Guitar Lick: Steel Guitar

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Howdy everybody, Crawford Smith here with a sweet little country lead guitar lesson. Today’s lick showcases a technique that country lead players use quite a bit to emulate the sound of lap or pedal steel guitars. To mimic the fluid sound of steel guitar players sliding between notes, country lead players will often do a full-tone bend on the B string while holding a note on the high E string. This not only mimics the motion of the slide but also somehow captures a little bit of the bell-like tone of steel guitars.

This lick can be played in any major key, but I think it sounds best when it’s played a little bit higher on the fretboard. For the example, I have presented it in E major. Here’s the lick:


You’re going to want to play the first three notes of this with your ring finger on the B string and your pinky on the high E. Bend the 14th-fret B string up one full tone and let it ring when you hit the 14th-fret note on the E. Let that note ring while you relax the bend on the B string to bring it down to the normal C# note on the 14th fret. The pitch of the higher note staying the same while the note on the B string bends up and down is what gives this lick a shimmering, slide-like tone. Play the rest of this lick as it is written, but repeat the bending pattern from the beginning in the pickup to the third measure. I like to play this lick in a swing feel.


Remember, this lick is just one example of how to use this kind of bend. You can experiment with incorporating the country bend in your own major-key lead lines. Just remember that it sounds best when you start with the sixth of the key you’re playing in as the initial B string note. (The example is in E, so it starts on a C#).

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