Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues” is another classic tune that is a staple of many country guitarist’s repertoire. The tune has a train beat groove and follows a traditional 12 bar blues in A. Like my lesson on another country standard, Folsom Prison Blues, I will take you through a chorus solo over the tune showing you different ideas and techniques to improvise with.
The solo begins with a lick from the original recording. It’s really common to quote this at the start of your solo. The second half of the lick is based around a descending scale line that is played in thirds. I use hybrid picking on these kinds of lines with my ring and middle playing the G and B strings and the pick for the muted notes on the D string.
The first half of this lick starts with 6ths descending a D mixolydian scale. The top note of each 6th is bent up to the next note of the scale. The second part begins with a quick rake that uses a hybrid picking roll (Pick-Middle-Ring). It’s kind of a similar technique to a banjo roll.
The third lick uses more double stops and begins with a quick little stutter effect on the D string. In the second bar, the D note can be played very lightly or muted. It is more in there for rhythm than the actual note.
The fourth lick is two separate ideas with one beginning on the V chord (E7) and the other on the IV (D7). The first half I also hybrid pick with the pick playing the A string and the middle finger playing the G string. The D chord uses an open string line. It ends with a quick slide from the root to the flat 7th of the chord.
Lick five begins with one of my favorite open string ideas. The first bar ascends and descends an A major scale from the root to the fifth. It is a very simple idea but it replaces the B and E notes with open strings to make it sound interesting. Try taking other scale licks you know and replacing notes with their equivalent open string.