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How to Play Chet Atkins Style Country Guitar

Learn how to play Chet Atkins-style country guitar from musician Boo Reiners in this Howcast video.


There's a style of guitar playing that I really love. Chet Atkins played all sorts of cool things with his guitar, off an electric guitar. Really influenced by Merle Travis but he also did something that I use a lot. He played double stops in thirds or in sixes and he would often provide a really nice counterpoint to what the singer was doing melodically. Maybe he'd add a nice little turnaround.

So he would often grab maybe two strings next to one another or he might grab the forth and second string, working on the sixth sequence. And it's just a really cool way. You've got a clean setting with your amp, your electric guitar. You want to do something that's got some finesse, that's sensitive to what the singer's doing vocally and lyric wise. So these little moves that he did.

Often he'd be just spelling out parts of a chord. So here I am on a D7 chord and if I might want to go across down into the lower regions of that chord, the lower voicings. So a lot of it is really sussing out your chords up and down the neck and then reducing the chords to little triads.

So going back to the scale work that we had talked about earlier, you're playing your basic major scale and then you're adding notes in a sequential pattern. So, say instead of climbing G, A, B, C, D, what if I climbed up in double stops? Or I could go up in sixths, like this.

So that takes a lot of practice. You have to put some time in just discovering, again, where the right notes are, where the wrong notes are, the shapes. There's not a lot of shapes you have to remember; it's a lot of shapes that just get repeated but it's the sequence of the shapes that you want to start trying to memorize.

All this memorization really doesn't take musical talent. Everybody memorizes stuff. We all memorize stuff. So try to keep that in mind that you're just memorizing something, you're not relying necessarily on a deep well of musical talent necessarily, although it doesn't hurt. Just trying to memorize some of these moves will make it that much easier to call up on it when it's time to play a solo in a song or play some fills, play something that's sympathetic to what the singer's doing.

So that's just kind of one part of Chet Atkins' style of playing but it's a part that I find really useful and I really love it and I think it sounds really good, especially on electric guitar. So, good luck with that and we'll see you back here soon.

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