10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (2023)

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (1)


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Author: Thomas Duflos

If you always wanted to start playing Country Guitar, discover Jim Lill licks for beginners.

This musician from Nashville is currently touring with Josh Thompson and has contributed content toGuitar Player Magazine and Guitar Aficionado Magazine. Every Monday, he is publishing a new guitar lesson on hisYouTube channel. Let’s dive in to this great lesson. Enjoy!

(click on the image to download the Guitar Pro tab)

About the licks

Thanks for checking out my country guitar lesson!

Here in Nashville, TN, there are amazing musicians everywhere. You can get top notch gospel at a small church, brain-bending jazz fusion at Acme Feed and Seed on lower broadway, ethereal indie-pop at the Mercy Lounge, and the diversity never ends. Nashville will forever be tied at the hip to one style of music, though: Country Music.

I moved to Nashville in 2011 because I wanted to play country music. I came here with a Telecaster and some Brad Paisley licks under my fingers, and since then that Telecaster has accompanied me through countless country songs on countless country stages and studios. While my love for country music was strong when I got here, my knowledge of country music has grown tremendously.

So I thought I’d do a favor for all of the guitarists out there that don’t love country music as much as I do, but do enjoy the sound of a bridge pickup getting chicken picked. I have condensed the style of country guitar into 10 licks that will guide anybody unfamiliar with the style through the muscle memory and theory behind the art form of twangin’ a Tele.

Lick #1: “2-3-5-3-2-1 Slides”

One of the basic tropes encountered in country guitar playing is the “slide”. This is when you pick a note, keep your finger down, and slide up or down the fretboard to a new note. This gets you double points because it sounds cool and it makes going from position to position easier. This lick takes the same shape and moves it over different major chords in the key of “A”, which helps you get used to another country guitar trope: playing over the chord.

Playing over the chord is the idea that you don’t just solo in the same minor pentatonic box forever. Instead you acknowledge the chord progression by shifting to a different set of notes each time the chord changes. This is necessary in complex jazz and western swing music, and it comes in handy in country and rock music as well.

Note: The video explains the theory behind why this lick is called the “2-3-5-3-2-1 Slides”.

Lick #2: “2-3-5-3-2-1 Bends”

To keep you getting used to playing over chords, lets keep the note choice the same as lick #1 but introduce a new concept for getting to the notes. “Bending” is when you take a string and pull it toward the ceiling or floor to raise the pitch, and it is more integral to the sound of country music than any other individual technique. You can also do a “pre-bend release,” which is when you pick the note with the string already bent and then release it back to the original pitch. This lick does both, and unveils the real sweet spots of the fretboard for bending in a major key.

Lick #3: “High Sixths”

Sixths are when you pluck two notes at once that are six scale degrees apart. Moving up and down harmonized scales using sixths has been a part of country guitar for a century, and has permeated into many other styles of guitar as well. To play sixths you have to pick the lower note with your pick and pluck the higher note with your middle finger on your right hand. This is called “hybrid picking” or “chicken pickin”, and this is the right hand technique that country music is known for pioneering. This lick also uses chromaticism, which means playing notes that are a half step apart as passing tones even if they aren’t in the scale.

Lick #4: “Low Sixths”

Sixths can be done on the high E and G strings or the B and D strings, but you can also do sixths on the G and A strings or the D and low E strings. “High sixths” and “Low sixths” have different fingerings and it’s good to learn both. Since Lick #3 dealt with high sixths, we’re going to do the same thing in lick #4 with low sixths.

Lick #5: “E/B Thirds”

Sixths are two notes six scale degrees apart played together, so thirds are two notes three scale degrees apart played together. Thirds can also be referred to as “doublestops” because it’s two notes on adjacent strings placed together. Doublestops are key in getting a real country sound. Note: all thirds are doublestops, not all doublestops are thirds. Then when you add in chormaticism and some muted percussive notes, you’ve got twangy gold. This lick shows how to play thirds on the high E and B strings, but the form also transfers to the G/D strings, D/A strings, and A/E strings.

Lick #6: “B/G Thirds”

Because of the weird tuning a guitar has, the form for thirds looks different on the G and B strings than any other set of strings, so we have to make sure we have the G/B form under our fingers, too. This form allows for us to play some of the thirds with one finger as a barre, which opens up a bunch of cool possibilities for playing faster, too.

Lick #7: “Triplet Pulloff Speed Lick in A”

Country guitarists are also known for being fast. The inherent lack of sustain in a Telecaster being fed through a clean amp means you have to hop from note to note like you’re running through quicksand. You can’t just BB King a note and shake it for a week, you’ve gotta GO PLACES. Fast playing can seem intimidating to those uninitiated to the ways of country, but the guitar greats before us have figured out ways to cheat and get speed without doing much work.

The #1 way to get speed without having to do a ton of work is pulloff triplets. Play three notes per string, pick the first one, pull off to the send one, pull off to open. Then do it again and again down the strings. At the end of your journey land on the right chord and you’re good to go. Just make sure the notes you’re playing (mostly) match the key and feel of the song and you can let muscle memory do the rest.

For the example in A, I recommend focusing on the 4th and 2nd frets of the G and D strings. It gives you a cool dorian feel.

Lick #8: “Triplet Pulloff Speed Lick in G”

All of the same principals apply as before, but instead of a dorian feel like we had in the key of A, the key of G lends itself to straight up major when doing triplet pulloffs. Actually, G is such a friendly guitar key, you can do pretty much anything you want with it, but this example is 100% diatonic major.

Lick #9: “Triplet Pulloff Speed Lick in D”

The key of D is easier to find notes for but harder to land on because you have to go up to the open D string after completing your 4-2-0 4-2-0 4-2-0 gauntlet. Pro Tip: if you go into Drop D you can continue the 4-2-0 journey all the way down to the lowest string.
Lick #10: “Triplet Pulloff Speed Lick in E”

And our lesson ends in the key of E, where we do a dorian run of notes that is common to rock and country. Remember when you’re practicing these to turn your distortion down and practice slow to a metronome. You don’t want to develop sloppy, weak pulloffs. Make sure the notes you’re pulling off to are as strong as the ones you pick, and keep everything tight in time.

So no matter where you live, if you learn these 10 licks you can get a little piece of Nashville resonating out of the body of your guitar and coming out of the speaker in your amp. So pull out the metronome and get twangy.

Happy practicing!
– Jim

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Jim’s Website

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About the author

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (3)

Thomas Duflos

Thomas Duflos has been teaching guitar and bass for over 10 years. He is now in charge of communication and marketing at Arobas Music.Sharing his passion for guitar and music is one of his main interests.In his free time, Thomas is also a composer and drummer of the band "The Foxy Raccoons".


10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (4)

Peter rands - juil. 10, 2018

Brilliant easy to follow

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (5)

Thomas Duflos - juil. 13, 2018

Thank you very much Peter!

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (6)

BANG PHAM - sept. 6, 2016

So great music with such simple and easy hand movements.
Thanks, Jim.

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (7)

Somchai Kitcharoenthumrong - sept. 5, 2016


10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (8)

Somchai Kitcharoenthumrong - sept. 5, 2016

Thanks a lot

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (9)

Roland Wright - sept. 4, 2016

Were is your website

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (10)

Newton - sept. 3, 2016

Nice, it’s really a big help… thanks

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (11)

Paul Corboy - sept. 2, 2016

Hi Jim, I loved your video lesson(s). Just great, and very well composed, clear and easy to follow. What is your website as I would like to hear more from you.
New Zealand

10 Country Guitar Licks For Beginners by Jim Lill (free tab) - Guitar Pro Blog - Arobas Music (12)

Linda - mai 20, 2016

Why do I bother canlilg up people when I can just read this!

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What are the basic country guitar chords? ›

The 12 country guitar chords you'll want to focus on at first include the following: C, D, E, F, G, A, A7, B7, C7, D7, E7, and G7.

How long does it take to toughen fingers for guitar? ›

Developing calluses on your fingertips can relieve a lot of the initial pain of learning to play guitar. On average, it takes 2 to 4 weeks for calluses to fully form. But callus formation differs from person to person depending on: how often you practice or play.

What is the secret to playing guitar? ›

Consistent practice and repetition of different notes and chords can help you develop your ear, learning to correctly identify notes and patterns in your playing. Learning to play guitar becomes much easier when you are able to pick out which notes are in a song, what key that song is in, and what chords are involved.

What is the hardest guitar picking technique? ›

Sweep picking

Sweeping is probably the most intimidating guitar technique, virtually a byword for shred. There are two misconceptions there. First, it was invented by jazz guitarists and has more applications than playing reams of arpeggios at lightning speed.

What are the 3 chords in country music? ›

There are three major chords and three minor chords found in a major scale. The major chords (I, IV, and V) are built on the first, fourth, and fifth scale degrees, respectively; the minor chords (ii, iii, and vi), on the second, third, and sixth degrees.

What makes country guitar twang? ›

The first word that gets associated with country guitar tone is twang, a word that evokes both plunky banjos and wailing steel guitars, and usually means bright, clear, and punchy. Gear wise, this means single coil pickups and clean guitar amps.

What are the best guitar chords for country? ›

I,V,IV,Vi (C,G,F,aminor) This progression is one of the most popular chord progressions in all genres of music. You will commonly hear this in anthem-type songs by Country artists, as well as ballad types.

What is the difference between a riff and a lick? ›

While a riff is designed to set the vibe, a lick is used to showcase the skills of a guitarist by standing out. Unlike riffs, licks allow a guitarist to perform solos or improvise on an established melodic line of the song. While riffs go down as memorable, licks might not necessarily have the same staying power.

What is the most iconic guitar riff of all time? ›

Smoke on the Water” has enjoyed widespread popularity since 1972, when guitarist Ritchie Blackmore conjured what is possibly the world's most famous guitar riff ever.

What are the chords for the lick? ›

To get a bit more technical, “The Lick” is played over a minor 7th chord. It starts on the root note of that chord, walking up the minor scale, before jumping down to the 7th note (in this case C) and finally resolving on the D. And that resolution is really pleasing to the human ear.

Who is the best country guitar? ›

Not only is Chet Atkins considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but it could also be argued that he is the best country guitar player of all time as well.

What is the best country guitar tuning? ›

Nashville tuning is a popular guitar tuning that is used by many country and pop musicians. It is a variation of standard tuning, with the addition of the high E string being tuned to the same pitch as the B string. This gives the guitar a brighter, more twangy sound that is perfect for country and pop music.

What is the most country sounding guitar? ›

Because of its distinct sound, the Fender Telecaster is widely regarded as the best country guitar. Over the years, countless country musicians have used the Tele to their full potential.

What is a cowboy chord? ›

In other words, a cowboy chord is an open chord. This means that you don't press down the other strings but allow them to ring open instead. You might see why this makes cowboy chords easy to learn and play. Remember not to get fooled by the simplicity of these chords.

What chords do most country songs use? ›

The most common chord progressions in country music revolve around the major I, IV, and V chords.

What are the 5 most basic guitar chords? ›

The 5 basic guitar chords, or most used chords on guitar, include G Major, C Major, D Major, A Major, and E Minor. These chords hold popularity among guitarists for a variety of reasons and are the best guitar chords to learn when just starting to play.

What happens to your fingers when you play guitar for a long time? ›

Many new guitar players experience sore and painful fingertips in the early stages of learning guitar. This pain comes from the indenting your skin over and over again on hard guitar strings. Remember that this pain will eventually subside once you build up calluses.

How long should you practice guitar a day? ›

Consistency is key – try to practice guitar for at least 15 minutes per day, five days a week, but also follow these tips: Avoid long and unbroken sessions. Don't practice for more than an hour at a time. Set short breaks if you plan on practicing for more than 20 minutes.

Should I ice my fingers after guitar? ›

Lightly icing your fingertips before and after playing can also help alleviate soreness. Topical anesthetic products containing benzocaine—toothache creams, for example—can also be applied before and after playing. Some guitarists use a spot of Super Glue on tender tips as a makeshift callus.

What is the best hand position for picking guitar? ›

The default picking hand position for most guitarists is one in which they rest their palm against or just above the bridge. Although the exact position of your hand will vary between different instruments, in this position your picking hand will be resting against some part of your guitar.

What is the easiest guitar to play? ›

Electric guitars are generally the easiest to play: the strings are usually thinner, the 'action' is lower and therefore the strings are easier to press down. The necks are generally narrower too which can help in the early stages.

How hard should you hold a guitar pick? ›

Hold the pick firmly, but not too tightly. There needs to be a solid amount of thumb on top of the pick to keep it from shifting while playing-if you are strumming, you'll want to have a larger portion of the pick exposed. Less exposed pick surface can give you better accuracy to hit single notes.

What chord should I learn first? ›

The 7 essential most used beginner chords ALL guitar players should learn first are E major, E minor, A major, A minor, D major, C major and G major. With these chords, you'll be armed with the power to play literally thousands upon thousands of different songs. NO SHORTCUTS!

What 3 guitar chords should I learn first? ›

Basic guitar chords are chords such as C, F and D. These are the chords you should be taught first. The finger placement is fairly easy and straightforward. They are all played at the very first fret of the guitar.

What are the 4 golden chords? ›

The famous four chords used in many pop song progressions are the I, V, vi and IV chords of a major key. The roman numerals represent the numbers of the major scale we begin a chord from (1, 5, 6, 4) so in C major this would be C, G, Amin, F or in G major it would be G, D, Emin, C.

What pedals to get the country sound? ›

Best Volume Pedals for Country
  • Lehle Mono Active Volume Pedal. ...
  • Xotic XVP-250K Volume Pedal. ...
  • BOSS FV-500H Volume Pedal. ...
  • Nobels ODR-1 Natural Overdrive Pedal. ...
  • Danelectro Roebuck Distortion Pedal. ...
  • MXR Custom Shop Timmy Overdrive Mini Pedal. ...
  • Wampler Ego Compressor Pedal. ...
  • MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compressor Pedal.
Nov 9, 2022

What strings are best for country twang? ›

However, many country guitarists prefer light gauge strings that are easy to bend, such as the D'Addario EXL120 or the Ernie Ball 2221. These strings have a mellower sound that is well-suited to country's twangy, often bluesy style.

What gauge strings for country guitar? ›

If your technique involves plenty of bending, double stops and pedal steel licks, then it's usually best to have light gauge strings, which typically is a . 009–. 042 or . 010–.

What is the hardest guitar chord in the world? ›

The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed), it's with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.

Which is the most beautiful guitar chord? ›

Some may call them the most beautiful. Generally speaking, some of the most beautiful guitar chords are Major 9th chords, Minor 9th chords, Sus2 and Sus4 chords, Major 7/add 9 chords, and 13th chords. These include Cmaj9, Cmin9, Csus2, Csus4, Cmaj7, Cmajor/add 9, and Cmin13th chords.

What is the most famous guitar chord? ›

C major. This is arguably the most common chord of all-time. This is the C major chord, or the C chord. It consists of the C, E and G notes from the C major scale.

Are country songs easy to learn on guitar? ›

Country songs are generally pretty basic, which makes them fairly easy to play when you're learning guitar. Most of the songs consist of three or four basic chords, and use the blues chord progression of I-IV-I-V. Country songs are perfect to play around a campfire, and sing along with your friends.

What scales do country guitarists use? ›

Despite the melodic complexity of their solos, country guitarists mostly rely on a few choice scales: major pentatonic, the blues scale, and the composite blues scale. The most prevalent of the three scales, major pentatonic, is a five-note scale (1–2–3–5–6) derived from the major scale (1–2–3–4–5–6–7).

What are the techniques of country lead guitar? ›

Mainstay country guitar-playing techniques include flatpicking, fingerpicking and hybrid picking (pick-and-fingers technique); the exploitation of open strings and licks played in the “open position,” which have a characteristic “twangy” tone; and lots of string bends and finger slides.

What is the secret chord? ›

The 'secret chord' is a biblical reference. David was a King from the Hebrew bible, and although we all mostly remember him for being the underdog who defeated Goliath, he was, first and foremost, a musician. So we know David played a 'secret chord', whatever that may be.

What 3 chords can play any song? ›

G, C and D are some of the most commonly used chords in popular music and are used in literally thousands of songs (we'll list some of the most well-known later). Also, they're not too difficult to learn and they sound really good together (hence their popularity).

What is the hardest music chord? ›

The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed), it's with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.

What is the easiest country song to learn on a guitar? ›

Dolly Parton: “Jolene”

An easy song for beginners to play, “Jolene” is made up of three easy country guitar chords (Am, C, and G) and centers around strumming at different speeds, using alternate strumming techniques for a sensitive, low-and-slow pace.

What is the most common key in country music? ›

What key are most country songs written in? Most country songs are written in major keys like C G F Major using I IV V progressions or variations of it.

What scale did Eddie Van Halen use? ›

Eddie Van Halen style - Van Halen-Sammy Hagar Era. Storm: This is the major pentatonic scale, a favorite note group for Eddie over major key progressions. And this is the Major Scale, laid out in a three-note-per-string pattern.

What effects do country guitarists use? ›

Amp reverb and tremolo/vibrato effects, particularly from Fender amps, are some of the most iconic tones ever. Some of the most famous guitar tones ever recorded have utilized those effects to a large degree.

What makes the twang sound in country music? ›

In plain English, this is basically saying: Above your vocal cords is a set of membranes and cartilages that make the shape of a funnel. When you bring that cartilage in and warp the shape of the funnel to be even more horn-like, you get twang. The sound is less breathy, more clear, and louder.

Who is considered the best guitar player in country music? ›

Not only is Chet Atkins considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but it could also be argued that he is the best country guitar player of all time as well.


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