Chicken Picking and Hot Country Licks

Hybrid Picking Part 3

By Rob Thorpe

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little mini-series on hybrid picking over the past few weeks and found ways in which this character-full technique can be injected into your guitar playing.

Last week we looked at hybrid picking’s role in rock with some demanding intervallic and neoclassical ideas but for the last roundup I wanted to return to its home ground, country guitar, and give you three great country licks that are really fun to play and worth guitarists of any style investing a bit of time to get under their fingers. You never know when you may be asked to bluff through an unfamiliar genre and it’s as well to be a little prepared. That said the lightheartedness that comes with country guitar happens to go down well in any situation, and I find myself employing country ideas in a whole range of situations to give a song a fresh perspective!

To get the authentic tone for these examples use a bridge or bridge/middle single coil pickup if possible, we’re after the most twang and bright treble sound as possible.

Example 1

Chicken picking is usually used to describe the use of hybrid picking to replace alternate picking for single string or scale ideas. Essentially all upstrokes are replaced with a middle finger pluck. This may feel odd to begin with but with practice is proves an interesting alternative. The brightness and snap of hybrid picking really adds a dynamic and percussive quality to an idea that might be a bit bland if played with standard alternate picking.

Example 2

This classic country lick is popular with everyone from Chet Atkins to Jerry Donahue. The basic idea is to alternate pick the notes on the D string, and use the middle finger to pluck the B string. Follow the picking instructions to facilitate the hybrid picked note. Starting on an upstroke on the beat may feel a little strange at first but the repetitive pattern of ‘down, up, down, m’ will quickly become second nature and you won’t have to think about it. Notice how the finger really makes the high note stand out as an accent. A little bit of palm muting on the low notes will also help to provide contrast.

Example 3

We have covered ideas like this in previous articles when exploring different bending ideas, but now we examine it from a hybrid picking perspective. The bending can be difficult to execute cleanly as all the strings have to be allowed to ring out together but with a strong hand position and arched fingers is achievable. You will have to practice this slowly at first to get the picking part down as it requires the middle and ring fingers to pluck. The second bar features another country staple: banjo rolls notice how each group of four notes outlines an arpeggio shape moving from D to A7 to D6.

 Recommended Listening: Danny Gatton, Chet Atkins, Brad Paisley and Jerry Donahue are all well worth listening to for flawless hybrid picking technique as well as a full command of other elements of country guitar vocabulary. Shredding metal virtuoso John 5 is also worth a listen for his take on chicken picking and country bends, especially if you are a rock player interested in integrating these ideas into your own style.