Beginner's Guide to Playing Country Guitar
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Familiarize yourself with the country guitar
  2. Learn the basic chords
  3. Practice strumming patterns
  4. Explore country guitar scales
  5. Start playing simple country songs
  6. Master country guitar techniques
  7. Play along with country guitar tracks
  8. Learn from famous country guitarists
  9. Join a country band or jam session
  10. Keep practicing and have fun

Country music has a unique charm that captivates the heart, and the real magic lies in the strumming of a country guitar. If you've ever wondered how to play guitar for country, you've come to the right place. This guide will walk you through the simple steps to get you started on your country guitar journey. So, grab your guitar, and let's jump right in!

Familiarize yourself with the country guitar

Before you start strumming those iconic country tunes, the first step is getting to know your guitar. Country music has a rich history and its sound often comes from a specific type of guitar — acoustic guitars, particularly those with steel strings, are a favorite among country musicians.

Acoustic vs Electric: While you can certainly play country music on an electric guitar, acoustic guitars with steel strings tend to produce the crisp, bright sound that's characteristic of many country songs. If you're just starting out, an acoustic guitar can be a more affordable option too.

Understand the Parts: Get to know the different parts of your guitar. Familiarize yourself with terms like the fretboard, the strings, the sound hole, the bridge, and the tuning pegs. Knowing these parts will make it easier for you to follow along with tutorials and guides on how to play guitar for country.

Get Comfortable: Make sure you're holding your guitar correctly. Your posture and how you position your hands can greatly affect the sound you produce. Hold the guitar against your body, with your strumming arm resting over the body of the guitar. Your fingers should be able to move freely along the fretboard.

Remember, there's no rush here. Take your time to understand your instrument. It's the first step in learning how to play guitar for country, and it'll make the whole process a lot smoother.

Learn the basic chords

Now that you're familiar with your guitar, let's move on to learning some basic chords. When it comes to playing country guitar, a few fundamental chords can go a long way. For starters, focus on mastering the G, C, D, A, and E chords. These are the backbone of many country songs, and they're relatively easy to play, even for beginners.

G Chord: To form a G chord, place your middle finger on the third fret of the low E string, your index finger on the second fret of the A string, and your ring finger on the third fret of the B string. Strum all the strings together and you've got your G chord.

C Chord: For the C chord, place your ring finger on the third fret of the A string, your middle finger on the second fret of the D string, and your index finger on the first fret of the B string. Strum from the A string downwards.

D Chord: The D chord requires you to place your index finger on the second fret of the G string, your ring finger on the third fret of the B string, and your middle finger on the second fret of the high E string. Strum from the D string downwards.

A and E Chords: The A and E chords are just as straightforward. For the A chord, place your index, middle, and ring fingers on the second frets of the D, G, and B strings. For the E chord, place your index finger on the first fret of the G string, and your middle and ring fingers on the second frets of the A and D strings.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Spend some time each day practicing these chords until you can transition smoothly between them. As you get more comfortable, challenge yourself by learning more complex chords. This is an essential step in learning how to play guitar for country.

Practice strumming patterns

Just like learning to walk before you run, mastering the rhythm of country guitar involves understanding strumming patterns. Strumming is the act of brushing your pick (or fingers) across the strings of the guitar. The pattern you use to strum greatly influences the sound and feel of the song. In country music, the rhythm is often what gives the song its distinctive "twang".

One simple yet popular strumming pattern in country music is the 'down-down-up, up-down-up' pattern. Here's how it works:

Down-Down-Up, Up-Down-Up: As the name suggests, you start by strumming down twice, then strum up once. Pause for a moment, then strum up again, followed by down, then up. Try to maintain a steady rhythm as you repeat this pattern.

Another common pattern in country music is the 'bass-strum' pattern:

Bass-Strum: This pattern involves hitting the bass note of the chord (the lowest sounding note) then strumming the rest of the strings. For example, if you're playing a G chord, you would hit the low E string (where your middle finger is positioned) and then strum the remaining strings.

Feel the rhythm flowing through your fingers yet? Good! It's time to combine these strumming patterns with the chords you've learned. Practice transitioning between different chords while maintaining your strumming pattern. It may be tricky at first, but with time, you'll be strumming like a pro. And that's how to play guitar for country!

Explore country guitar scales

The next step in your journey on how to play guitar for country involves diving into the world of scales. A scale is a set of musical notes ordered by pitch. In country music, certain scales tend to pop up more often than others. Familiarizing yourself with these scales will provide a solid foundation for your country guitar solos and riffs.

One of the most important scales in country music is the Major Pentatonic Scale. It's a five-note scale that gives off a happy and uplifting vibe—perfect for those feel-good country tunes. Here's the structure of the Major Pentatonic Scale:

Major Pentatonic Scale: If we take the C Major Scale as an example, a Major Pentatonic Scale would include the notes C, D, E, G, and A. Practice playing these notes in order, and you'll start to recognize the characteristic sound of the Major Pentatonic Scale.

Another scale that's commonly used in country music is the Blues Scale. Despite its name, this scale isn't exclusive to blues music—it's also a staple in country, especially in songs that tell more melancholic stories. Here's a basic Blues Scale:

Blues Scale: A simple Blues Scale in the key of C would include the notes C, Eb, F, F#, G, Bb, and C. Notice the inclusion of some 'blue' notes, which give this scale its distinctive sound.

Remember, these scales are tools to help you create music. Practice them, get familiar with their sounds, and soon you'll find yourself using them naturally in your country guitar playing. That's the beauty of learning how to play guitar for country—it's a process of discovery and creation!

Start playing simple country songs

Now that you've got the basics down, it's time to put your skills to the test. One of the best ways to learn how to play guitar for country is to start playing actual country songs. It's like learning a new language by immersing yourself in it.

Country music is full of classic songs that are great for beginners. One such song is "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash. It's a great song to practice your basic chords and strumming patterns. Plus, it's a downright classic!

Another beginner-friendly song is "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver. This song is a bit more challenging as it has more chords, but it's a fantastic way to practice changing chords smoothly and quickly.

And let's not forget "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Known for its distinctive guitar riffs, this song is an excellent choice for practicing those country guitar scales you've been working on.

Remember, the goal here is not to play perfectly right from the start. It's about practicing your skills, getting comfortable with the guitar, and most importantly, having fun. After all, country music is all about expressing emotions and telling stories, so embrace the learning process and enjoy the ride!

Master country guitar techniques

Having mastered some basic chords, scales, and a few songs, you're well on your way to learning how to play guitar for country music. But to truly capture the country sound, there are certain guitar techniques that you need to master.

One such technique is the bend. This involves pushing the string across the fretboard to raise its pitch. This technique is often used in country solos and can add a lot of emotion to your playing.

Next, there's the slide. This involves moving a finger or a slide along the string to create a smooth transition between notes. It's a distinctive feature of country guitar and can add a real 'twang' to your sound.

Then there's the hammer-on and pull-off. These techniques allow you to play two notes while only striking the string once. They're great for adding speed and fluidity to your playing.

Lastly, there's the chicken pickin'. This is a hybrid picking technique where you use both the pick and fingers to pluck the strings. It's a signature country guitar technique and can give a unique percussive sound to your playing.

These techniques may seem challenging at first, but remember—practice makes perfect. So, grab your guitar, start practicing, and soon you'll be playing country guitar like a pro!

Play along with country guitar tracks

Alright, now that you have some country guitar techniques under your belt, it's time to put them to use. The best way to do this is to play along with country guitar tracks. This will not only help you improve your timing and rhythm, but also allow you to hear how these techniques are used in real songs.

Start with slower tracks. There are plenty of country songs that are slow enough for beginners to follow along with. As you get more comfortable, try playing along with faster tracks. This will test your ability to keep up with the rhythm and make rapid chord changes.

Don't worry about making mistakes. It's all part of the learning process. The important thing is to keep trying and not to get discouraged. Remember, even the best guitarists in the world started from where you are now.

Playing along with tracks will also help you develop your ear for music. You'll start recognizing chord progressions, scales, and techniques used in country music. This will be invaluable as you continue learning how to play guitar for country.

So, pick a few of your favorite country songs, find the guitar tabs or chords for them online, and start playing along. You might be surprised at how quickly you improve!

Learn from famous country guitarists

One of the most effective ways to improve your country guitar skills is to learn from those who do it best. Yes, we're talking about famous country guitarists. These musicians have made significant contributions to country music, and their playing styles can provide you with a wealth of knowledge.

Consider, for example, Johnny Cash. His unique blend of country, rock, and blues, coupled with his distinctive boom-chicka rhythm, can teach you a lot about creating your own sound. Or take a look at Brad Paisley, a modern country guitarist known for his intricate licks and hybrid picking technique.

Try to watch their performances, either in concerts or in videos. Pay special attention to their technique: how they strum, how they pick, how they transition between chords. You can even attempt to replicate some of their solos or riffs to get a feel for their style.

Remember, the goal isn't to copy these guitarists, but to understand their techniques and incorporate them into your own playing. In this way, you'll be making significant strides in learning how to play guitar for country music.

So, are you ready to follow in the footsteps of these country guitar legends? Let's pick up that guitar and start learning!

Join a country band or jam session

Playing solo is great, but nothing beats the thrill of jamming with a group. Joining a country band or participating in a jam session can drastically improve your guitar skills. It introduces you to the dynamic of playing in a group— cueing, listening, and improvising.

Think about it: when you jam with other musicians, you're exposed to a variety of playing styles and techniques. You might be playing rhythm while your friend is on lead, and vice versa. This not only helps you understand your role in a band but also gives you a chance to learn from others.

Moreover, in a jam session, you get to practice playing by ear. Remember that part where you learned those country scales? This is where they come in handy. You'll be figuring out chord progressions, matching the key, and improvising solos on the spot.

Yes, it might feel a bit overwhelming at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. And let's be honest, there's nothing quite as satisfying as nailing that solo or driving the rhythm in a group.

So, why not take the leap? Find a local band or a jam session, or even start one with your friends. It's a surefire way to level up your skills and get one step closer to mastering how to play guitar for country music.

Keep practicing and have fun

Learning how to play guitar for country music is not just about mastering the techniques and scales. It's also about dedication and perseverance. And most importantly, it's about having fun along the way.

As with anything new, it's normal to stumble and hit a few wrong notes at first. Don't let that discourage you. Remember, every single guitar player started exactly where you are right now. Yes, even the greatest country guitarists had their fair share of off-key notes and broken strings.

So, keep practicing. Set aside a few minutes each day to work on those chords and strumming patterns. Challenge yourself by playing along with tracks or better yet, start creating your own country tunes. Little by little, you'll notice your fingers moving more fluidly, your timing getting sharper, and your tunes sounding more country.

But don't forget to have fun with it. After all, isn't that why you wanted to learn how to play guitar for country music in the first place? So, whether you're strumming away in your room, jamming with a band, or simply playing along to your favorite country songs, remember to enjoy every single note. Because at the end of the day, it's the joy and passion that will keep you strumming for years to come.

If you're just starting out with country guitar and want to take your skills to the next level, don't miss Debbie Knox-Hewson's workshop 'How to Get Better at What You Do - Go from Good to Great!' This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques to help you improve as a musician, including tips that are applicable to mastering the country guitar style. Happy strumming!