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Learn to Play Guitar Chicken Pickin' Style! Three Great Instructors on Video

Updated on August 30, 2013
1952 Fender Telecaster (Reissue) courtesy of Mr. Russ Lane
1952 Fender Telecaster (Reissue) courtesy of Mr. Russ Lane | Source

Yes, I Want to Learn Chicken Pickin'! But ... What IS It?

Chicken pickin' is a form of guitar playing that uses the pick and the fingers simultaneously to pluck the strings forcefully, causing the strings to "pop" back down quickly.

Go from Good to Great!

Let's start out with the assumption that you already play country guitar. You know the basics:

  • Chord shapes / positions
  • Tablature (tab) reading and / or music reading
  • Flat-picking, thumb-picking or hybrid picking

But you aren't happy just playing the same three licks and singing the same five songs. You want more. You want to play like Albert Lee. You want to lay down licks like Ray Flacke. You want to be a master at chicken pickin'. Here are three outstanding teachers who'll give you everything you need, and all through books, videos, and CD's.

These guitarists' materials are easily available on the internet and through on-line sources. They have been hand-picked for you by Arizona-based lead guitarist, Russ Lane. Each of these instructors provides licks you'll be able to use. What good is it to have a great guitarist provide you with 100 licks, of which you can only play three? As Russ points out, "If you can use 75% of the licks on a course, you've got a great video."

With the intermediate player in mind, Lane's recommendations are based on solid teaching skills; virtuosity; and a comprehensive approach that includes a primary in the correct gear.

Each of these instructors will offer something unique to your home study program. They each provide different skill areas and teaching styles. The common thread is their talent with the country guitar -- and talent in teaching you guitar.

Honor thy Godfather.

Begin your journey into the joys of chicken pickin' by developing solid skills in country guitar. The godfather of guitar tutorials, Arlen Roth, will give you all the country basics in that long-time bible of the genre, "Nashville Guitar." First published in 1977, it introduces you to Flat-Picking, Fingerpicking, Lead Guitar, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, and Nashville String-Bending techniques. Now out of print, you can still find used copies -- snatch them when you do!

In Russ' opinion, Roth is probably the best as far as teaching skills. Arlen Roth developed Hot Licks line of instructional videos, and Arlen can currently be found at Gibson Guitar where he continues to produce top-notch teaching videos for all genres.

You're in Great Hands with Johnny Hiland.

The most down-to-earth and genial of the three is the amazing Johnny Hiland. It's no accident that his tutorials are featured under Arlen Roth's own Hot Licks imprint on DVD. Hiland is currently a Nashville session artist and has played on Grand Ol' Opry, as well as alongside Toby Keith, Hank Williams III, and many other names you'll recognize.

Hiland, in Lane's words, "will babysit you." He plays each lick fast and then shows you how to play it slowly -- but in doing so, he still brings the same inflection and passion to the slower demonstrations as he does to full-speed. Hiland introduces each tablature as he performs, allowing you to fully understand each lick at your own pace.

Lane recommends Hiland's "Mel Bay" lessons, and personally favors the book and CD combination over the videos because it keeps your ears on the sound and your eyes on the sheet music.

Speed It Up with Doug Seven.

Doug Seven offers "a platform to grow on and good speed exercises," says Russ Lane. "He offers a comprehensive package and gives it all to you -- everything you need to be very good." He notes that the quality of Doug's video lessons have evolved since his beginning and are currently professional, well-produced sessions.

Doug's interpretation of actual artist licks is better than learning from the original artist in most cases. Once you've got an excellent start, look to Doug Seven for building your speed.

You won't find Doug's tutorials through the big online vendors; you'll need to visit Doug's own site. You'll be dealing personally with Doug, and he'll take good care of you should you have any questions or issues. Once you purchase a product, you're a subscriber, and you'll find plenty of on-line resources immediately available.

Here is Doug's website:


Some Tips on Your Self-Study

All of the instructors above are readily found on Youtube offering sample lessons, performances, and other informative videos. Of course, there are many excellent teachers to choose from -- but here are three dependable sources you can rely on.

If you have the ability to hang around with other musicians, that's the optimal learning environment. Not everyone has that opportunity. Now, though, it's easier than ever to invite them into your own home via the internet, disks and videos.

Russ summarizes, "These guys are resources. It's fun to learn to play like them if you can -- but it's best if they augment what you do. If you can copy them, that's great -- but really you should use them to expand your own musical foundation. My own guitar playing didn't really improve until I quit trying to play like them." Pick and choose what works for you, and use them as a resource to improve your playing -- not to emulate theirs.

Now, it's up to you.

Thanks for dropping by -- please leave a comment!

(c) 2013 by MJ Miller

Copyright 2013 by MJ Miller. No part of this article may be reproduced without the expression permission of the author -- but this link may be freely shared. Thank you for liking, sharing, pinning, linking, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my audience. If you are reading this article anywhere but on, you are reading stolen content. Please let me know so I may pursue appropriate legal action.


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