Many things you learn from playing country guitar licks can be used to spice up solos in other genres. You will now learn to play some useful country licks in the key of A. Some easy, some a little bit awkward but nice!
You can play these licks using a pick or with your right hand fingers. You can also combine the pick with the use of a couple of more fingers like the middle finger and ring finger. This is commonly called hybrid picking. Having a few fingers at your disposal makes it easier to play licks with a lot of jumping between strings.
You will use a form of guitar tablature I have found suitable for articles like this one. The notes you will play are notated with the fret to play before a slash and the string after the slash. An example:
This means: Play the second fret on string four!
You will start with an A-major scale with some ringing open strings.
We will use hammer-ons in this scale. I will notate them with the letter h between the notes:
0/5 7/6 4/5 0/4 7/5 4/4 h 6/4 h 7/4 0/2 6/3 3/2 0/1 7/2 4/1 h 5/1
You will now play this scale descending. This will require you to replace the hammer-ons with pull-offs notated the same way with a p between the notes. It will look like this:
5/1 p 4/1 7/2 0/1 3/2 6/3 0/2 7/4 p 6/4 p 4/4 7/5 0/4 4/5 7/6 0/5
Your first country guitar lick will take you from E7 to A. We will use hammer-ons and pull-offs even in this lick. The suggested chords to play with the lick is in parenthesis:
(E7) 0/6 3/6 h 4/6 0/4 2/4 p 0/4 4/5 0/4 2/5 p 0/5 3/6 h 4/6 (A) 0/5
It is easiest to play in the second position. This means that you play the notes on the second fret with your index, the note on the third with your middle finger and so on.
In your next lick you will also use slides. I will notate this with an - between the notes:
4/3 - 5/3 3/2 0/1 3/2 5/3 - 4/3 0/2 2/3 5/4 - 4/4 0/3 2/4 p 0/4 3/5 h 4/5 0/5
The following country guitar lick uses a bend up a half note. It is notated (1/2b) before the note:
(E7) 3/1 h 4/1 0/1 3/2 p 0/2 2/3 0/3 h 1/3 2/4 p 1/4 p 0/4 (1/2b) 3/5 (A) 0/5
My intention with these licks is that you will learn them by heart as soon as you can. Play a couple of notes or so at a time until you know them by heart and add a couple of more notes. The notation is not important. It's just a means to convey the lick.
As soon as you know the lick by heart you can experiment with it and change it as you like.
Country guitar licks are often played in a way that creates a rapid succession of notes using a minimum of energy. This is accomplished by the following means:
1. Using a pick and two more fingers or only using the fingers with maybe a thumb pick.
2. Using as much open strings or strings ringing together as possible.
3. Using slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs and of course bends.
There is a risk with this type of licks. The ultimate goal is of course to play them fast and fluid, creating this nice cascades of notes that you can hear from a good country guitarist. To reach this goal you really have to practice these licks slowly using as little tension as possible as you play.
If you are that type of person that wants to learn things fast I guess you have to remind yourself that the fastest way to learn to play fast is to play slowly. It is as easy as that.
Thank you to Peter Edvinsson