Watch the Farmer Sez Progression online guitar lesson by Andy Timmons from Electric Expression
Let's break down the improvisation section of Farmer Sez. As we pointed out, three-chord blues in A - A7, D7, E7. In the hybrid picking section I already demonstrated how to play the main riff, so you've got that to reference if you need to go back to that. But let's talk about after I played that main riff up to tempo. With this track I improvised a bit, so I'm going to go through and illuminate certain highlights within that performance that I commonly use. So it started off with just thinking about the A7. I'm always thinking about that A7 shape. Bending up to that seventh from the sixth and outlining the major third of the dominant seven. Probably sliding on that, the four to the flat five. After I played that little A7 lick, I did a little chromatic ascending lick that's really just a pattern that's just moving up in half steps all the way up to the next chord position. And that's what I did. I used this device to get from the A7 to the D7. Sometimes I use a minor second, sometimes I use a major second. It almost doesn't matter, because it's a tension building device. So that's major second, whole step. So you've got the notes sliding from B to C and then fretting the D note. Then it's moving that shape up a half step, and there we are at that D7 position on the IV chord. So that was the ascending lick. Further back down, back on the A, I know I played a lick that I play quite a bit, especially on this feel, and it's a blues lick in A. It's where you're holding the note A, then playing a little bluesy lick. It's just D and D# or E flat. I'll do that a lot, and going down to the C on the G string, slowing it down. I didn't play that in that particular improvisation, but I do that commonly. Where you're holding down the flat third, the C, then bending up from the F#. That would sound great on either the A or the D7. As you can see that's the third and seventh of the D7. That lick comes out a lot.
Then there's a nice outline of the D7 chord at one point. So another kind of chromatic phrase I use quite a bit, and it's outlining the chord tones. So on that IV chord I might have played the C down to A flat. And then, like we talked about in the chromatic section, where I'm outlining those three chord tones the A, the F#, and the D. I'm surrounding it. There's that target note, utilized it's actually a bebop line, and a lot of these lines that I'm playing are chromatic ideas that I got from more jazz style players, more bebop players. This would be something that Charlie Parker would've played. But it's just with a twangy, country tone played with a certain energy that turns it into chicken pickin' country. I've always found that that style of country is definitely very similar to old school bebop. Play some Charlie Parker lines. With just the right tone it sounds chicken pickin'. I play that quite a bit.
Now the next section is definitely relying heavily on open string pull offs, and that's a good energy to get going, especially in country. A lot of open string licks are used by players, but it's a descending lick over A7. Whatever string you're on you're going to pull off to that open string. Let me play it up to speed so I can remember exactly what it is. That's the first part of it. And the open string pull off, it's not like it's a real pronounced open string, but it's like a pivot note. It's almost providing just a little bit of rhythm. Then I get into a little ascending sixth, this moving sixth. So I've got the major third and the root of A7. Then I go up to the next diatonic note. I move that chromatically up a half step, you hear that sound all the time in the blues. But in this case I'm ascending and that gets us up to the IV chord into that D7 position, and another wide major third bend when I get to that. And to speak about that, that little D7 double stop bend, I'm bending from the sixth to the seventh. Then when I get up top to the A chord again, it's the same lick I played over that D7. That idea I use quite a bit. Then, the last turnaround, I use the sixth. It's a real common move on this kind of bluesy country thing.
So you're just thinking of that third and root of that E7. You can see it in the chord, then going down diatonically. Just moving the idea down a whole step for the D7, utilizing the hybrid picking. Pick for the third finger and then finger for that high index. "She's A Woman" by The Beatles. Made heavy use of that same idea, so it's been around for years, but it's still really effective. It's a great sound. So there you go, a few ideas for playing this chicken pickin', fast up-beat country swing kind of music. Feel free to listen back to some of the old jazz players for lines and ideas. Again, particular favorites of mine are Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker and Wes Montgomery. Pat Martino was another guy that was a killer player of stringing together chromatic ideas. And all of that works in the jazz world, but I think it's closely related to this kind of up tempo country. So enjoy and happy trails.