For Beginners

10 Easy Songs For Beginners

How To Strum A Guitar

How To Choose The Perfect Beginner Guitar

Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

How To Play Lead Guitar

3 Easy Ways To Play Bm

 

More Cool Stuff

Learn about me & the National Guitar Academy on the About Us page.

Check out some of our free chord lessons.

We'll be launching a new Podcast soon, exciting!

I will love you forever if you 'like' our new Facebook page.

Thanks for stopping by, speak soon! 🙂

00. Mike Kennedy Profile Pic (Circle)

Mike Kennedy - National Guitar Academy Founder

Enter your email address to learn our best guitar tips and tricks today!