Twang 101: Double-Stop Tricks
• Learn how to use hybrid picking to create a more percussive attack.
• Combine double-stops with open strings.
• Create phrases that outline the I, IV, and V chords.
By definition, a double-stop lick is when you play a lick with two notes at the same time. Why would you want to play licks with two notes at a time you might ask? Double-stops can take your solos to another place that sometimes sounds like two people playing at the same time. There are many different ways to approach playing double-stop solos. You can harmonize in third, fourth, fifth, or sixth intervals.
If you don't know what intervals are, it’s the distance from one note to another. For example, in the major scale if we were to play the first note of the scale at the same time as the third note of the scale, that would be a third interval. In the key of C it would be C and E.
Fig. 1 is an example of a lick that uses thirds the way Vince Gill approached the intro of his hit “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slipping Away.”
If you want to get into the chicken pickin' double-stops like Jerry Reed, Brent Mason, Albert Lee, and others, a good place to start is outlining chord tones. Chord tones are the notes that make up the chords you are playing. It’s super important when playing this type of country guitar that you follow the chords with your solos. In other words, playing a blues scale over the whole progression is not going to get you that sound. It will sound like you are playing a blues solo over a country tune, which is fine if that is what you are going for, but if you are trying to sound a little more country, then you need to approach it a little differently. The most important chord tones that you will want to nail are the 3rd and b7. Let's try a little repeating lick that nails those tones and has some cool voice-leading.
We could play this first lick in the root position up and down the neck and the notes would be “right,” but would it sound cool? Not really. So, for the sake of sounding cool, let's try to stay in the same five-fret region and get all the chords. Check it out in Fig. 2.
One of the five coolest sounds you can make on the guitar is a cranked up Tele, digging in with your picking hand middle and ring fingers on the low strings and snapping the strings against the fretboard on some double-stop rhythmic pattern. The pattern in Fig. 3 goes over the I, IV, and V in the key of G—which would be G, C, and D, respectively. This would be used in more of a rhythm guitar setting, but it is hooky enough to be a signature lick as well. With your picking hand, you will snap the 4th and 5th strings with your middle and ring fingers, and attack the 6th string with your flatpick. As you move through the progression to the IV chord, just move everything down a string so your middle and ring fingers will be snapping the 3rd and 4th strings.
Double-stop licks can also be used in “train beat” or country tunes with faster tempos too. Having some of these licks in your arsenal can be helpful when you really want something percussive that nails the changes. Also, if you want something that sounds a lot bigger than single-note solos, Fig. 4 works perfectly as well. The notes on the 2nd and 3rd strings will be picked with your middle and ring fingers. On your fretting hand, your first finger will lie across the 2nd and 3rd strings at the 7th fret, and you’ll do the pull-off with your first finger. Notice these licks nail the I (D), IV (G), and V (A) in the key of D. You’re nailing chord tones and the pull-offs help make it easier to play at quick tempos. Try to make them sound percussive. Make sure to start practicing this with a metronome at a slow tempo, then gradually increase to warp speed.
Fig. 5 is another variation on the previous lick. This time, we are concentrating on the first three strings. Again, we’re outlining the I, IV, and, V chords. For the V chord, just slide up two frets and play the same lick and then move back to the I chord. Make sure to get that 2nd string to pull off with your second finger. Again, play this with a metronome. Start out slow and gradually increase your tempo. Push it just a little faster than what you are comfortable with and make it your goal to get it clean at that tempo before you move on.
Erik Halbig is currently touring with Thompson Square and has previously performed with Sara Evans, Blackhawk, Tanya Tucker, Wynonna, and many more. Halbig graduated from USC with a degree in Studio/Jazz Guitar and has taught clinics and seminars all over the country. He has had several books published by Alfred and Hal Leonard, and currently resides in Nashville.