The riffs, the fills, the tones. What's not to love?
- Understand how to craft melodic licks in the style of Brent Mason, Pete Anderson, and others.
- Create flowing open-string licks.
- Learn how to combine blues with bluegrass.
Mainstream country music in the '90s was a guitar-lover's dream. Nearly every tune on the radio was full of tasty fills and ripping—but short—solos. The most prominent session player during this time was Brent Mason, whose car primer gray Tele became as iconic as the parts he crafted.
In this lesson, we will take inspiration from a few of the classic licks from the era and twist them around to make new ideas to add to your arsenal. We will cover double-stop licks, open-string lines, bending licks, and chromatic lines. Phrasing and timing is important and I will breakdown the key components to why they work and what chord to use them over. We will be using hybrid picking with all of examples.Since we are working specifically in the '90s country vein, I picked four tunes with lots of guitar work and rather long solo sections.
Vince Gill - Liza Jane
It's always great to learn exactly what the player did on the recording. Signature licks are what define the song and are important, especially if you're playing the tune live. But what happens if the tune is extended, or you are the only lead player that has to cover more territory and time? Some of these tunes have a long ending that vamp and fade out on the recording. What do you do then? You can always improvise a solo. These examples are a great launching pad for attacking those vamps.
Ex. 1 is a great way to kick off the beginning of the solo to "Liza Jane." It starts with an A7 arpeggio (A–C#–E–G) before chromatically approaching our comfortable blues box pattern. This lick ends in a very "Vince Gill" way with the unison bends and landing on a double-stop. Strive for the silky smoothness of Vince's phrasing.
Ex. 2 covers the C and D chords in the solo section. Using bluegrass ideas over both chords gives you a cool open-position lick for the C chord. Make sure to bend down on the D# note. Over the D chord we do an oblique bend ending the phrase on the b7, a very hip Vince-ism.
Alan Jackson - Chattahoochee (Official Music Video)
The intro to "Chattahoochee" is an all-time crowd pleaser, so make sure you get that under your fingers. Brent Mason's licks on this song are iconic and, in some ways, have become cliches—but in a good way. Ex. 3 is over the C chord and is a great way to work down the neck using double-stops.
There's a very cool II-V progression on the back half that fits perfectly with Ex. 4. Notice how I keep all the notes ringing through the first measure before adding a "dead" note and an element of chicken pickin'. Don't forget to really pluck that Bb on the 3rd string before resolving to the G.
Dwight Yoakam - Fast As You (Video)
Pete Anderson was another twang king that made waves in the '90s. During this time, he was the one behind nearly all the snappy riffs on Dwight Yoakam's albums. Ex. 5 has a B-Bender sound to it and should be given special attention. Notice how the second G on the 2nd string is only bent up a half-step. This is a simple and effective way to jam on the I chord in "Fast As You."
Next up we use a few open strings for a bluesy lick (Ex. 6). I can totally hear a bit of SRV in this one. Plus, the cool rake at the end is a signature Pete Anderson move.
Joe Diffie - Pickup Man (Official Music Video)
Ex. 7 uses a motif from the intro lick of Joe Diffie's "Pickup Man" and twists it around a bit. It's a nice way to reference the lick while using an open-string concept. Generally speaking, this riff uses G Mixolydian (G–A–B–C–D–E–F) along with a b3 (Bb). What a great way to combine blues with bluegrass.
Naturally, we can move this open-string idea to a different part of the neck. In Ex. 8, I keep the same tonality, but move it up to 10th position. This frees me up to reach for this idea in another place on the neck, which is invaluable when improvising.
The '90s provided us with so much great playing and ideas on how to approach country guitar. The high-energy playing combined so many great elements and techniques into unforgettable songs. My hope is that these examples will inspire you to dig deeper into the tunes and the players that define this style.
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Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more!
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.
Dunable announce new Minotaur model featuring Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners.
The Minotaur's DNA is rooted in their classic Moonflower model, which Dunable discontinued in 2017. However, they have long since wanted to create a fresh take on a carved top guitar design, and various attempts to rework the Moonflower led them to a brand new concept with the Minotuar.
Dunable's goal is to give the player a guitar that plays fast and smooth, sounds amazing, and gives maximum physical ergonomic comfort. The Minotaur's soft and meticulous contours, simple and effective control layout, and 25.5" scale length are designed to easily meet this criteria.
- 25.5" scale length
- Dual Humbucker
- one volume, one tone, push pull for coil splitting
- Grover Rotomatic Keystone tuners
- Grover Tune O Matic bridge with brass Kluson top-mount tailpiece
- jumbo nickel frets
- 12" fretboard radius
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA