obviously new here, I did use the search function tho, yay me. I am interested in (lap) slide guitar, but I try to avoid being too bluesy - I want to get deeper into styles similar to ry cooder, kelly joe phelps (found this one for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8F0raymy4I), martin harley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qn2-CG4tJnk got some nice stuff right at the start), along others.

To me the right approach is to learn a lot of bluegrass and country-style guitar first, to get a feel for the music before touching the slide all too much. Also, fingerpicking.

Now for my question, in my opinion once I got the aforementioned stuff down I can start learning licks. I find learning licks relatively dull, as connecting licks and working out a seamless solo performance is not tought by individual licks, also I am very interested in the music theory behind it all. So my question is, what are the specific things that make styles like bluegrass, country, the whole group of US-American "western" styles stick out?

Maybe for clarification, one thing I already figured out is that it sounds quite "westernish" to approach the major third by the minor third. Especially with the slide, but it works just as well without a slide. just play arround a bit with the first and fifth of a chord, slide from the minor to the major third and then strum the major chord.

Any kind of resources are highly welcomed, because it saves me a LOT of transcribing :P - books, videos, or just outright bullet points what to investigate.

Thanks in advance
Country is played on Major scales. When I found that I could move all the fingerings I was playing in Rock and Blues down 3 frets it all fell into place. Also instead of thinking in terms of moving the E and A chords up the neck and playing from those positions move the G and C chord up. I hope that makes sense.
This is something I've been working on for a while, I'm no expert but I have some advice.

The major pentatonic seems to be the go-to scale for a lot of folks, especially with the minor third added. Just playing that scale straight away starts to sound "country". I also believe the mixolydian mode is used quite often (don't know much about that stuff so you better read up more on that topic yourself). Most country songs are based around simple 1,4,5 chord progressions.

I'm currently reading a book called something like "Complete country guitar" by Fred Sokolow. It's very basic but very helpful.
Last edited by derek8520 at Feb 12, 2015,
Thank you two, yes the major scale is really the thing. Lot's of slide players go for open tunings in major chords. The mixolydian part seems like the same trick like the "toss the minor third into the major scale"-thing, as mixolydian got a minor seventh (and the major scale does not, so you end up with the same "approach the 'right' note from a half-step below"-idea.)

I wonder whether there's more tho ^^
I know that you asked about theory but I'll point this out anyway: the tone and the technique is a huge part of country guitar. Playing with a very snappy, staccatto-y feel makes your major pentatonic runs sound like proper country. Hybrid picking is pretty essential.

On the theoretical side, country is surprisingly close to jazz; it's signature sound comes from tight cooperation between the rhythm and the lead. If you want to learn country, delving into some jazz improv techniques will definitely benefit you.
Quote by 3rdAttempt
I wonder whether there's more tho ^^

Don't think Country Guitar always needs to sound very clean and pretty. Country fans like distorted guitar with screaming lead too. You gotta fit the correct tone to every song.
Guitar/Bass has it.

My country and bluegrass chops went through the ROOF when I really started digging into jazz.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
I'm on my phone at the moment and so it would be too much work to write up anything too in depth here right now. When I get on a computer sometime I will do something more in depth, but for now just a few things:

-If you want to learn to play lap steel, you absolutely want to learn to play with a slide. From a technical point playing lap steel is very different from playing a standard guitar. From a musical point, the phrasing used in steel guitar playing is also very different.

-Open major tunings are alright, but due to the limits of playing steel guitar, extended tunings are far superior. C6 (CEGACE) is the best all around lap steel tuning, but things like E7, B11, and A6 are also used a lot. C6 is the traditional Hawaiian tuning and was imported into the early honky tonk and western swing styles of steel playing. Bluegrass pretty much always used Open G though.

-Please note that those tunings will all require very specific string gauges, so be sure to look up the right string gauges. Also keep in mind that different instruments will use different gauges based on type and scale length. Electric lap steels tend to have shorter scale lengths (22.5 is common), Weissenborns can't take heavy strings, square neck rests like the heaviest strings imaginable, etc.

-There is some similarities between country and jazz guitar playing, however it is not as significant as some people would have you think. One of the biggest similarities is the idea of choosing a scale to match the individual chord rather than one scale to fit the overall key as used in rock or blues. Country is far more closely related to blues, old time music, cowboy music, ragtime, and pop music (country has always been heavily influenced by the pop of the time). Bluegrass has far less overlap with jazz. Really only western swing and some of the early honky tonk stuff closely related with jazz.

-As far as some stuff to listen to, check out Don Helms' playing on the old Hank records, Brother Os' playing on the old Roy Acuff stuff, Joaqin Murphey, and Leon McCaullife. That's pretty good for a start with non-steel players.

I'll write something more in depth later when I have a chance.
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