Guitar Chords, How To Play Country
Country chords with bassline
In the guitar tab, string 6 is the lowest line, and is the thickest string. String 1 is the thinnest and highest sounding string. Check out my Guitar tab hubs if you need to.
Many country and country rock songs can be played with just 3 or 4 chords. In the key of C, which is the key we are using for these examples, the chords would be C, F, G7 (also known as the I IV and V chords) and sometimes you will also find a D7 chord added to the mix.
First, three bass notes lead up to the chord. Then, the normal C shape chord is used as in the chord grids, but the bass note skips from string 5 to string 6. This is known as a root and fifth bassline, and it really is widely used in country, bluegrass, folk music of all kinds.
On the second line, the same principle is applied to an F chord. If you were to reverse the bassline (F,E,D) it would take you back smoothly to the C chord again.
The third line shows a walk down in the bass to G7 (the V chord in this key) We can't do a root and fifth bass pattern on this chord, as there is nowhere to go! In the guitar tab I've shown the whole G7 chord, but you only need play string 6 and strings 1, 2, 3.
This lesson is about applying the concept of a moving bass part, rather than any set exercise - you can use it in different ways in literally hundreds of songs.
Country chords, with bass line
This form of rhythm playing is known as the "boom-chuck" style, because that's what it sounds like.
The moving bass pattern is easy, but it really fills out the sound, establishes a strong rhythm, and makes it sound like a guitar and a bass playing together. If you use a metronome - there is one free online - set it to a slow tempo and hit each of the four beats with the bass notes and chords.
This should sound like Johnny Cash playing I Walk the Line, where the chords are linked with the little bass part. You can use a pick (favourite) or fingerpick the right hand part.
C major scale
I've tabbed out the C major scale that we are using. The notes are:
C D E F G A B C
You can play the D as open string 4 as well, which is how we are using it for this example.
If you don't know the note names yet, you should definitely learn them now.
Root and fifth bass lines - if the root is a C note, the 5th will be a G note, just counting through the notes of the scale. For all notes on string 5, the 5th will be at the same fret on string 6. So many country songs have this alternating bass note pattern at the core of the sound, in particular Hank Williams and Johnny Cash songs.
Instead of the C major scale we can use the Am pentatonic scale for solos, as it is much easier to use and may sound better stylistically. Here are the fret numbers, starting on string 1, the high E.
Look for the pattern as usual. It's either a 3 fret or a 2 Fret distance between the notes.
Many Dylan songs work well with the pattern shown here, as well as most Hank Williams songs, such as Hey Good Lookin' and Your Cheatin' Heart.
The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel uses an adaptation of the pattern too.
You can transfer this way of playing to other keys, using a capo:
C shapes with a Capo in fret 2: Key of D, fret 4 would be E.