Last year I transcribed a solo from one of my favorite guitar players, Duke Levine. The solo is taken from a YouTube video of a performance from the Lizard Lounge where Levine solos over the Buck Owens country song, “Close Up the Honky Tonks”. ┬áThe solo features a ton of great classic country vocabulary that will really teach you how to solo in that traditional Bakersfield country style. In this lesson you will learn about using pre-bends, hybrid picking, muted notes, and different pedal steel emulation tricks as well as ideas to incorporate into your own playing!

The solo opens with a chromatic walk up from E to G but instead of fretting the G note, he bends from the F# up to the G note. This works well because it makes the G note stand out from the one that comes two beats later. The second half of the first phrases uses three pre-bends. When playing at full tempo I often pick a muted string (usually the string below the note) an eighth note before the bend. These muted string hits are a very common Bakersfield country guitar sound.

The next example uses chord voicings that look like fragments from the common D minor and E minor barre chord shapes but because they are played over the bass player playing G major they come out as a G dominant sound. E minor is made up of E-G-B, and D minor is made up of D-F-A. When you combine them using G as the root it comes out as G-B-D-F-A-E which is a G13 chord. Using these minor voicings over a major chord is a sound country guitarists often use to imitate the playing of a pedal steel. In the video it also sounds like Levine uses hybrid picking for the first few chords to strike each note at the same time to further replicate a steel sound.

The third phrase opens with another pre-bend before moving into an open string idea. I have done a lot of these kinds of ideas in previous videos and they are one of my favorite types of country guitar licks. The concept behind them is very simple, take a descending (or ascending) scale phrase and replace notes with open strings when available. I play this phrase using hybrid picking using my middle finger to pick the open strings and using the pick for everything else.

The fourth idea is a very short phrase but is extremely common in country music. You will hear everyone from guitarists to steel and fiddle players uses this and it is often used to open a solo.

The next lick uses double stop bends. This is a pretty tricky country guitar technique because it involves bending two notes to different pitches. It will probably take some practice to build up enough strength to be bending both notes at the same time. This is another spot where I will also pick muted strings before the bend like explained in the first example.

The sixth example is another bit of pedal steel emulation and is something that Duke Levine does this better than just about anybody. Use hybrid picking to strike the G string with your pick and the e string with your middle finger. Then bend the G string up to the desired note. This lick is using the bends to create a sixth interval harmonizing notes from a C major scale. To make this sound like a pedal steel, the bends have to be very quick and precise since you are simulating the sound of the pedal changing the pitch.

The second chorus of the solo ends with a mix of major/minor pentatonic ideas. The second bar combines two techniques mentioned in previous examples, pre-bends and double stop bends.

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