How to Play Chicken Pickin' Style Country Guitar Licks

Learn how to play chicken pickin' style country guitar licks from musician Boo Reiners in this Howcast video.

One style of playing electric guitar in country music involves chicken picking and it kind of sounds like a chicken in the barnyard I guess. Don Rich of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos was one of my favorite chicken pickers. He had a lick that went something like this, and it’s just using the sixes. You know, we might use those in all kind of styles of music. Blues, R and B, whatever.

What you can do to get that chicken picking sound is, you’re sort of muting with the heel of your hand. And so you’re resting the heel of the hand right on the saddles of the guitar. And if you ease back, you don’t have quite enough muting. If you ease too far forward, you’ve got more of a percussive sound which might be what you want. So you want to find where that special spot is that gives you the right amount of percussion as opposed to the actual pitch of the notes.

So the other thing is there’s a little approach in this particular lick. So I’m kind of getting more of a percussive sound approaching this grip, this double-stop grip. I’m approaching from below on the third string. Okay? And there’s some other places you can do this. There’s also some techniques where you can do something like this. Having a Telecaster with kind of low action and a light gauge of string is kind of what you’re going to need to have if you really want to get that real spanky chicken picking sound.

So also, your right hand picking, you might have a little less pick sticking out than normal. That can kind of go a ways towards getting that percussive picky sound. I’m also using the middle finger. This is also really important. So we’re hybrid picking here. So that gives us some of that rhythmic syncopation that we want. And I might use my ring finger along with my middle finger.

So anyway, that’s a little intro to chicken picking.