Watch the Open String Licks in E online guitar lesson by Johnny Hiland from Ten Gallon Guitar

Let’s talk about a really cool aspect of chicken pickin’. They also use this in blues grass music and other genres. I want you to use it for every genre of music. It’s called open string licks. We’ll start with open string licks in the key of E. E is a fun chord and is pretty open anyways and one of the first chords you’ll learn on a guitar. Let’s start by utilizing all six strings. Using these open string licks, I’m going to show you first, is what I call the pick pick pull pattern with the right hand. You are actually going to pick pick pull on the third string. We are going to start with our 3rd finger on the 4th fret (low E string). Our 1st finger on the 2nd fret (A string) and then have an open D under that. Again, pick pick pull. We are going to do the same thing with the same fingerings on the A and the D string with the open G. 3rd finger on the 4th fret (A); 1st finger on the 2nd fret (D string) with an open G. Now, we will slide up a fret. Our 3rd finger will be on the 5th fret (D string), our first finger on the 3rd fret (G string) with an open B. Yes that does sound a little despondent, but it will work. We are going to slide up again one more fret. We will have our 3rd finger on the 6th fret (G string) our first finger on the 4th fret (B string) with an open E. I am explaining this so it sounds like it is played in thirds, but you don’t want to play it that way. It should be played together to flow like a waterfall. Now, I will play this at full speed and we will slow it way down. That is the first open string E lick. It’s a lot of fun and has a cool vibe to it.

Now, we’ll do one that is easy to play and connects to the first one. Everything is on the 7th and 4th fret. With the same pick pick pull pattern. We’ll start on the 7th fret, with our 4th finger on the low E, the 1st finger on the 4th fret (A string) with an open D under that. Do the same thing on the A and D string with an open G. Carry that down to the D and G string with and open B. Then on the G and B with an open E. What I’m doing is putting a little rockabilly rhythm behind this so we can keep in time. I’m going to play this in full speed and then play it a couple times really slow.
If you want to get a little daring, you can add the first one to the second one. Now, I want to show you one that I came up with. Experimentation is key with open string licks. I’ve written a few songs, one on my newest album called All Fire Up with Shrapnel Records called Minor Adjustment. A lot of those open string licks I found on my own my experiment. Have fun, open up and rip. If you hit a bad note, no one will really know it except for you. Now, I will show you this one I just came up with. It connects to the first and second one. What I am doing is using the 3rd finger (you can use your 4th finger if you like) but I prefer my 3rd. I’m using my 3rd finger on the 12th fret (low E) and using my 1st finger on the 9th fret (A) with an open D under that. We are going to go 11th and 9th all the way down. It’s 11th on the A, 9th with the 1st finger, 9th fret with an open G under that (I know it sound real dissident but it will sound good altogether). We will move down again, 11th fret on the D string, 9th fret on the G with an open B under that. Doing it again, 11th fret (G), 9th fret (B) with an open E under that. As we drone that open E we are going to hammer-on with the 3rd finger to the 12th fret, B and E and hit a low note on the bottom. I prefer to use all three of the open E licks to end a rockabilly song. I’ll show you how to do that after we practice this a few times through. Here is the lick at full speed and slowed down. You can hear where you can place the B and E hammer-on in different spots; just use your personal preference for that.

That’s a fun one and sounds dissident when played slowly, but when you put all three of these together it is really cool sounding. You can end a rockabilly song with this or just have fun. Combine the first and second one or the second and third one or you can play them individually. The key is when using the open string scales is to have fun and keep a nice and bouncy feeling.