Whether you're just starting out, or want to hone your skills, finding some decent country guitar lessons will get you there faster than anything else.

In this article, I'll share what I've learned about playing country guitar, including tips on mastering country song chords, and offer some exercises to enhance your practice routine.

If you’re a fan of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, or Dolly Parton – stick around – you’ll learn how to play some of their hits later on.

“But I’m a serious guitar player, I want to do more than just strum!” 

Relax young grasshopper 🦗 – this genre isn’t just about strumming acoustic country guitar songs and singing your heart out.

Intricate picking patterns, syncopated rhythms, and mind-bending techniques await you.

There’s more than enough to challenge even the most serious shredders – so let's get cooking.

The 3 main ingredients to master country guitar

  1. A solid lesson plan
  2. Expert guidance
  3. Consistent practice

Guess what?

I’ll give you the first two for free, but the last one is up to you!

🔊 Let’s get in the mood – listen to this country instrumental while you read The Slow Claw Drag

What does a typical lesson plan include?

A solid country guitar lesson plan should be structured to help you build your skills progressively – here are the basics split into three levels.

Beginner lesson plan example

For beginners, the focus is on building a strong foundation in how to play country guitar.

What you should learn

  • Easy chords: Lock in open chords like G, C, D, and E minor and practice switching between them.
  • Simple licks: Dip your toe into lead playing with some easy pentatonic licks.
  • Country style rhythms: Get familiar with typical country grooves.

Early grades of the Country Learning Pathway include introductory lesson topics like

  • Think like a country guitarist.
  • Escape the pentatonic box.
  • Country-style bends.

There’s no better place to start if you need beginner country guitar lessons.

Intermediate lesson plan example

Intermediate players should build on their foundational skills and start incorporating more complex elements.

What you should learn

  • Fundamental theory: Learn about triads and their related major and minor scales.
  • Intermediate licks: Develop techniques such as slides, bends, and hybrid picking.
  • Fretboard knowledge: Get comfortable with the pentatonic scale in five positions. 

Middle grades of the Country Learning Pathway include lesson topics like

  • Triads in different positions.
  • Hybrid picking and double stops.
  • Country guitar theory.

Advanced lesson plan example

Advanced players should focus on mastering complex techniques and refining their style. 

What you should learn

  • Complex harmony: Understand and apply advanced harmony to your writing.
  • Improvisation techniques: Work on improvisation skills to create your own solos.
  • Modes and chromaticism: Explore more advanced theory concepts. 

Upper grades of the Country Learning Pathway include lesson topics like

  • Harmonized major and minor scales.
  • Improvise over chord changes.
  • The bVII function in country music.

What to learn to play country guitar like a pro

You’re already jumping the gun are ya?

Well, I guess it’s good to set your sights high – here’s a complete breakdown of the 

  • techniques;
  • theory; and 
  • gear

You need to be a legit country guitar maestro.

🎸 Country guitar techniques

If you’ve got a hankerin’ for some gee-tar spankerin’, these techniques will hit the spot. 

Many of these are covered in depth in Pickup Music’s country lead guitar lessons.

"Years from now, after I'm gone, someone will listen to what I've done and know I was here. They'll hear my guitars speaking for me." – Chet Atkins

Hybrid picking / chicken pickin’🐔

When you wanna have your cake and eat it too. 

Combine the speed benefits of fingerpicking with the attack and tone of a pick.

Hybrid picking exercise
  • Use your pick on the notes on the low E and A strings.
  • Use your middle and ring fingers on the D and G strings.

Pedal-steel guitar bends

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a lap-steel. Conjure up that dreamy sound with this advanced bending technique.

Pedal-steel bend exercise
  • Use your index and middle finger on the G string.
  • Keep your pinky fixed on the 8th fret of the B string.

Double stops

Single-note melodies are great, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to double down. Double stops are a must for country guitar solos. 

Double stops exercise
  • Use the hybrid picking technique to pluck the G and high E strings simultaneously.
  • Practice going up and how this harmonized G major scale.

Fingerstyle arpeggios and banjo rolls

Breaking chords up into individual notes is an awesome way to turn a dull progression into some lighting-fast lead lines. 

Banjo rolls exercise
  • Another opportunity to practice hybrid picking.
  • Use your pick on the D string, middle finger on the G, and ring finger on the B.
  • Timing and consistent dynamics are important – use a metronome.

🧠 Country guitar theory

To the untrained ear, country music could be mistaken for a simplistic genre – I’m afraid not.

Although the chord progressions are often straightforward, there are usually layers of harmonies between all the instruments and vocalists.

Getting to grips with music theory will help you massively when it comes to playing and writing country music.


You can probably stumble through most country songs with some open major and minor chords and a capo.

That being said, learning more country music guitar chords will elevate your playing massively.

I’d strongly recommend you branch out and get wise to 

And not just in one position – it’s important to learn different shapes and voicings.

I know it’s not easy to remember tons of new chords, I struggled with it a lot early on.

Learning the CAGED system helped me massively with this – I’d highly recommend it.


Much like blues and rock, you can go pretty far with the major and minor pentatonic scales.

Understanding chord tones will take your pentatonic chops up a notch. 

When the notes you play complement each chord in the progression – you sound legit.


I think I’ve already made it clear how crucial harmony is to country music. 

If you need more convincing check out this rendition of the classic song “Country Roads” by IIIrd Tyme Out.

Listen carefully to how all the instruments intertwine – and those big three-part vocal harmonies.


I think this is a bit of a forgotten art – put on a record, grab your guitar, and try to figure out what you hear. 

In this era of YouTube tutorials and Guitar Pro TABs many guitarists think transcribing is a waste of time, but hear me out.

  • You’ll train your ear ridiculously quickly.
  • Your fretboard navigation skills will go through the roof.
  • You’ll be able to jump into jam sessions without needing sheet music.

If all that wasn’t enough motivation – Guthrie Govan swears that his years as a transcriber for guitar magazines refined his ear to near superhuman level.

🎧 How to get a country guitar sound

What type of guitar do I need to play country?

A Telecaster!

It’s no secret that the Tele is an absolute workhorse – and the most commonly used guitar in country music.

Tone and pickups

Okay so maybe you’re not ready to fully commit to country guitar yet – I understand.

So how can you get a decent tone with what you already have?

  • If your guitar has single coil pickups – you’re halfway there.
  • Humbuckers aren’t ideal, but you can still make that thang twang.
  • On your amp, lower the bass tone and dial up the mids and treble.

A clean ‘spanky’ guitar tone with some compression, a hint of overdrive, and some delay will do the trick.

Country guitar improvisation

Improvisation may not be as big a deal in country music as it is in jazz or blues, cbut you should still have some chops in your back pocket.

Here are some subskills and tools that I recommend.


This one’s a no-brainer. Build a solid collection of country licks and phrases so you’ve got something to fall back on in an emergency.

Start by copying your favorite players, then over time merge their styles together to create your own. 

Country or blues guitar lessons will load you up with pentatonic licks and enhance your improvisation skills.


Again, this is more of a jazz approach, but I still feel it applies to country.

Comping (short for accompanying) is when you take on the support role for a soloist.

Once you can create a decent foundation for a solo, you’ll automatically gain insight into improvising better solos of your own.


Here’s where it all comes together. 

One of my favorite things to do is lay down an interesting chord progression on a looper pedal or in my DAW and just jam over it.

This is an awesome way to take on the rhythm and lead responsibilities – it’s great for building experience in handling both musical roles.

Jam tracks

If you don’t have a looper pedal, or want to try jamming over something spontaneously – jump on a country jam track.

Whatever tempo, style, or key you want, you’ll probably find it on YouTube.

Check out our guide to backing tracks for more info.

Lead sheets, TABs, and songbook standards

I honestly think that there’s no right or wrong way to learn a song – it depends on the situation.

A lead sheet is your best friend if you're jamming on stage. 

When there’s a tricky guitar solo you can’t figure out – check the tablature.

If you want to just sit back and strum through some classic tunes, a songbook will be your best bet.

Speaking of classic tunes…

5 classic country guitar songs to learn

In my opinion, songs are truly the beating heart of country music. 

“Isn’t that true for all genres though?!” 

Yes, but they’re not always as dedicated to the art of songwriting. 

  • Genres like jazz, funk, and metal tend to focus more on solos, jams, and riffs.
  • Country music is a style where songwriters really shine through.

With that in mind, I think we should look at a few legendary songs written by icons of the genre.

Using country music guitar tabs can help if there are some complicated guitar parts.

#5 – "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash

How to play it

Why learn it?

  • Storytelling: Learning this song helps you understand how to convey emotion and narrative through guitar playing.
  • Iconic riff: The song features one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in country music, which helps in mastering fingerpicking techniques.

#4 – "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams

How to play it

Why learn it?

  • Chord progression: The song uses a classic country structure – AABA.
  • Melodic Playing: It emphasizes melody and lyrical phrasing, which are paramount in country guitar.

#3 – "Jolene" by Dolly Parton

How to play it

Why learn it?

  • Fingerstyle fun: The song’s picking pattern is excellent for practicing fingerstyle  .
  • Singing practice: Okay, you might not sound as good as Dolly, but who can resist singing along to this one?

#2 – "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks

How to play it

Why learn it?

  • Interesting chords: There are some different 7th chord variations.
  • Country strumming: It follows a typical ↓ ↓ ↑ ↑ ↓ ↑ strumming pattern.

#1 – "Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton

How to play it

Why learn it?

  • Blues influence: The mix of country and blues provides a great way to explore hybrid picking and blues scale licks.
  • Modern country: A great blend of traditional elements with contemporary influences.

The best country guitar exercises to practice for beginners, intermediates, and advanced

Whether you're a beginner just starting out, or an advanced guitarist aiming to perfect your country chops – a targeted practice routine is essential. 

The exercises you choose should help you build a solid foundation, develop advanced techniques, and ultimately enhance your overall playing. 

I think it’s best to build a practice routine that’s skill level.

If you find the perfect balance, you'll make steady progress without feeling overwhelmed.


For newbies, building a solid foundation is key – start with these exercises:

  • Basic chord transitions: Switch between essential chords like G, C, D, and E minor. Focus on making smooth transitions and keeping time.
  • Simple strumming patterns: Practice basic strumming patterns to develop your rhythm and timing. Start slow and gradually increase the speed.
  • Build finger strength: This will help with chord transitions and overall playing ability – try these finger exercises for beginners.

Beginner practice exercise

Take the chords from Jolene – Am - C - G - Em and practice with the following strumming pattern:

↓ – ↓ – ↓↑ ↓↑ 

The original has a more technical fingerpicking pattern, but strumming is fine and will make it easier to focus on clean chord changes.


Intermediate players should expand their skills and incorporate more complex elements into their practice:

  • Advanced chord progressions: Work on progressions that include suspended and seventh chords. This will add variety to your playing.
  • Intermediate licks and phrases: Learn licks that use techniques like slides, bends, and hammer-ons. Incorporate these into your solos and improvisation.
  • Scale practice: Focus on scales like the major, minor, and pentatonic scales. Practice these scales up and down the neck for improved finger dexterity.

Intermediate practice exercise

Lots of guitarists learn the minor pentatonic, but few realize how easy it is to switch between major and minor.

This concept is crucial to country soloing, here’s a quick rundown from the amazing Molly Miller.


Advanced players need to master complex techniques and refine their style:

  • Complex harmony exercises: Harmonize scales and chords to understand how different notes interact. This will enhance your improvisation and soloing.
  • Advanced improvisation techniques: Improve your improvisation by using various scales and modes. Experiment with different rhythms and phrasing to create unique solos.
  • Arpeggio exercises: Practice arpeggios in different positions on the neck. This will add texture and complexity to your playing, making your solos more interesting.

Try out this tricky country lick, it runs through 5 positions of the major pentatonic scale – plus a few chromatic notes for good measure.

Let the notes ring out in each position before you shift – almost like little chord shapes.

Best country guitar methods

Learning country guitar involves more than just practicing exercises. 

It requires you to immerse yourself in the style and absorb all the little nuances that make it special.

Here are some of the best methods to enhance your country guitar playing and knowledge, including structured country music guitar lessons.

👂 Listening

In my personal experience, one of the most important aspects of mastering a musical genre is just listening to as much of it as possible.

If you’re always ingesting the sound of country music, you’ll naturally internalize its unique style and rhythms, which is essential for understanding how to play country music on guitar.

Pay attention to the guitar parts and try to understand how guitar chords in country songs elevate the music.

  • Study country players: Focus on the techniques and styles of legendary country guitarists.
  • Analyze songs: Break down songs into their components to understand their structure and elements.

It is all too common for guitarists to zone in on their own part without considering the bigger picture.

Make sure what you play is always in service to the song – not your ego!

"Music is about emotion and storytelling. If you can make people feel something, you've done your job." – Billy Sherrill

🎤 Jam sessions

Performing in jam sessions with other musicians will significantly improve your playing. 

Jamming regularly helps you develop timing, improvisation, and the musical vocabulary needed to communicate with other musicians.

You can also use jam sessions to practice improvisation and experiment with new techniques – when appropriate.

🎶 Chord melody arrangements

Playing the melody and harmony of a song simultaneously can sound like a tricky task, but with some practice, you’ll get it.

This approach is awesome for finger independence and overall musicality – but it might be a little challenging for beginners.

Covering the chords, melody lines (and sometimes the bass lines too) is a lot of work for one pair of hands. 

Fingerstyle is your best bet for multitasking like this.


How hard is it to learn country guitar?

It’s not hard, it just takes time – get yourself a good lesson plan and some guidance for the fastest results. 

Many free country guitar lessons are available online to help you get started.

I’ve known people to pick up a new guitar style in less than a year, but it totally depends on their level of experience and the amount of time they’re willing to commit to a practice routine.

How long does it take to get good at country guitar?

Making sure you get the best country guitar lessons will reduce the time it takes but it can still range from 6 months to a lifetime.

You need to ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. What are your specific goals: Strumming a country song, or ripping through complex country solos?
  2. What is your current guitar-playing experience? If you’re already an accomplished jazz player, you’ll have many transferable skills.
  3. How much time will you spend practicing each day?
  4. Do you have an experienced country guitar teacher who can guide you through what to learn and keep you motivated?

Just 20 minutes practice per day is enough to get you really good, really fast.

Learn at your own pace so that the routine is manageable.

What are some easy country guitar songs for beginners?

Feeling impatient are we? Okay, here are 3 songs that you can add to your repertoire with some open chords.

#3 – “Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver

We already heard a cover of this classic earlier on – the chords are:

  • G - D - Em - C

#2 – “You’re Still The One” by Shania Twain

I think everyone’s familiar with this song. It was a smash hit back in the day – here are the chords:

  • D – G – A – Em

#1 – “Whiskey River” by Willie Nelson

Here’s a fun one from a real country legend. There are some different strumming patterns to play around with too – the chords are:

  • G – C – D7 – A7

What are some easy country guitar songs for intermediates?

If you’re already an experienced guitarist, you may want something a little meatier than just open chords.

I recommend you give these country guitar solos a try:

"The Fightin' Side of Me" by Merle Haggard

Roy Nichols plays this guitar solo on "The Fightin' Side of Me". It’s got that twangy, country style with loads of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.

"Country Boy" by Albert Lee

This is a great example of some high-speed hybrid picking. If you can play your way through this – you’re doing well!

Is country guitar harder than blues?

Although they share many similarities, country music tends to have more varied chord progressions and harmonic complexity. 

That being said, I think being a top-tier blues guitarist is just as difficult – there are distinct challenges to both genres. 

Is country guitar harder than rock?

In my opinion, rock has a wider array of subgenres than country – therefore mastering it could take more time.

From the rock’n’roll of Elvis Presley to the prog rock of King Crimson there’s a lot to learn if you want to cover the whole rock spectrum.

Whether you’re getting rock or country guitar lessons – I don’t think one is hard than the other.

Are there different styles of country music?

A bunch! And they all make excellent truck driving songs if you happen to own a big rig. 🚛

Bluegrass features fast fingerpicking, while western swing incorporates jazz and swing rhythms, making it great for an upbeat hoedown.

Honky Tonk is an energetic genre known to liven up an old saloon.

Slower styles like the country shuffle and country waltz focus on different rhythms and time signatures.

Modern country music includes elements of pop, making it versatile and widely accessible – some of the biggest popstars around have country-style hits.

If you want to ditch the standard guitar and make some old country and western-style soundtracks - get yourself a baritone guitar.

How to play a good country solo?

Country isn’t like jazz or rock – there’s less emphasis on being technically impressive and more attention to emotion and melody.

I’m not saying country guitar isn’t technically impressive, quite the opposite - I just mean showing off your skills is not the priority.

Country music 101 – create guitar parts that accompany the story and reference the main melody.

How important is it to learn country guitar theory?

If you want to create those beautiful country melodies and harmonies – a little music theory will go a long way.

Of course, many country musicians weren’t classically trained in music, but understanding some of the fundamentals makes songwriting and improvising.

If you want to just strum and sings some classics, get some acoustic country guitar lessons that aren’t too theory-heavy.

Learning country guitar online and locally (worldwide)

Whether you’re in the USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, NZ, or anywhere else, a quick Google for ‘guitar lessons near me’ will bring up a list of local country guitar teachers.

These one-to-one instructional tutorials have their benefits but don’t suit everyone.

Let’s find out which option is right for you.

The pros of face-to-face guitar lessons

  • You get Immediate feedback on your technique. 
  • Your guitar teacher is connected to the local music scene.
  • If you spend most of your time looking at screens, you’ll be happy to have a screen-free guitar lesson.
  • Your teacher can play along or jam with you in real time.

The cons of face-to-face lessons

  • In-person lessons are usually more expensive.
  • It takes time and money to get to class.
  • It’s easier to unsubscribe than to cancel lessons with a teacher you’ve grown fond of but who isn’t serving you any longer.
  • The genre is quite niche – you may not find much when Googling “country guitar lessons near me”.

In-person tutorials can be great provided you have the extra time and finances required to maintain the program laid out by the teacher.

Online courses and lessons on the other hand provide greater flexibility, lower cost, and 24/7 support from a community of members who are passionate about learning guitar.

Ultimately you’ll make the right choice for your time and budget.

If you choose to learn online, we look forward to supporting you here at Pickup Music.

We have members online 24/7 from all over the world in cities like NYC, LA, Vancouver, Toronto, London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, Auckland, and beyond… 

You’ll find loads of awesome guitar buddies to connect with and learn from.

Online guitar lessons

Pickup Music 

Free trial or paid subscription – the world’s number one online platform for learning country guitar. 

You’ll have daily lessons guided by experts, you’ll be able to submit videos and receive 1:1 feedback on your playing.

You also get to be part of an active and supportive community forum of country guitar lovers – plus regular masterclasses to attend.

Our country guitar lessons are the best online – and you can try them out for free.

YouTube videos 

Free – there’s always a cost to ‘free’.  

With free country guitar lessons on YouTube the cost is that you won’t have someone pointing out the mistakes that are holding back your progress. 

There may be millions of hours worth of content - but is it worth your time?

Without guidance, you’ll waste time going down rabbit holes and might end up watching more country guitar videos than playing your instrument.

Wrapping up

If you seriously want to learn to play country music on guitar to a high standard then you need a lesson library that offers a comprehensive range of topics. 

Instructional videos to break down new ideas and techniques then jam tracks to put it all into practice.

Specific song lessons are good if you just want a quick singalong, but to become a great country guitarist you’ll need more. 

High-quality teaching from experienced instructors ensures you get the guidance needed to really refine your skills.

If you want a structured curriculum and masterclass sessions that dive into the nuances of country guitar – we’ve got you.

Yes, I’d Love A Free 14-Day Trial Of Pickup Music To Learn Country Guitar From Experts >

Author: Richard Spooner