Spice Up Your Country Soloing with 10 Free Johnny Hiland Guitar Lessons

Spice Up Your Country Soloing with 10 Free Johnny Hiland Guitar Lessons

Picture it now: You’re at the country jam, a singer hops on stage, calls out a tune and key, and then shouts out “11 45 62”. The drummer immediately starts to count the band in, and everyone seems to know what’s going on…except you. As the lead guitar player in the band, you’re not only expected to understand those numbers, you’re also expected to play a killer intro and lead the singer into the tune.

In Johnny Hiland’s Ten Gallon Guitar: Intros, Outros & Turnarounds, he’ll take you through what these numbers mean, and help you craft great sounding intro, outro, and turnaround licks. You’ll learn how to effectively bring the singer into the song, improvise over the turnaround, take a song out, and much, much more.

In these free country guitar lessons taken from the course, Johnny will take you through all three over a Working Man blues in A, then we’ll sample how to play an intro over a G standard country track, an outro in a rockabilly tune, and a swingin’ turnaround in A. Let’s get pickin’!

Working Man in A: Overview

We’ll get things started with a working man blues feeling track in the key of A. Now if you picture yourself on stage and you’re looking back at the drummer to figure out what y’all are going to play, he’ll probably look back at you and say, “Hey man, it’s just four bars of 1, I’m going to give you a four count.” Now, that doesn’t really say if you have pickup notes or not, or if you should play pickup notes, or how you would even do it. When the drummer goes 1, 2, 3, 4…then you need to be playing your pickup notes on 3. But, 9 times out of 10 on a working man blues feel, I just wait for that 1 to hit and just floor it.

So, when you’re playing four bars of 1, your blood will start to boil because this groove is really uptempo, and you’ll get to do some really fun stuff. But, only four bars of 1 doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to blow a bunch of licks. So, really what I think about doing in the intro of a working man blues is to start out on the root and swing from low to high. We’re going to land on our feet on the root so the singer can bring himself in.

The difference of what I hear in the intro versus what I do in the turnaround and the outro, is that the intro is basically giving a pathway for the vocalist to actually get in to the song. But then again, with a working man blues kind of feel, you’re actually raising the excitement level of the crowd because you’re playing something that’s uptempo. So, you want to play a signature lick, and then rip a chicken pickin’ lick or something to bring the singer in. And of course, when the turnaround comes, most times you can make it solo-ish as long as it fits the song, and for the outro, if I go in from a lower register to a higher register for the intro, I might take it from a higher register to a lower register to finish it off. I always love to end on either the chord that the song is in or somewhere close. Let’s get started!

Working Man in A: Intro – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this country guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Here’s an intro lick to be used when you’re playing a working man blues feel in A. The goal here is to play something that can bring the singer in and land on our feet on the root.

Working Man in A: Intro – Breakdown

This first track is a working man blues style rhythm, which is essentially 4 bars of 1. It seems weird that a song would just start with a 1 chord, but that happens quite regularly in country music. This means we have sixteen beats to work over, so I tend to break them up into two sections. I’ll lead into the song with something simple, and of course, bending the strings and getting a really twangy sound really works. In the video lesson, I’ll show you how to play this intro part including all the techniques needed to pull it off. Let’s check it out.

Working Man in A: Turnaround – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this country guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Now let’s look at the turnaround for our working man blues in A. Again, here we’re just playing just four bars on 1.

Working Man in A: Turnaround – Breakdown

So: What is a turnaround? A turnaround actually happens after the first chorus, and it usually just segues a little bit of instrumentation in between the chorus and the next verse for the singer. Kind of gives them a little breath, which is a good thing sometimes! And of course, sometimes songs have a lot of verses and choruses, so a full-on solo doesn’t make sense.

Okay, so from a guitar player’s perspective, what’s really important about this turnaround? Well, essentially it’s the same thing as the intro, with one exception. I like to change the turnaround up a little bit – keeping the signature lick, like we did in the intro – and then I like to go a little higher on the neck to give it a little bit of a climactic climb to the next verse for the singer.

Working Man in A: Outro – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this country guitar lesson on TrueFire.

We’ll wrap up things here with the outro for our working man blues in A.

Working Man in A: Outro – Breakdown

Now folks we’re diving into a four bar outro. An outro of a song means we’re getting out of there – this song is done, and it’s time to put this puppy to rest. Well, how do we do that properly? For me, especially in a chicken pickin’ tune like this, I like to start high and work my way low, so the song hits the climactic point right when the singer ends and then finishes on an A chord.

G Standard Country: Intro – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this country guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Here we get things started over our G standard country tune with the intro. We’ll be keeping things simple here to stick with tradition, just trying to bring the singer in on the tune.

E Rockabilly: Outro – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this country guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Now we’ll look at the outro for our rockabilly track in E.

Swing in A: Turnaround – Performance

Download the tab, notation, and jam track for this country guitar lesson on TrueFire.

Now let’s check out how to play the turnaround for our Western swing track in A.


If you can’t wait to get your hands on more country intros, outros, and turnarounds, head on over to TrueFire to get the full course. There you’ll find six more styles of country tunes to play over, each one having their own intro, outro, and turnaround to learn. Johnny will break down each performance, and as always, the tab and notation are included as well. Check it out now!