How to Play Country Lead Guitar

Two Methods:Mixing and Matching Country ScalesUsing "Country Notes" and Techniques

Country lead guitar, with the classic twang, bluesy notes, and rocking feel, is not as difficult to get into as you may think. If you've already learned your scales, particularly blues scales, there are only a few subtle changes you need to make to adapt your solos from a straight rock and roll sound into something a bit more country.

Method 1
Mixing and Matching Country Scales

  1. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 1
    Mix and match your major and minor pentatonic scales, all in the same key, for the subtle country sound. The pentatonic scales, which remove the 2nd and 5th notes from normal major and minor scales, is tailor-made for the speed and rocking sound found in most forms of popular music. Review these two scales to the point where you can play them up and down, individually, with ease. You'll get to blending later.
    • A-Major Pentatonic:
      • e|---------------------5-7-------------|
    • A-Minor Blues Pentatonic:
      • e|---------------------5-8-------------|
  2. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 2
    Use both scales simultaneously for the country/western sound. If you're in the key of A, you want both the A-major pentatonic and the A-minor pentatonic, as the combination leads to country's unique, blues-inspired sound. While the rest of the article concerns how to transition quickly, you should practice on your own with your favorite country song -- how can you use them to get the sound you want?
  3. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 3
    Use your "minor thirds" to transition from one scale to the other. This is easiest to see on the 1st string, 8th fret-- the last note of the A-minor pentatonic scale. The next fret after, the 9th, is the exact same note as the 4th note of the major scale -- providing a great transition point. Bending or sliding into it from either direction is a good way to shift into the other scale. You can also play the identical fret on the low-E (6th) string as well to help transition.
    • There is another minor third on the 3rd string, 5th fret.
    • These bends like to "resolve" on the root note, meaning they finish on the nearest A (for example, the 1st string, 5th fret).
  4. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 4
    Use mixed notes, like the minor third, to transition between scales. Use the example in the video above to see this in action. Any notes where the scales overlap, or can be bent or slid into a note in the opposite scale, are fair game. It is these transition-like notes, when used sparingly, that give the country sound.[2]

Method 2
Using "Country Notes" and Techniques

  1. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 5
    Bend the 2nd note of your scale up to the 3rd. Even if you're unsure of music theory, this is less complex than it seems. All you do is take the second note in your pentatonic scale and bend it up a full-step. If you can match it with another note, holding the other string in place as you bend the 2nd note.
    • e|---------------------12----12-----------|
      B|-----------------12b14 -- 10---------|
  2. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 6
    Stick to the "relative blues scale" for an instantly country sound. For somewhat complex musical theory quirks, you can play a minor blues scale three frets away from your root note and still sound in key. For example, in the key of A-major, which starts on the 5th fret, you can also play the F# Minor Blues Scale, which starts on the 2nd fret.
    • F#-Minor Blues Pentatonic:
      • e|---------------------2-8-------------|
  3. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 7
    Focus on your blue notes, bolded above, to slide back and forth to your major scale. The flat fifth of the minor pentatonic blues scale (the note right between the 3rd and 4th notes of the scale) is your minor third, and can be used to get right back into the major pentatonic.[4]
    • In fact, the furthest note to the right of your pentatonic scale, on every string, is the first note of the associated major scale.
  4. Image titled Play Country Lead Guitar Step 8
    Experiment with blues scales over the major chords in the background. Now that you know how to navigate the scales, hitting your flat 5ths, bending your 2nd notes into 3rds, and sliding around minor thirds, you can stick to a simple blues scale. As the chords change, change with them -- moving to A-minor pentatonic over A-major chords, then to an E-minor pentatonic for an E-major chord, etc. There is no "right" way to play country guitar -- so just keep practicing.
    • A big slide on the thick strings, like sliding into the first note of the scale, makes for some serious country starts to a lick or solo.
    • Get used to some finger picking-- try to pluck a couple strings with you pinky and ring fingers while still using your pick for the deeper notes.[5]


  • Country guitar is mostly an adaptation of the blues scales, so keep experimenting on them to get the sound you want.
  • Most country lead guitar is used with high-treble, medium-gain sounds. A Fender Telecaster or similarly tin-like, twangy sound is ideal.
  • To learn specific tricks and licks, read the tabs of your favorite songs and guitarists, or figure out the notes they are playing and replicate the licks to learn their tricks.

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Categories: Guitar | Music