The Top 10 Stratocaster Riffs in Country Music

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As fans of country music know all too well, the electric guitar is an integral part of the genre’s sound. And when it comes to electric guitars, few have left a mark as indelible as the Fender Stratocaster. Throughout the years, this iconic instrument has been wielded by some of the greatest country guitarists of all time, leaving an unforgettable imprint on the music we know and love today. But with so many brilliant Stratocaster riffs to choose from, which ones stand out as the very best? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at 10 of the most memorable Stratocaster riffs in the history of country music. So grab your guitar pick and get ready to learn about some true classics!

Why the Stratocaster?

Why The Stratocaster?
The Stratocaster has become synonymous with country music over the years, and for good reason. This iconic guitar, produced by Fender, has a unique sound and versatility that perfectly complements the country genre. But what makes the Stratocaster so special?

The versatility of the Strat
The Stratocaster’s design allows for a wide range of sounds, making it one of the most versatile guitars on the market. Its three single-coil pickups can be switched between, and the tone knobs allow for further adjustments to the sound. This versatility has made the Stratocaster a staple in not only country music but also other genres such as rock, blues, and jazz.

The signature sound of the Strat
The Stratocaster’s sound is driven by its three single-coil pickups, which produce a bright and twangy sound that is instantly recognizable. This sound has become a hallmark of the country genre, and many of the genre’s most famous artists have relied on the Strat to produce that signature sound, including Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, and Eric Church. Some of the most beloved country songs in history have been played on a Stratocaster.

So, if you want to play country music, you really can’t go wrong with a Stratocaster. Its versatility and signature sound make it the perfect guitar for the genre. If you’re interested in learning more about the Stratocaster and its relationship to country music, be sure to check out our article on the role of the Stratocaster in country music. Or, if you’re looking to purchase a Stratocaster of your own, be sure to read our guide to the best Stratocasters for country music. And for those looking to start playing country music on their Strat, be sure to check out our guide on how to play country music on your Strat.

The versatility of the Strat

When it comes to electric guitars, the Fender Stratocaster is a legend. This guitar stands out for many reasons, but one of its greatest features is its versatility. The Stratocaster has been used in all genres of music, from rock to jazz to country. Its unique sound and design make it a top choice for guitar players of all levels. In fact, some of the top country artists in history have used the Stratocaster to create their signature sound. It’s no wonder why the Stratocaster is often referred to as the “Swiss Army knife” of guitars. If you want to learn more about country music artists who have made the Stratocaster their own, check out our article on top country artists who use Stratocasters.

The signature sound of the Strat

It’s almost impossible to talk about the Stratocaster without mentioning its signature sound. There’s something about the Fender Stratocaster that just screams “classic rock and roll,” and it’s not just in its iconic design. Many of the biggest names in music history have relied on the Stratocaster to create their iconic sound.

But what exactly is it about the Stratocaster that makes it so special? Here are some of the key elements that contribute to its signature sound:

  • Single-coil pickups: The Stratocaster is known for its three single-coil pickups, which produce a bright and crisp tone.
  • Tremolo system: The Stratocaster’s tremolo system allows players to create a vibrato effect by bending the pitch up and down.
  • Maple neck and fretboard: The maple neck and fretboard contribute to the guitar’s bright tone and snappy attack.
  • Lightweight design: The Stratocaster’s body is made of lightweight alder or ash, which contributes to its bright and airy tone.
  • Stratocaster playing techniques: Finally, there are a number of playing techniques that are uniquely suited to the Stratocaster, including fingerpicking, chicken picking, and the use of the guitar’s tremolo bar.

All of these elements come together to create the unmistakable sound of the Stratocaster. Whether you’re playing country, blues, rock, or any other genre of music, the Stratocaster’s signature sound is instantly recognizable. It’s no wonder that so many guitarists have chosen the Stratocaster as their go-to instrument.

The 10 Best Stratocaster Riffs in Country Music

The Stratocaster is a legendary guitar that has been used by countless artists across different genres, including country music. With its signature sound and versatile capabilities, this guitar has become a staple in the country music scene. Here are ten of the best Stratocaster riffs in country music history that have left memorable marks on the genre.

1. ‘Tulsa Time’ by Don Williams
Released in 1978, ‘Tulsa Time’ became a hit for Don Williams with its catchy guitar riff that ignites the upbeat tune. The opening Stratocaster notes set the stage for a lively and fun track that still resonates with country music fans today.

2. ‘The Chair’ by George Strait
George Strait’s 1985 hit ‘The Chair’ features a mesmerizing electric guitar riff that emphasizes the song’s romantic lyrics. The Stratocaster’s clear and rich tone brings out the emotion of the song and elevates it to another level.

3. ‘White Lightning’ by George Jones
The 1959 hit ‘White Lightning’ by George Jones employed the Stratocaster to create a strong melody that draws listeners in from the first note. The Stratocaster’s sound, especially during the iconic slide guitar solo, gave the song a unique and memorable touch.

4. ‘Strawberry Wine’ by Deana Carter
The 1996 hit ‘Strawberry Wine’ by Deana Carter featured a guitar riff that was simple yet powerful. The song’s acoustic and electric guitar combo, with the Stratocaster leading the way, added depth to the track and made it stand out in the country music world.

5. ‘The Fugitive’ by Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard’s ‘The Fugitive’ from 1967 showcased the Stratocaster’s ability to create a twangy and distinct guitar riff. The song itself tells a story of an escaped prisoner, and the Stratocaster’s sound created an atmosphere that was both eerie and engaging.

6. ‘A Better Man’ by Clint Black
Released in 1989, ‘A Better Man’ by Clint Black earned its spot in country music history with its emotive Stratocaster riff that built up to a passionate chorus. The guitar contributed to the song’s intensity and heightened the emotional impact of the lyrics.

7. ‘Pretty Little Adriana’ by Vince Gill
Vince Gill’s ‘Pretty Little Adriana’ from 1996 featured a Stratocaster riff that was both melodic and catchy. The country-rock tune used the guitar to build up to the chorus and create a memorable, foot-tapping beat.

8. ‘Fancy’ by Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire’s 1990 hit ‘Fancy’ told the story of a feisty woman who overcame her circumstances to achieve her dreams. The Stratocaster riff added grit to the song’s sound, emphasizing the determination and resilience of the character.

9. ‘The Dance’ by Garth Brooks
The opening Stratocaster riff of Garth Brooks’ ‘The Dance’ sets the tone for the song’s nostalgic and introspective lyrics. Released in 1989, the song uses the guitar to create a powerful, yet restrained, atmosphere that captivates listeners.

10. ‘I Can Still Make Cheyenne’ by George Strait
Concluding our list is another George Strait classic, ‘I Can Still Make Cheyenne.’ Released in 1996, the song’s Stratocaster guitar riff was a perfect accompaniment to the story of a cowboy trying to make his way back to Cheyenne. The guitar added a dose of western style to the song, making it a memorable hit.

These ten Stratocaster riffs are just a sampling of the many contributions the guitar has made to the world of country music. With its versatility and distinct sound, it’s no wonder the Stratocaster remains a favorite among artists and fans alike.

1. ‘Tulsa Time’ by Don Williams

One of the most iconic Stratocaster riffs in country music history is the opening of Don Williams’ hit song, “Tulsa Time.” The song was released in 1978 and quickly climbed the charts, thanks in part to the catchy, upbeat guitar riff that kicks off the tune.

The riff itself is a masterpiece of simplicity, comprised of just a few simple notes that manage to capture the essence of country music. The riff uses the open G string as a drone, while the player slides up from the third fret of the B string to the fifth fret and then back down. This creates a bluesy feel that perfectly complements the song’s lyrics about heading to Tulsa to escape the troubles of the world.

What makes this riff so iconic is not just its simplicity, but also the way it sets the tone for the entire song. As soon as you hear those first few notes, you know you’re in for a rollicking good time. The Stratocaster’s signature twang and bell-like clarity are on full display in this riff, and it’s easy to see why the guitar has become synonymous with country music.

But it’s not just the riff itself that makes “Tulsa Time” a classic; it’s also the way it’s played. Don Williams’ guitarist, Reggie Young, was a master of understated playing, and his subtle touches and phrasing are what really bring the riff to life. He plays the notes with a relaxed, confident feel that perfectly complements Williams’ laid-back vocals.

It’s no wonder that “Tulsa Time” has become a classic of the country music canon, and that its opening riff is instantly recognizable to fans of the genre. It’s a perfect example of how the Stratocaster can be used to create timeless, memorable music that will stand the test of time.

2. ‘The Chair’ by George Strait

Considered as one of the timeless classics in country music, ‘The Chair’ by George Strait features a Stratocaster riff that still manages to capture the hearts of music lovers to this day. The riff starts with the G chord, played with a combination of open strings and fretted notes on the guitar, which sets the mood for the entire song.

The use of the Stratocaster in this riff accentuates the song’s mellow and romantic feel with its smooth sound and twangy nature. George Strait’s guitar playing in ‘The Chair’ is nothing short of masterful, playing just the right notes at the right moments that evoke feelings of nostalgia and love.

The riff in ‘The Chair’ encapsulates the essence of the Stratocaster’s signature sound. Known for its versatility, the Stratocaster can handle both soft and loud sounds with ease, perfect for country music’s dynamic musicality.

What’s unique about the riff in ‘The Chair’ is how it manages to be both simple and complex at the same time. It’s straightforward and catchy, making it sing-along-able, but the guitar playing has an intricate and delicate quality that adds depth and layers to the song, making it more enjoyable to listen to with every play.

The Stratocaster riff in ‘The Chair’ played a monumental role in the song’s success and longevity. It’s a prime example of how the Stratocaster has become an integral part of the country music scene, and why it will continue to be a favorite among music enthusiasts everywhere.

3. ‘White Lightning’ by George Jones

When it comes to classic country music, few names are as iconic as George Jones. And in terms of amazing Stratocaster riffs, ‘White Lightning’ is definitely one of his standout hits.

This rollicking tune features a catchy guitar riff that’s both lively and intricate, showcasing the incredible versatility of the Stratocaster. With lightning-fast picking and impressive finger work, Jones really shows off his skills as a musician.

But it’s not just the impressive guitar work that makes this song a standout – the lyrics are just as incredible. With clever wordplay and a fun story about that infamous “white lightning” moonshine, the song captures the spirit of classic country music perfectly.

As a testament to its popularity, ‘White Lightning’ was a massive hit when it was released in 1959. It topped the charts and helped solidify Jones’ status as one of the greatest country artists of all time. And with its memorable guitar riff, it’s still a beloved classic today.

So, if you’re looking to explore the history of Stratocaster riffs in country music, ‘White Lightning’ by George Jones is definitely a must-listen track. Its impressive guitar work and catchy lyrics make it a true standout in the world of classic country music.

4. ‘Strawberry Wine’ by Deana Carter

Deana Carter’s ‘Strawberry Wine’ is a country classic that perfectly showcases the sound that a Stratocaster can produce. The song’s intro riff is iconic, beginning with a clean and melodic opening that hooks the listener right from the start. Carter’s smooth, twangy vocals blend perfectly with the Stratocaster’s rich, dynamic sound.

The riff itself is a combination of open chords mixed with some intricate picking patterns that create a very distinctive sound. The Stratocaster’s legendary tappable pickups allow the guitar to switch seamlessly from a clean sound to a distorted one, which is used to great effect in the song’s chorus.

The solo in ‘Strawberry Wine’ is also a masterclass in using the Stratocaster’s wide range of tones. It starts off with a clean and soulful feeling, before gradually building up to a frenetic crescendo that showcases the guitar’s versatility. The combination of the Stratocaster with Carter’s voice creates a sound that is both classic and modern at the same time, and has become an iconic country music anthem.

Overall, ‘Strawberry Wine’ is a perfect example of how the Stratocaster can create a sound that is both identifiable and unique, and Deana Carter’s skills in songwriting and guitar playing make this song a true classic of the genre. If you’re a fan of country music or just appreciate great guitar playing, ‘Strawberry Wine’ should definitely be on your playlist.

5. ‘The Fugitive’ by Merle Haggard

When it comes to Merle Haggard’s country music legacy, “The Fugitive” sits at the top of the list of his most iconic songs. Released in 1966, the song was a hit on the country charts and remains a staple of classic country radio to this day. But what makes this song even more memorable is the unforgettable guitar riff played on a Stratocaster.

The riff in “The Fugitive” is a masterclass in understated simplicity. It’s a testament to how a few well-placed notes can create a memorable hook that sticks in your head long after the song has ended. The riff starts with a simple open A string played twice, followed by a quick hammer-on and slide down the neck. The entire riff is played in the A pentatonic scale, giving it a bluesy feel that perfectly matches the song’s outlaw theme.

What makes this riff even more impressive is the way it interacts with the vocals. Haggard’s distinctive voice tells the story of a man on the run from the law, and the guitar riff somehow manages to mirror the tension and urgency in the lyrics. When the vocals pause for a moment, the guitar fills in the gaps with a quick flurry of notes, building up the tension before Haggard’s voice returns.

This synergy between the vocals and guitar is what really puts “The Fugitive” in a league of its own. It’s a prime example of how a Stratocaster can provide the perfect backing for a classic country song. The unique tone of the Strat, with its distinct bell-like chime, is the perfect complement to the twangy vocals and pedal steel guitar that define the country sound.

All in all, “The Fugitive” is a perfect example of how a simple guitar riff can elevate a classic song to iconic status. Merle Haggard’s mastery of the Stratocaster is on full display here, and it’s a reminder of why the Strat remains one of the most popular guitars in country music history.

6. ‘A Better Man’ by Clint Black

One of the most iconic Stratocaster riffs in country music history is the opening riff to ‘A Better Man’ by Clint Black. This song was released in 1989 as the debut single from Clint Black’s debut album “Killin’ Time” and it quickly became a classic in the genre.

The intro riff to ‘A Better Man’ is played with a clean tone and a touch of reverb, which gives it a smooth and subtle sound that perfectly suits the lyrics describing a hopeful and introspective change. The riff starts with a sliding note on the G string, played with the ring finger. The index finger then plays the fifth fret of the D string, followed by the seventh fret of the same string with the middle finger. The riff ends with the ring finger playing the seventh fret of the A string and a hammer-on/pull-off motion between the fifth and seventh frets of the D string.

What makes this riff so impressive is its simplicity and yet its ability to set the tone for the entire song. It perfectly captures the message and mood of the lyrics and serves as a memorable hook that fans can easily recognize and sing along to.

In addition to the riff, ‘A Better Man’ also features some amazing guitar work in the instrumental sections, with soaring leads and melodic runs that showcase the versatility and range of the Stratocaster.

Overall, ‘A Better Man’ is a testament to the power of the Stratocaster in country music and Clint Black’s talent as a songwriter and performer. It remains a beloved classic of the genre and a must-listen for anyone who appreciates great guitar playing and songwriting.

7. ‘Pretty Little Adriana’ by Vince Gill

‘Pretty Little Adriana’ by Vince Gill is a beautiful country ballad that showcases the Stratocaster’s emotive capabilities. This riff is a prime example of how the Stratocaster can bring out the best in country music.

The song begins with a clean, reverb-drenched intro that sets the mood for the song. Vince Gill’s Stratocaster gently weeps as he plays a series of arpeggios that perfectly complement the melody. The notes ring out like church bells, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere.

As the song progresses, the Stratocaster takes on a more prominent role. Vince Gill uses the guitar to create a sense of tension and release that perfectly matches the lyrics of the song. The riff is simple but effective, with a catchy melody that sticks in your head long after the song is over.

The solo in ‘Pretty Little Adriana’ is a perfect example of how the Stratocaster can sound both raw and refined at the same time. Vince Gill’s playing is precise and calculated, but also emotive and heartfelt. He uses the Stratocaster to express the emotions that he can’t put into words, and the result is a powerful and moving solo that perfectly captures the essence of the song.

Overall, ‘Pretty Little Adriana’ by Vince Gill is a masterclass in country guitar playing. It showcases the Stratocaster’s versatility and ability to convey emotions through music. Vince Gill’s playing is sublime, and the guitar work on this track is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s no wonder that this riff has become one of the most iconic in country music history.

8. ‘Fancy’ by Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire’s “Fancy” is known for its iconic guitar riff played on a Stratocaster. The song was released back in 1990 and quickly gained popularity in the country music scene. The riff in “Fancy” is simple yet powerful, consisting of a few repeated notes that create a sense of anticipation and excitement.

The song tells the story of a young girl named Fancy who grows up in poverty and dreams of a better life. She decides to leave her past behind and becomes a high-class prostitute to achieve her goals. Reba’s powerful vocals combined with the Stratocaster’s signature sound create a memorable experience that lingers in the minds of listeners long after the song ends.

The riff in “Fancy” is played on the lower strings of the Stratocaster, creating a deep and rich sound that perfectly complements the storytelling aspect of the song. The simplicity of the riff leaves enough room for Reba’s vocals to take center stage, while also adding an extra layer of emotion to the overall performance.

Overall, “Fancy” remains one of Reba McEntire’s most beloved songs and an important part of country music history. The combination of the Stratocaster’s signature sound and Reba’s powerful vocals create an unforgettable experience that stands the test of time.

9. ‘The Dance’ by Garth Brooks

One of the most iconic songs in country music history, ‘The Dance’ by Garth Brooks features a memorable Stratocaster riff that perfectly captures the emotion of the lyrics. The song, which was written by Tony Arata, tells the story of a man reflecting on the lessons he’s learned in life, including the pain of lost love and the beauty of second chances.

The Stratocaster riff that opens the song is a simple yet powerful melody that sets the tone for the entire track. As Brooks sings the opening lines, “Looking back on the memory of / The dance we shared ‘neath the stars above,” the Stratocaster riff provides a haunting backdrop that perfectly complements the somber lyrics.

As the song progresses, the Stratocaster becomes more prominent, adding layers of melody and texture to the arrangement. In the bridge section, the Stratocaster takes center stage, unleashing a series of arpeggiated chords that build in intensity and emotion, leading up to a cathartic vocal climax.

In addition to its musical prowess, ‘The Dance’ also has a powerful message that has resonated with listeners for decades. The song is about recognizing the beauty of life and embracing the good with the bad. Brooks’ powerful vocals and the Stratocaster’s emotive riff create an indelible experience that cements the song’s place as one of the best country ballads of all time.

Whether you’re a casual listener or a die-hard country fan, it’s hard not to be moved by Garth Brooks’ ‘The Dance’ and its memorable use of the Stratocaster. This song is a testament to the enduring power of country music and the Stratocaster’s ability to capture the very essence of human emotion.

10. ‘I Can Still Make Cheyenne’ by George Strait

One of the best Stratocaster riffs in country music history is the one featured in George Strait’s ballad, “I Can Still Make Cheyenne.” This emotional song tells the story of a rodeo cowboy who misses his lover while on the road, trying to make it to his next rodeo. The intro riff, played by Strait’s longtime guitarist, Norm Hamlet, sets the tone for the song and perfectly captures the longing and sadness of the lyrics.

Using a clean tone with just a hint of reverb, Hamlet’s playing focuses on creating a simple yet effective melody that complements Strait’s vocals. The riff starts on the 12th fret of the G string, with a bend that slides down to the 10th fret, followed by a pull-off to the 8th fret. The next notes are played on the B string, starting with the 10th fret and hammering on to the 12th fret, with a bend that slowly releases back to the 10th fret. The riff ends on the 8th fret of the high E string, with a quick bend that resolves to the 10th fret.

What makes this riff stand out is the way it captures the essence of the song while also showcasing the versatility of the Stratocaster. Hamlet’s playing is delicate and precise, but the notes ring out with a clarity and sustain that only a Strat can provide. The guitar’s signature “quack” tone is also on full display, thanks to the middle pickup position that Hamlet uses for most of the riff.

Overall, “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” is a beautiful example of how the Stratocaster can be used to create unforgettable riffs in country music. From its classic sound to its unmatched playability, this iconic guitar has captured the hearts of musicians and fans alike for decades. And with riffs like this one, it’s easy to see why the Stratocaster continues to be a favorite among guitarists in every genre of music.


After diving into the world of Country music and exploring the 10 Best Stratocaster Riffs, it’s clear that the versatility and signature sound of the Stratocaster have made it a go-to choice for many country guitarists.

Each of the riffs we explored has a unique energy and storytelling quality that defines the genre. From the upbeat and twangy “Tulsa Time” by Don Williams to the emotional and heartfelt “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, the Stratocaster has added a distinct flavor to each track.

It’s no surprise that so many iconic country musicians have turned to the Stratocaster when crafting their sound. The instrument’s bright, clear tone lends itself well to the genre’s emphasis on storytelling, while its versatile tone controls and easy playability allow for a wide range of expression.

Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist or simply a fan of country music, the 10 Best Stratocaster Riffs in Country Music are sure to get your toes tapping and your heart singing. So grab your guitar, plug in your amp, and let the sound of the Stratocaster take you on a musical journey through the heart of country.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Stratocaster?

A Stratocaster is a type of electric guitar designed by Leo Fender and first produced in 1954. It is known for its iconic double-cutaway body shape, three single-coil pickups, and tremolo system.

Why is the Stratocaster so popular among country musicians?

Country musicians appreciate the Stratocaster’s bright, twangy sound, versatile tone controls, and smooth playability. It is also a visually striking guitar that looks great on stage.

What type of pickups are found on a Stratocaster?

A Stratocaster typically has three single-coil pickups, but some models feature a combination of single-coil and humbucking pickups for more tonal variation.

What is a tremolo system on a Stratocaster?

A tremolo system, also known as a vibrato system, is a device that allows the guitarist to vary the pitch of the guitar strings by moving the bridge back and forth. The Stratocaster’s tremolo system is commonly referred to as a “whammy bar.”

Who are some famous country musicians known for using the Stratocaster?

Some famous country musicians who play the Stratocaster include Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, and Merle Haggard.

What is the difference between a Stratocaster and a Telecaster?

A Telecaster is another type of electric guitar designed by Leo Fender in the 1950s. It has a single-cutaway body shape, two single-coil pickups, and a fixed bridge. The Stratocaster has a double-cutaway body shape, three single-coil pickups, and a tremolo system.

How do you get a good country tone on a Stratocaster?

To get a good country tone on a Stratocaster, you can try using the bridge pickup, rolling off some of the treble on the tone knob, and using a bit of overdrive or distortion. Experiment with different pick attack and playing dynamics to achieve the right amount of twang.

What is the most popular color for a Stratocaster?

The most popular color for a Stratocaster is probably sunburst, which features a brownish-red outer edge and a yellow center. Other popular colors include black, white, and various shades of blue and red.

What is the difference between a Mexican-made and American-made Stratocaster?

American-made Stratocasters are generally considered to be of higher quality, with better components and more attention to detail in the construction process. Mexican-made Stratocasters are more affordable and still offer excellent playability and tone.

What is the best way to clean and maintain a Stratocaster?

To clean and maintain a Stratocaster, you can use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe down the body and neck after each use. You can also use Guitar Polish to clean and restore the finish. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials on your guitar, and store it in a dry, cool place to prevent damage.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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