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Cosmic Country: Spanky Double-Stops

Cosmic Country: Spanky Double-Stops

Up your twang factor by exploring this fundamental country technique.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Learn how to use a “double-stop scale.”
• Develop harmonized lines using hybrid picking.
• Understand how to economically move through a I–IV–V progression using double-stops.

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Double-stops! These truly are one of the most crucial aspects of country guitar and they’re among my favorite techniques for both improvising and rhythm playing. In this lesson, we’ll cover the basic idea of double-stops. These relatively simple examples will allow you to wrap your head around what they actually are and get several snappy licks under your fingers. You can use them to add flare to blues, rock, and country solos.

Essentially, a double-stop consists of notes played on two adjacent strings at the same time. Ex. 1 demonstrates what I like to call the “double-stop scale.” In this hot-rod country style, you typically attack the double-stops with the middle and ring fingers of your picking hand. Here, we’re working out of the A Mixolydian mode (A–B–C#–D–E–F#–G). Notice how we’re playing a straight Mixolydian on the 3rd string and simply adding a diatonic third above on the 2nd string. To generate a major-scale sound, simply move the G up a half-step.

Click here for Ex. 1

Ex. 2 is the same scale, only with some chromaticism added in. The change may not seem large, but sonically, it makes all the difference in the world. Those chromatic double-stops really let the movements flow.

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Let’s take that initial scale from Ex. 1 and apply it to other string pairings (Ex. 3). I often use double-stops on the 4th and 3rd strings to end my phrases. Also, hitting the muted 5th string below the double-stops, and using it as more of a percussive note, really adds to that spank and twang that’s so often associated with Telecaster playing.

Click here for Ex. 3

Often, I find inspiration for creating double-stop lines in simple blues phrases. In Ex. 4 we have a blues lick in A. It’s a bit of a cliché, but for our purposes it works. Now, check out Ex. 5. Much better!

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Click here for Ex. 5

Another phenomenal way to use double-stops is to move them through a I–IV–V progression simply by using a few small tweaks. I had first heard bluegrass banjo players use this technique, and then I came across Danny Gatton and Brent Mason using it at breakneck speeds. My mind was blown. Ex. 6 is in the key of C. Have at it!

Click here for Ex. 6

And that wraps it for now. Please keep in mind we’ve only touched on the basics of double-stops here to lay a foundation for more advanced double-stop techniques in future lessons.