Intro to Chicken Picking

Intro to Chicken Picking is a free country guitar lesson by Peter Vogl that will introduce you to a basic philosophy on chicken pickin' or country playing. We will cover both the unique right hand picking technqiue as well as the music theory behind the licks. We will also learn some chicken picking licks and discuss the techniques necessary to get that twangy country guitar sound. We'll then play the licks we've learned over Track 5 (Attitude Country in D) of the Let's Jam! Country & Bluegrass.

Watch the lesson: Quicktime or Flash


For country guitar playing, I lean towards a clean telecaster sound. I don’t use much in the way of effects, a tiny bit of reverb and compression. I sometimes use a little bit of delay, set at a very quick time - somewhere around 100 milliseconds, but I find this sound over used with many country players. A good tone doesn’t really need any of this stuff.

Here comes the hard part. To achieve the chicken pickin' sound that I like (popping the strings with a percussive, quick sound) I use a thumb pick. I tried a long time to get around using a thumb pick, but was never successful at achieving the sound I like. Once I put a thumb pick on, it was like magic - the sound I was looking for. It took me a good 6 months to begin to play well with one. The thumb pick is important because it frees the right index finger to play strings and pop them whenever you feel like it. The index finger seems to be the perfect size and weight to achieve this sound. It also frees up the other fingers for quick playing. This takes some getting used to because ever line and every scale can be played numerous ways with the right fingers.

Country isn’t dependent on one set of scales, like rock or blues. To play country, you must play over the chords much like a bluegrass or jazz player. It is no coincidence that many country players are also jazz players and vice versa. Every chord has different lines, chord shapes, or riffs associated with it. The better the player, the more tricks he has for each chord. In country, there are a few basic chords you must be able to play over - C, D, E, G, and A.

Country also uses a great deal of first position playing, based on chord shapes like bluegrass. This means the riffs played revolve around the chord shape, not just the notes in the chord but others around the chord. Try an open position chords like D7. Here is a lick based on a D7 chord.

lick 1

The second lick is in G

lick 2

Here is a lick based on the C Major Chord

lick 3

Country players also use many creative bends to approach notes from different angles. Here are some basic bend ideas. Here is Lick #4

chicken picking bend

Another bend for lick #5

chicken pickin lick 5

And now let's learn lick #6

lick 6

Let's take a look at our last bending lick

lick 7

Well that’s a few of my basic chicken pickin or country playing thoughts. Try practicing these over Track 5 (Attitude County in D) of the Let's Jam! Country & Bluegrass.

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Intro and 1st Position Licks by Peter Vogl is a video lesson covering the basics of chicken picking as well as several riffs. In the lesson Peter discusses how to set up your guitar, amp, and effects pedals to get that twangy country sound from your electric guitar. In addition, the video covers right hand technique, scales that you should use, some music theory, and several great riffs. We've also included an .mp3 of Track 2 from the Let's Jam! Country and Bluegrass that is used in the lesson. $4.99

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